Your friend asked you a favor. She wanted you to take care of her dog for a day because she had to attend an important business meeting in another city. But you also had to go somewhere.
There are 2 options on how to answer her. 1st, ‘sorry, I won’t do it’. 2nd, ‘sorry, I can’t do it’. Clearly, one of the answers sounds like a real bitch and another one is just saying it’s just impossible to do. Well… maybe you want to just say no but why don’t you learn to be polite and nice in this tutorial? 😂😂😂😂😂
Possibility in Korean Mindset
Let’s imagine you are playing Chess and thinking ‘what can be a good move?’. And the word ‘move’ actually describes the possibility of what you can do next, right?
That’s really similar to Can in Korean language. Koreans say ‘there is a move to something or be something in future’. This phrase seems interesting, doesn’t it? It feels like some ancient wiseman talking to his people. 😂😂😂 Embrace the language from a far, mysterious and magical land.
Yes We Can in Korean Language
We need a conjugation to say ‘there is a move to do something in future’ which is ‘can’. You can actually make it without learning more words but 수 which means ‘method / way / possibility / idea’. Let’s see if you can make it yourself.
What was the future tense component? ㄹ
What was ‘move’? 수
What was ‘there is’? 있다
you can make a phrase like this : ‘-ㄹ 수 있다’. That’s it, you just made a 100% correct modal conjugational phrase for describing possibility.
Can in Korean Language
Now, let’s try it with verbs. When you conjugate them, don’t forget to remove all concluding endings and leave only one at the end.
Now, for the final touch, we want to say it in a polite speech style. What was the haeyo form of 있다? 있어요. So all together, it becomes 할 수 있어요. If you make 할 수 있어요, that literally means ‘I can do it’ in the Korean language. And yes, you can do it. you can make any conjugated verbs with this.
But this ㄹ 수 있다 is not much different from ‘can’ in English. It doesn’t only show the possibility (to be able to). Also, you can use it to describe what you can do (eg. I can dance) or permission (eg. you can go).
Can’t in Korean Language
What was the literal meaning of ‘-ㄹ 수 있다’? Yes, it literally means ‘there is a move to do something or be something’. Then what should the negative form be like? Yes, it should be ‘there isn’t a move to -’.
있다 means ‘there is’ and 없다 means ‘there isn’t’. So you have to use 없다 instead of 있다 to make the negative form of can in Korean language.
However, it suddenly gets a little bit more formal for the nuance. Then what should we do to make it less formal and more casual? By the way, 볼 수 없어요 sounds like ‘you are not allowed to see’. So, native Koreans say ‘안보여요 (I don’t see)’ when you want to describe what you can’t see because of disturbance.
Can’t in Korean Language
So, Native Koreans prefer to use prefix ‘못’ instead.
This 못 works perfectly the same to the negative affix 안. It comes before a verb. It’s much easier than 할 수 없다 and much more casual. Native Koreans more prefer 할 수 있다 in formal situations and more prefer 못- in casual situations.
Interesting thing is, this 못 is perfectly the same as can’t in English. You can use it for to not be able to / to suck at / to not allow.
But how can we mix the tenses with can in Korean language? Now, let’s practice combinations of conjugations.
See? As we learned in the Conjugation Core tutorial, tenses always go behind all conjugation just before the ending 요. If you remember this single rule, then probably it will help you with most conjugation combinations.
‘Can’t’ As Shouldn’t
In English, you can say ‘you can’t do it’ instead of ‘you shouldn’t do it’. In Korean? it’s super weird to say it. Koreans use ‘안(don’t)’ to mean ‘shouldn’t, not ‘못(can’t)’
이렇게 그만 두면 안되죠
You can’t quit like this
= 안 is ‘don’t’
Make It Super Duper Natural
할 수 없다 and 못 can’t be used with 이다 as ‘be + noun’ and 있다 as ‘possessive’. You must use 하다 verbs for it.
음악 선생님은 일 수 없어요 (Wrong)
음악 선생님은 못 이에요 (Wrong)
음악 선생님은 될 수 없어요
음악 선생님은 못 되요
I can’t be a music teacher
= You must use verb ‘되다’ (become) instead of 이다
if you say ‘한국인 일 수 없어요’ then it would sound like ‘it can’t be possible he/she is Korean’ and it doesn’t even sound natural much. Grammatically yes, but this is not what you really can hear of in most situations.
차 있을 수 없어요 (Wrong)
차 못있어요 (Wrong)
차 살수 없어요
I can’t have a car
= You must use other verbs such as 사다(buy), 갖다(get).
In English, you can use ‘can’ to ask for permission, right? However, Can in Korean language is not enough to ask for permission. Then do we need another conjugation? or can we use what we’ve just learned? Why don’t you jump into the next tutorial and find it out? Also, if you liked this tutorial, join us in Patreon, we are waiting for you!
All tutorials was possible thanks to
- Nadine C
- Chris M
- Emily M
- Carly Sisson
- Lev Izraelit
- Tuoc Phan
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