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As the title suggests.

In the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a classic example of "could NOT bear to" would be when Charlie brings home some chocolate to his family and no one in the house at it, letting him eat it instead.

To address some of the comments: When I say "could not bear" I mean, could not bear the idea of losing something. The key idea is loss or pity/sympathy: Examples:

"He couldn't bear to let his little sister go hungry so he gave the last piece of bread to her."
This particular sentence in Chinese would be written, 'the brother [couldn't bear] to eat the last piece of bread (ie could not bear the thought of using up a precious resource) lest his sister go hungry.'

"She couldn't bear to let the child go hungry."

"She couldn't bear losing him."

"She couldn't bear to sell the house as it was her grandparent's house."

"The migrant worker was the family's sole breadwinner so he didn't [bear to] buy expensive groceries and survived on 99 cent instant noodles."

There is such a word in Chinese, and it is "舍得" which is a a positive/affirmation word (that is more emotional based rather than financial) that means "bear to" part with something, lose something. It can be used as a negation "can NOT bear to/not willing to part with/lose something" as well as an affirmation, voluntarily "willing to" lose something (however this has a somewhat bad connotation. It usually insinuates that the person is reckless, or is willing or forced to lose something they shouldn't lose/do).

I have not found a suitable equivalent in English, which seems like it only has the negation version, "could NOT bear to". I'd like a word or phrase that removes the "not".

Some examples of usage would be:

  1. The poor migrant worker could only [insert word. NOT 'afford'] to eat 99 cent noodles because he was the sole bread winner of the family and there were hospital bills waiting to be paid.

  2. "How could you [insert word] to do that to your own child?"

'Bear' does not sound right in these cases, especially since there is no past tense.

In Chinese it would be:

  1. 穷困的移民工人只 舍得 买99分的方便面,应为他全家靠他一个人的收入,而且还有医疗费需要付款。
  2. “你怎么舍得 对你自己的孩子做那种事?”
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    Hello, Stephanie. The 'opposite' of 'John can't bear to listen to Alvus songs' is arguably 'John loves to listen to Alvus songs', not 'John can tolerate listening to Alvus songs'. Can you clarify the title, please? // 'acquiesced', 'consented' // 'managed' could work in some situations. 'had the heart to' is a metaphorical expression that may be of use. As is 'had the stomach to'. Feb 17, 2021 at 12:54
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    I'm not sure that you understand the expression 'cannot bear to'. It means that you find it hateful or disgusting to do something. "Take that away! I can't bear to look at it." There is a word forbear which seems to fit the meaning you intend. Feb 17, 2021 at 13:36
  • @KateBunting Thanks for your comment I understand what it means, but the English phrase can be used 2 ways, negatively (you hate something, "I can't bear to look at it, take it away" or more of a sympathetic situation like "She couldn't bear to leave the poor child there alone.") I am going for the opposite of the latter. Forbear is not suitable at all. Feb 19, 2021 at 6:07
  • @EdwinAshworth None of the words work for either the negation or the affirmation. When I say 'bear' here, I mean something like "She couldn't bear to let the child go hungry." or "can't bear to lose" someone. Stomach and acquiesced are definitely not close. Managed is the only one that is close: someone managed to scrape enough money together to do something, but I am not describing the act of scraping together money, rather, the unfortunate determination (forced through circumstances) to spend what little they have, on something. I stand by my title but have added more details to the question Feb 19, 2021 at 6:20
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    "bear to" can be used without "not" in sentences such as "he could only bear to do it for a little while", which is close to example 1. "bring yourself to" is similar. Both are normally used with "not" but can be used without it.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 19, 2021 at 11:13

2 Answers 2

1

With the new examples you've given, 'bear to' is again licensed. The multi-word verb bear to [+ infinitive] is a negative-polarity item, and these can be used in interrogative as well as negated sentences.

  • (2) How could you bear to do that to your own child?

An alternative would be

  • (2') "How could you stand doing that to your own child?"

  • (1) The poor migrant worker could only bear to eat an almost constant diet of noodles because he was the sole breadwinner of the family, and there were hospital bills waiting to be paid.

is similarly licensed by the negative facilitator 'only'.

......................

  • */??The poor migrant worker could bear to eat an almost constant diet of noodles.

has no negative-facilitator and sounds unnatural. I'd suggest instead

  • The poor migrant worker could endure an almost constant diet of noodles. or
  • The poor migrant worker could put up with an almost constant diet of noodles.

But these totally idiomatic suggestions don't have the to-infintive after the verb ('endure', 'put up with'). English is idiosyncratic.

  • The poor migrant worker managed to subsist on a diet consisting almost solely of noodles.

is perhaps closer in form, though 'managed to' is probably redundant here.

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You seem to be looking for two things:

  • an opposite to could not bear
  • something that is close to be willing to in an affirmative sense, with a possibly negative connotation

One verb that can be used in this way is take:

The poor migrant worker could only take eating 99 cent noodles because he was the sole bread winner of the family and there were hospital bills waiting to be paid.

"How could you take doing that to your own child?"

The Oxford English Dictionary includes this meaning of "take, v." under defs. 23 or 24b, as an extension of being willing to accept or receive something. In this case, one accepts or receives a burden:

  1. transitive. To accept (something offered), esp. willingly; not to refuse or reject.

24.b. transitive. To accept without objection, opposition, or resentment; to be content with; to tolerate, put up with.

Take tends to be perceived as more colloquial or informal in this usage. Tolerate, endure, withstand, suffer, and other words would hit a more formal register,

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