无能为力 describes a situation where the subject is entirely unable to do something. The following post describes the meaning of this 成语 in detail.
|Pin Yin||wú néng wéi lì|
|Pleco Definition||1. impotent
|HSK Level||HSK 6
无能为力 describes a situation where the subject is entirely unable to do something. This may be because (1) the subject cannot use his power to do something or (2) the subject’s power is diminished to the extent he cannot do something. The “power” indicated by the character 力 may be either physical strength or more abstract (e.g. abilities rendered inoperable due to changing circumstantial realities).
Grammatically, 无能为力 most frequently operates as an adjective (e.g. 无能为力的感觉，无能为力的人).
It may also be used as a verb. It is often used with the change of state particle 了 to emphasise that the current powerlessness is a new situation (i.e. 无能为力了). 无能为力 usually cannot take an object.
I always feel powerless.
After she left Shanghai, I was unable to persuade her to return here, and I felt a kind of helplessness.
I’m sorry, but there’s really nothing that can be done. I’m powerless to help you.
References and Further Reading
1. 成语词典 (新世纪版2011修订), p. 718.
2. 新HSK词汇突破: 6级 (2013), p.383-384.