I was under the impression that you cannot say:


Because our book says you cannot apply 把 to 可能補語。 But now my fellow students pointed out that 想不起來 is no 可能補語, but rather 趨向補語的引申用法。 enter image description here Does the same rule apply, or is the sentence correct? My grammar book says that 趨向補語 frequently acts as 可能補語 (for example: 自行車壞了,我騎不回去了!). It seems only natural, that the same restrictions should apply.

When I have 想不起來 on its own without 把,can I even unambiguously say, whether it is the negative of 可能補語 or 趨向補語?

  • 把... structure can not be used negatively. You can say 把他的名字想起來, but can't say 把他的名字想不起來. Sometimes, 别把....denotes negative, but meaning will be slightly changed.
    – dan
    Jun 26, 2018 at 10:18
  • 1
    趋向补语 and 结果补语 (overlapping anyhow) suitably transformed (with 不 or 得)become 可能补语,想不起來 would seem to be such a transformed 趋向补语
    – user6065
    Jun 26, 2018 at 11:55
  • 把他的名字想起來 is imperative, not declarative. You can make this negative, but it would become 不要把他的名字想起來
    – fefe
    Jun 26, 2018 at 12:31
  • @fefe the question is if and why the starred sentence is wrong.
    – Ludi
    Jun 26, 2018 at 12:32
  • @Ludi yes, so this is only a comment. And it is in response to dan's comment ...
    – fefe
    Jun 26, 2018 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


You cannot apply 把 to a verb phrase with potential particle because 把 is a dispositive marker. A dispositive marker marks an object to be disposited of by a verb. For example: in (把)他趕走. the object(他) is being disposited of by the verb 趕走 (chase away).

When a potential particles (得 or 不) is inserted between a verb and its resultive/ directional particle, that verb becomes a potential verb. For example: 趕走= chase away; 趕得走 = able to chase away. It can no longer be applied to [dispositive marker + object] structure which requires an active verb at the end.

Example: in 我(趕走)他 , (趕走) is an action verb; in 我(趕得走)他, (趕得走)is a potential verb- You can, but you are not actively preforming the verb)

For the same reason, 我把他的名字(想起來- active verb) is correct, but 我把他的名字(想不/得起來- potential verb) is incorrect

To make '我把他的名字想起來' negative , you have to modify 把 with a negative marker like 沒 or 未 , for example: "我(沒)把他的名字想起來"

When I have 想不起來 on its own without 把,can I even unambiguously say, whether it is the negative of 可能補語 or 趨向補語?

Without 把, there's no object to be disposited of, '想起來' (active verb) or '想不起來/'想得起來 (potential verb) can be applied.

The sentence can be "我(想起)他的名字來" or, "我(想得起)他的名字來, "我(想不起)他的名字來"- (you are not actively preforming the verb)

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