What's the difference between using the te form of a verb with the potential form as opposed to just the ru form?




食べられない is just negative-potential, but 食べてられない is a colloquial version of 食べてられない, which is negative-progressive-potential.

  • 待てない: I can't wait.
  • 待って(い)られない: I can't keep waiting.
  • 食べられない: I can't eat it.
  • 食べて(い)られない: I can't stay here eating it.

EDIT: Some more examples:

  • 見られない (= 見えない): I can't see it.
  • 見て(い)られない: I can't watch it any more. / It's unbearable to see.
  • 起きられない: I can't get up (out of bed).
  • 起きて(い)られない: I can't stay awake.

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