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In the sentence:

田中さんは諦めきれなかった。

what is the function/meaning of きれる? I assume the sentence means "Tanaka didn't give up", but how does it differ from 諦めなかった?

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The verb 切る, besides meaning "to cut", can also be used as a suffix to a verb in the pre-masu form (i.e. 食べ) to mean "to do something completely".

Therefore 諦めきれない would mean "cannot completely give up".

Other places where this is used are verbs like 待ちきれない (can't wait) or 理解しきれない (can't completely understand).

Here is a page which has a lot more examples of ~切る (written by me)

EDIT: Kentaro Tomono pointed out highly that I had not responded to the original poster's question about the difference between "諦めなかった".

As 諦めなかった simply means "he didn't give up", it lacks the meaning of "not being able to" which is present in 諦めきれなかった.

A more interesting question would be the difference between 諦められなかった. Here, I would say 諦めきれなかった, having the concept of not "completely" able to do something, would have greater emphasis. Or it might be more appropriate to say he was torn between giving up and continuing on, so at some point he had partially given up (諦めかけた)but never completely.

I think changing the original sentence to simply use 諦められなかった would be OK and not have a major change in meaning.

  • Good + 1. Actually 切る, whose original meaning of "to cut" may have turned into "completely". Though the questioner is asking two things. – Kentaro May 5 '16 at 2:24
  • Does "can't wait" here have the same meaning as in English? (e.g. "really looking forward to") – kuchitsu May 5 '16 at 12:19
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    Yes I think the nuance of "待ちきれない" is very similar to "can't wait" in English, which is close (but I'd argue not exactly the same) as "really looking forward to". – Locksleyu May 5 '16 at 13:01
  • @Locksleyu Great explanation. だが、「待ちきれない」は理解しきれない。How does the "completely" fit into "I can't completely wait"? – user3856370 May 5 '16 at 16:57
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    @user3856370 Simply stating 待てない is like saying "I can't wait for any second" or "I don't want to wait at all", unless adding もう待てない or ~まで待てない. If you want to tell the feeling "I can't wait any longer" in one word, you must say 待ちきれない. – broccoli forest May 6 '16 at 4:59
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Ahm.... I think I would like to say, it is Yes or actually in the end No.

Here, 切れる, the original verb, meaning "to cut" turnd into the meaning of "can not do", "could not do"...

From the link

●二つの「切れる」

「切れる」には、他動詞「切る」から可能動詞になった「切れる」と、自動詞の「切れる」とがある。

Translation

2 meanings of 「切れる」

About the verb,「切れる」,there are 2 -- derivative -- meanings. The original is "to cut" and it turned into the potential verb, one is transitive, the other is intransitive.

( Your question's is intransitive, considering the nature of the meaning of the sentence )

So here, the verb 「切れる」 is used as the potential verb, and the meaning of the sentence is

"Tanaka san could not give up".

Thank you.

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