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I know both 尽くす and きれる mean to do something fully/completely eg(these are my own examples)

色々やり尽くす。(I have tried all the methods or I have exhausted all the methods.)

generally I have heard of

食べきれない。(cannot complete the food...)

What I want to know is when do we use 尽くす and きれる.

How do I know if I can say やり尽くす or やりきれる?

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It's an explanation by feeling rather than logic, but V+きる strikes me as if pushing a progress bar until the end, while V+つくす marking off all items in a list one by one. People use ~きる when you achieved 100% of an assumed entirety of work needed to call it completed, and ~つくす, when you leave none of ever imaginable targets.

That's why ~きる is typically associated with a goal, or "the point you don't have to continue" (especially in potential form ~きれる), and ~つくす against available resource, or "the point you have no means to continue". In another aspect, ~きる usually focuses on a single item or event, where ~つくす has multiple items in mind.

They sometimes have a complex interaction with the verb's meaning (besides many non-transparent idioms e.g. 乗り切る, 張り切る etc.) that I can't really make a sweeping summary, but hope you grasp a feel from examples below:

やりきる (do a single thing to the end)
やりつくす (do every possible thing; try every possible way)

食べきる (eat until 0% left / to do) ≈ 食べつくす (eat until nothing remains)

○ 疲れきる (so tired that HP down to 0)
× 疲れつくす (it's difficult to assume some kind of "fatigue" list)

一本の木を使いきる (use a piece of lumber completely)
一本の木を使いつくす (make full use (every possible application) of a piece of lumber)

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  • Thank you for this explanation."pushing a progress bar until the end" -> this really helped me understand.
    – Abi
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 1:39

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