I came across these two expressions "吃不消" and "受不了", both translated as "cannot stand / cannot bear". My impression is that 吃不消 refers more to physical circumstances, like fatigue, tiredness, whereas 受不了 has a broader sense, so that for example one could also 受不了 an annoying person. Is that right? Any other hints as how and when to use these two expressions? Many thanks!!

2 Answers 2


吃不消 literally means "too much to digest," so I'd use it for heavy workload, frequent annoyances, etc.

受不了 literally means "unbearable," so I'd use it for unsociable people, hostile environments, etc.

But that's just my preference; in practice they are quite interchangeable.


吃不消 - unable to withstand; can't bear (物理上 - physically)


吃你一記八極拳我可吃不消 - If I was hit by your Bajiquan punch, I wouldn't be able to withstand it (physically)

天天加班我真的吃不消了 - I really can't bear to work overtime every day (physically)

吃不消一天五百美玩的房租 - Can't afford the rent of five hundred dollars a day (physically)

受不了 - can't stand; can't bear (心理上 - mentally); cannot tolerate (生理上 - physiologically)


天天加班我真的受不了 - I really can't bear to work overtime every day (mentally)

她受不了丈夫的虐待跑了 -- She couldn't stand her husband's abuse and ran away (mentally)

這麼熱我受不了 -- It is so hot, I can't stand it (physiologically)

天天挨駡我受不了 -- I can't stand being scolded every day (mentally)

我受不了辣椒 -- I can't stand chili (physiologically)

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