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Among potential complements are some ending with 得起. Some examples (from here and here) are:

这家餐厅太贵了,我们吃不起
This restaurant is too expensive. We can't afford to eat here.

我们吃得起龙虾。
We can afford lobster.

这些化妆品很贵,我用不起
This makeup is very expensive. I can't afford it.

我们用得起电。
We can afford electricity.

The Chinese Zero To Hero YouTube video 动词+得/不+起 gives an idea of the conversion: basically, 不能[verb] = [verb]不起 and 能[verb] = [verb]得起. But then 吃不起 should mean 不能吃 = "I can't eat [something]" and 吃得起 should mean 能吃 = "I can eat [something]" (and likewise for 用). So I'm not following the logic here.

Question: How do 用不起 / 用得起 and 吃不起 / 吃得起 mean (un)affordable?

  • Although both 不能 and 不起 are negative, they are not equivalent. 不能 is cannot; 不起 is, as you have pointed out, cannot afford. Cannot is not the same as cannot afford. – joehua Oct 12 at 9:16
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In China, we more of use this as a fixed phrase for (cannot) afford. For example, we would use 吃不起 or 用不起 or 买不起 to show that we cannot afford to eat/use/buy something. The simple logic is this:

-得起 means that you can afford to do an action

-不起 means that you cannot afford to do an action

This is probably a fixed phrase you need to memorize.

P.S. When we use -得起 or -不起, we do not necessarily mean afford in the monetary context. For example, we can say 我承担不起这个后果 to mean "I cannot bear (承担) this consequence (后果)".

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得起 and 不起 is part of common expression in Chinese for can/cannot afford.

If you broke characters, generally means to support, to lift. So the express literally translates into you are able to support(lift)/ you cannot support(lift).

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