Expressing Can and Cannot Do

The expression can or cannot do in Korean is made using the pattern plain base+ (으)ㄹ 수 then 있어요 (isseoyo) or 없어요 (opseoyo).  This verb ending literally means ‘ a means exists’ or ‘a means do not exists’.   Here are examples:

  • 볼 수 있어요 (bol su isseoyo) can [I/we] see
  • 쓸 수 있어요 (seul su isseoyo) can write or can use
  • 걸을 수 없어요 (keoreul su opseoyo) can’t walk
  • 갈 수 없어요 (kal su opseoyo) can’t go

The behavior is the same as that of the verb ending for probable future (으)ㄹ 거에요 (eu0l koeyo) where l-extending verbs remains unextended when the attached as such:

살다 (to live) is transformed to 살 수 없어요 (sal su opseoyo) to mean can’t live.  살 in this form  is actually 사 (unextended form)+ ㄹ (the modifier in the verb ending).

Some Special Use of Infinitive Verb + 도

There are some idiomatic uses of the verb in infinitive form followed by particle 도 (do).  Aside from its usual meaning of eventhough it can have a special meaning of minimum of maximum when used with selective descriptive verb.

  • 늦어도 (nuejeodo) – which means ‘at the latest’ aside from the direct translation meaning of even though it’s late
  • 적어도 (cheokeodo) – would mean ‘at least’  aside from the direct translation even though it’s few or small.

Here are samples of its use in a sentence:

  • 여기서부터 약국까지 적어도 1시간은 걸리겠어요. (Yogiseobuto yakkuk kaji cheokeodo han shikaneun keollikesseoyo) From here to pharmacy it must take at least 1 hour.
  • 늦어도 7시까지는 학교에 들어 가야 하거든요.  (Neujeodo ilgop shikkajineun hakyeoe duero kaya hageodeunyo) We have to return to school by 7 o’clock at the latest.

Expressing Doesn’t Have To

Few days ago I learned how to express ‘ have to’ or ‘ I must do’ which is in the form of  infinitive form of verb+ 야 해요.  This time it’s about saying ‘I don’t have to’.  It was not as simple as using the negative verb + 야 해요, instead for this expression, the negative verb + 도 is used.  Using one of my favorite verbs,  먹다 (meokda – to eat) here are examples:

  • Short negative – 안 먹어도 (an meokeodo)
  • Long negative – 먹지 않아도 (mokji anado)

The above examples both mean even if I don’t eat.  The final verb can be used are  돼요 (dwaeyo), 괜찮아요 (gwaenchanayo) or  좋아요 (choayo)  to complete the thought — it doesn’t matter, it’s alright or it’s okay.  Using the verb above here is a sample sentence construction:

오늘 밤에 먹지 않아도 괜찮아요.  (Oneul bame mokji anado gwaenchanayo). Even if I don’t eat late tonight, it doesn’ t matter.

Other Meaning of 봐요

Before anything else. Today is February 5 and it’s a special day for my favorite Korean artist, no less than the very talented Wheesung.  휘성 씨 생일 축하해요! 행복하세요…

Anyway today another clouded verb which is known to me as to see or looks became clearer on its other meaning.  보다 (dictionary form for this verb) has other uses aside from the act of looking or seeing something.  Surprisingly just like 해요 and 있어요, this verb can be used an auxiliary verb and when it is preceeded by a verb in infinitive form its meaning becomes ‘tries doing’.  It’s not an attempt to but rather tries to. 

In our class my professor would normally say 여기 보세요 (yeogi poseyo). which of course means look here.  Then he would also use 보세요 in expressions like 읽어 보세요 (ilko poseyo).  This time I am wondering why not say 주세요 (juseyo) when he wants us to read something. Now its clear because of this. 

Here are some practical applications of this auxiliary verb:

  • 한국말로 이메일을 써 봐요.  (Hangukmalro imaireul sseo bowayo). I am trying to write email in Korean.
  • 김치를 먹어 봤어요? (Kimchireul meokeo bowasseody?) Have you tried eating kimchi?
  • 서울에 가 보셨어요? (Seoure ka bowasyeosseoyo?) Have you been to Seoul?

Expression: Going (가) and Coming (와) and Particle 로

The verb 가 (ka) and 와 (wa – infinitive form) are just two of the most commonly used verbs.  가 means go while 와 means come.  This post is a tip on how the particle 로 (ro) works perfectly with this two verbs.  As discussed in previous post 로 is a particle attached to noun which creates the meaning via, through or by means of the nound to which it is attached.

Vehicle+로 then destination and the verb does the trick.  Here are examples:

  • 기차로 학교에 가요  (Kicharo hakyoe kayo) Goes to school by train
  • 기차로 학교에 와요  (Kicharo hakyoe wayo) Comes to school by train
  • 바스로 가요 (Basuro kayo) Goes by bus
  • 택시로 왔어요 (Taekshiro wasseoyo) Came by taxi

내가 자동차로 사무실용 건물에 가요  (Naega chadongcharo samushilyong keonmure kayo).  I go to the office by car.

Presenting Options Using ‘Or’

This post is about two simple Korean words I learned which allows you to present two options.  This is similar to the English word ‘or’. These two words are 또는 (ddoneun) and 아니면 (animyeon).  Here are sample phrases:

  • 커피 또는 우유 (kopi ddoneun uyu)
  • 커피 아니면 우유 (kopi animyeon uyu)

Both phrases mean coffee or milk, the difference is that when you use 또는 you are presenting two contrasting ideas therefore  one of the choices will be excluded unlike 아니면 which presents two ideas that are both acceptable.

These words can occur at the beginning of the sentence.  As in the example below:

  • 기차로 갈까요?  아니면 택시로 갈까요?  (Kicharo kalkkayo? Animyon tekshiro kalkkayo?) Should we take the train? Or (else) shall we take a taxi?  In this sample, both options is of course acceptable to the speaker.
  • 영화관에 가지 않았어요. 또는 음악희에도 가지 않았어요. (Yonghwagwane kaji anasseoyo. Ddoneun eumakhui.edo kaji anasseoyo.) I have not been to movie theater [and I don’t like movies anyway]. Nor have I been [on the other hand] to any concert [and I do like concert].   This statement plainly states not being able to go to movie theater the second statement is the same  but with the use of 또는 in the beginning of the second statement the thought enclosed is considered in the overall context of the statement as such the second statement means not being able to go but would like to go.