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I'm taking Cantonese classes and am increasingly confused about the difference between 到/倒 , 得 and 可以.

They all have a vague meaning of possibility/ability/permission to some degree, with 可以 used to ask permission, 得 for permission and possibility, and 倒 for possibility. However some phrases sound unnatural ('Because of the weather, I can't go to the beach' uses 得 instead of 倒 according to my teacher, but I wouldn't have used it because 得 sounds like authorisation/permission).

Can someone explain how to choose between the three when making a sentence ? (Also, can you include positive/negative replies to questions including those complements ?).

(I have no idea what the correct answer is, and will select the most upvoted answer...)

Edit:

What I have so far, is:

可以 can express possibility, ability, in this case, a positive answer is 可以 and a negative answer is 唔得

可以 can express permission, in that case a positive answer is 可以 and a negative answer is 唔可以

得 expresses permission. But it is also included in the phrase ‘Because of the weather, you can’t go to the beach’. This is because ‘this is an objective cause for not going’ (explanation 1) and ‘this is for an external and not a personal reason’ (explanation 2).

到 expresses ability. But not skill. And cause for personal circumstances.

好唔好 (not in original question) also asks for permission, but could also mean ‘let’s do that, shall we ?’ and act as a volitive 'let's'.

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    "到" is indeed should be written as “倒”. We use the word 倒 (for the sounding) because it's actually "到?“ The tone fluctuate a little near the end of a question. And this ”到?“ was then taken as a word by itself, and being used in middle of sentence. The meaning is not “到”, but we couldn't use this exact word because itself carries the positive expression. Thus, use “倒” -- similar word, correct tone.
    – Justin Moh
    Jun 3 at 17:12

2 Answers 2

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  1. 到/dou3/: [particle] used after a verb or adjective to indicate degree/extent

Example:

笑到肚痛 (laugh to the degree of having stomach pain)

  1. 到 /dou3*2/: [particle] used after a verb to indicate attainment/achievement or potentiality

to avoid confusion, I will use 倒 instead of the correct character 到 in this answer

Different between [V + 倒], [V + 得], and [可以 + V]

去倒美國 = able to go to America

去唔倒美國 = unable to go to America

去得美國 = can go to America (depend on context, 'can' here can either means 'able' or 'allowed')

唔去得美國 = can't go to America (depend on context, 'can't' here either means 'unable' or 'not allowed')

可以去美國 = can go to America (depend on context, 'can' here can either means 'able' or 'allowed')

唔可以去美國 = can't go to America (depend on context, 'can't' here either means 'unable' or 'not allowed')

Example:

有簽證先至[去倒]美國 = [can go] to the US only if you have a visa (able to go)

有簽證先至[去得]美國 = [can go] to the US only if you have a visa (allowed to go)

有簽證先至[可以去]美國 = [can go] to the US only if you have a visa (allowed to go)

冇簽證所以[去唔倒]美國 = [can't go] to the US because I don't have a visa (unable to go)

冇簽證所以[唔去得]美國 = [can't go] to the US because I don't have a visa (not allowed to go)

冇簽證所以[唔可以去]美國 = [can't go] to the US because I don't have a visa (not allowed to go)

The difference between "去得美國" and "可以去美國" is [可以 + V] is more literary and [V + 得] is more colloquial. They have the same meaning

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  • I have edited the question to add the elements I have. I think choosing 得/倒 depends on what is before the complement (authorisation will call for 得 while personal ability will call for 倒, with an in-between case being 'Because of weather, we can't go' which is neither authorisation nor personal ability). I was also told that 可唔可以 is more commonly used for asking permission whereas 好唔好 is 'shall we' and 得唔得 is 'is it ok'. I was also told there is a difference between 'I can swim' and 'I can swim 50m', maybe something to do with 識.
    – Raph
    Jun 3 at 8:02
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An example for verb complement :

而家市面上消費者一係就係用蘋果三星,一係就係用中國嘅品牌,好似以前諾基亞咁樣嘅大公司而家已經消失得無影無蹤啦。

ji4 gaa1 si5 min6 soeng6 siu1 fai3 ze2 jat1 hai6 zau6 hai6 jung6 ping4 gwo2 saam1 sing1 ,jat1 hai6 zau6 hai6 jung6 zung1 gwok3 ge3 ban2 paai4 ,hou2 ci5 ji5 cin4 nok6 gei1 ngaa3 gam2 joeng2 ge3 daai6 gung1 si1 ji4 gaa1 ji5 ging1 siu1 sat1 dak1 mou4 jing2 mou4 zung1 laa3 。

To connect 消失 with 無影無蹤, as a verb complement is a word, phrase, or clause that follows the verb to add more information. Verb complements strengthen the meaning and impact of the verb in a sentence.

If Raph is looking for 得唔得 vs 可唔可以,

得唔得 means capable or not (less formal), with permission or not (less formal)

可唔可以 means with permission or not

And if Raph is asking:

做唔做倒?(倒 is used here) 做唔做得倒?(both 倒 and 得 are used here)

做唔做倒? means could you finish/complete it?

做唔做得倒? could also mean could you finish/complete it? (with emphasis)

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