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二来,会因为费用增加而让投资人不高兴,至于这部影片的投资人,可是一位大人物,他可不敢得罪。

This is from the Standard Course Book of HSK5, chapter 26. What is the function (and the meaning) of 可 here: 他可不敢得罪? I ask because for me the sentence makes the same sense without it:

他可不敢得罪: He cannot dare to offend

他不敢得罪: He doesn't dare to offend

At least in my feeling in English, the verb "to dare" is enough, it doesn't need the help of "can" to make sense... I can dare... Can is a modal verb while dare is semi-modal. That's why I am perplexed.

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  • 4
    It's an intensifier: "really, indeed". "At all", since it's in the negative. Dec 19, 2023 at 22:26

3 Answers 3

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As Enrico Brasil said in his comment, 可 is a common intensifier.

可:表示强调:他可好了。

他可不敢得罪.
He absolutely doesn't dare offend.
(Maybe he is abnormally afraid of rejection, or maybe he will go back to prison if he is in any way remiss.)

我?失败?我可不这样认为。
Me? Fail? I really don't think so.

这可不好。
That is really bad.

那可不一样。
That is completely different.

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This 可 is an adverb used for emphasis (it's a separate definition to the 可 in 可以, 可能, etc.); the Pleco dictionary "GF" gives this definition:

用于一般陈述句,表示强调。
Used in ordinary declarative sentences, expresses emphasis.

It's similar to how 就 in 就是 etc. and 并 in 并不 are used.

As a funny example, I remember one time when one of my Chinese friends was once asked if he's a foreigner, and he replied something like:

不是外国人。
I'm certainly not a foreigner

He's not only not a foreigner, he's local to the area, and in the middle of a conversation in Chinese as a native Chinese speaker, so he was rather surprised by the question.

So maybe a reasonable English translation of the given sentence is:

……,他不敢得罪。
..., he certainly dare not offend.

Another example you might have encountered if you play the game Genshin Impact (原神) is 安柏 saying:

是蒙德城的飞行冠军! (video)
I am indeed Mondstadt's flying champion.

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How to understand "他可不敢得罪?"

First, the sentence uses an inversed word order. The subject is missing. I guess it could be "我" or "你". 得罪 (offend) is the verb. is the object. Besically this sentence means "我不敢得罪他" = "对他, 我不敢得罪".

Second, what is the function of ""?

In affirmative sentences, = 可以, which means "possible" or "possibly".

In negative sentences, 不可 = 可不 = 不可以, which means "not possible", "impossible", or "unthinkable ". 可不 is in an even stronger mood. For example,

你不可以去. = You could not go there.

你可不能去. = You must not go there.

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  • The full passage is "大导演非常着急,一来,耽误了时间,日程就得重新安排;二来,会因为费用增加而让投资人不高兴,至于这部影片的投资人,可是一位大人物,他可不敢得罪。" 他 refers to 大导演, not the investor.
    – joehua
    Dec 20, 2023 at 3:49
  • I see. 至于投资人 (一位大人物),他(大导演)可不敢得罪. "投资人" is the topic (usually object). 他 is the subject. 他不敢得罪投资人. Thanks.
    – PdotWang
    Dec 20, 2023 at 5:00

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