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Is it the "change of state" sentence-end particle?

If so, can you say this sentence without it?

And if not, how do you convey the difference between:

(She already knows, the situation hasn't changed) vs. (This is news, we had plans, but it turns out it won't work)

3 Answers 3

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  1. Yes. It is.

  2. Yes, you can say the sentence without "了", but the two sentences mean differently.

  • 请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影 - Please tell her that I can't go with her to the movie now.

  • 请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影 - Please tell her that I can't go with her to the movie.

While the first sentence indicates "I promised her before to go to the movie with her later, but now the situation has changed."; the second indicates that you plain refuse, or are reluctant, to go with her to a movie. It is likely you will hurt her feeling by telling her this way.

  1. Revised per OP's inputs in comment:

Case a. Both of you agreed to meet, but later turns out that you can't make it, you shall say: "請告訴她我今晚不䏻去".

Case b. She invited you to meet; you responded with "再說吧". For this case, you can say

  • i) to a person you like: "請告訴她我今晚不䏻去". Here, "了" soften the tune of the negative answer, and implies "sorry, I thought there is a chance I can go, but now I really can't".

  • ii) to a person you don't care: "(請)告訴她我今晚不䏻去". - I didn't promise you anything, so be it.

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  • Amazing thank you. By point 3 I mean, how would you convey the differences between these two situations: (1) 10:00 we have agreed to meet later, 15:00 I realise we can't meet, 17:00 "Please tell her we can't meet"; (2) 10:00 AM, we discuss meeting alter but don't make any firm decision, 15:00 I realise we can't meet, 17:00 "Please tell her we can't met"
    – Nmdy
    Aug 25 at 9:21
  • I was under the impression that the addition of 了 made it situation 1, and you say above, so I was wondering how you show situation 2, using the same sentence.
    – Nmdy
    Aug 25 at 9:22
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请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影了:Please tell her I can't go to the movies with her because I'm in a hurry this time, but welcome to the next date.

请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影:Please tell her it's impossible for me to go to the movies with her and stop trying to date me.

10:00 we have agreed to meet later, 15:00 I realise we can't meet, 17:00 "Please tell her we can't meet": 请代我向她致歉,我事去不了了,下次再约吧。To go back on an already decided date, we usually apologize and welcome another date, lest the other person think we have a problem with her.

10:00 AM, we discuss meeting alter but don't make any firm decision, 15:00 I realise we can't meet, 17:00 "Please tell her we can't met": 请替我告诉她,我有事去不了了,约会取消吧。There is no need to apologize because the date has not yet been decided, just articulate your decision.

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  • If you really want to indicate "stop trying to date me", you can say 请告诉她我不想跟她去看电影, or more seriously, 请告诉她我不会跟她去看电影。
    – PdotWang
    Aug 28 at 3:49
  • Well, I just wanted to exaggerate the difference between the two. Aug 28 at 12:33
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请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影了. Yes, "了" means "change of state". I told her earlier that I would go with her. Now something else interrupted my plan. “不能...了” indicates that I am in a passive position.

请告诉她我不能跟她去看电影. Without “了”, more likely, I give her an answer (not a change). “不能...” indicates that I am unable to do that. It may also indicate that I am in a passive position.

Without “了”, it is not necessarily a negative statement.

If you really want to indicate "do not date me", you can say 请告诉她我不想跟她去看电影, or more seriously, 请告诉她我不会跟她去看电影。请告诉她我才不会跟她去看电影呢。

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