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我们着急得吃不下饭,睡不好觉。

I understand that 好 in 睡不好觉 adds the meaning of "well", so "sleep well" instead of "sleep", but does 下 in 吃不下饭 change anything?

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  • 1
    A side note: 我们着急得吃不下饭 doesn't look grammatical strictly speaking. It could be either 我们急得吃不下饭 or 我们着急急得吃不下饭.
    – dan
    Aug 26 '20 at 15:29
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    @dan I think it is OK. Instead, 我们着急急得吃不下饭 sounds weird.
    – fefe
    Aug 26 '20 at 15:40
  • @dan @ fefe Thank you for your comments. It's a sentence from a textbook.
    – musialmi
    Aug 26 '20 at 16:50
  • @fefe Colloquially, I agree with you, 我们着急得吃不下饭 might be said accidentally. But in strict grammar, it's not grammatical. In fact, when I searched the phrase 着急得 in Baidu, I haven't got a hit there. Not sure if you accept 我们着急,急得吃不下饭. 我们着急急得吃不下饭 might look clumsy. But we also have this clumsy grammatical sentence: 我们说话说得累死了。
    – dan
    Aug 26 '20 at 23:40
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    @fefe Yes, I agree 我气得吃不下饭 and 我急得吃不下饭 are better. Grammatically, 我着急得吃不下饭 is incorrect. That's my point. As for 我着急急得吃不下饭 or 我生气生得(气得)吃不下饭,they are just personal preferences. Some like one and some might like the other. We can agree to disagree here.
    – dan
    Aug 28 '20 at 2:02
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Yes it does.

I won't go into the details of your textbook example. It may not be the best one because in that sentence the 下 could probably be replaced by some other result complement and roughly keep the same translation in English.

Generally speaking, 下 as a result complement often has the meaning of fitting or containing (the potential complement as in "V 得 Res." and "V 不 Res." constructions is similar to the result complement).

Some examples:

他车子能坐5个人 (= his car can accommodate 5 people)

电梯里站得下10个人 (= ten people can fit in the elevator = the elevator can contain ten people)

这个箱子太小了,装不下这么多衣服 (= this box is too small, it can't contain so many clothes)

我吃不下饭 (= I can't eat any more = I can't fit any more food in my stomach, or, my stomach can't contain any more food)

As additional proof of the semantic value of 下 in this construction, you can replace it with another result complement to a different effect:

我吃不饭 (= I can't eat = meaning that something is preventing you from doing so, instead of your stomach being unable to eat more, e.g. 今天我工作太忙,吃不了饭)

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  • Is 了 in 我吃不了饭 pronounced "liao3"?
    – musialmi
    Aug 27 '20 at 14:52
  • @musialmi yes, it is
    – blackgreen
    Aug 27 '20 at 14:56
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As indicated by other answers, 下 here is a resultative complement.

Compare 饭吃不下 to 饭不吃. 饭不吃 implies that you won't eat anything at all because you 着急. 饭吃不下 implies that you try to eat something but you have no appetite and end it up that you might not have anything in your stomach because you 着急.

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I think it is just the very pragmatic Chinese language: we masticate, then we swallow the resulting mash down 下.

我吃不下饭。
I couldn't swallow a(nother) thing.

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吃不下饭 can be found in Adsotrans as:

VERB
to be unable to eat

吃不下 Is recorded in multiple dictionaries. Here’s the entry from Pleco C-E:

VERB
not feel like eating; be unable to eat any more (opp. 吃得下)

他不太舒服, 吃不下饭。
Tā bù tài shūfu, chī bu xià fàn.
He’s not very well and doesn’t feel like eating.

谢谢, 我实在吃不下了。
Xièxie, wǒ shízài chī bu xià le.
Thanks, but I really can’t eat any more. or Thanks, I’ve really had enough.

The reason I included this is because it includes the opposite: 吃得下.

Some verbs can be qualified with 得下 or 不下 indicating ability or lack thereof.

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