This isn’t what I expected! -건마는(건만)

Back with another grammar post for you all! This time, I’m going to hit on a grammar point that you might find in an advanced grammar book, but that doesn’t have a very complicated meaning at all. This grammar is largely a literary form, but if you go out to Korea’s countryside, you might hear some of the elderly people using it in normal conversation!  The star of today’s post is -건마는(건만).


So what does -건마는(건만) add to the sentence? You can use this grammar when the situation in the following clause runs counter to what you might expect based on the information in the antecedent clause (the clause before this connector). Simply put, you can translate it in English as “but” or some other word or phrase that indicates this contrast and breaking of expectations.

This grammar is similar in meaning to grammar points like “-지만,” “-기는 하는데 (-긴 한데),” and “-아/어도.” They’re definitely more common than -건마는(건만)!


This grammar can be used with action verbs and descriptive verbs in the past, present, and future tenses; and with nouns. NOTE that “future” here does not mean a pure future tense usage, but rather the introduction of the speaker’s intention (when the subject is 1st person) or some sort of guess (when the subject is 3rd person). Let’s check it out:

Action verbs: 
  • PAST:-았/었건마는 — 음식을 맛있게 만들었고 그에다가 정말 저렴하게 팔았건마는 그래도 장사가 잘 안 됐어요. (Their food was delicious and they sold it for really low prices, yet business was really bad.)
  • PRESENT:-건마는 —규민 씨는 공부를 열시히 하건만 성적이 늘지 않아요. (Kyumin studies hard, but his grades don’t improve.)
  • FUTURE: -겠건마는 — 원한다면 전 친구를 공항까지 차로 바래다 주겠건만 편하게 차를 타서 가는 것 대신 친구가 버스를 타서 가고 싶대요. (If she wants I could drive her to the airport, but rather than going comfortably by car, she says she wants to take the bus.)
Descriptive verbs:
  • PAST: -았/었건마는 — 그 그룹은 별로 유명하지도 않았건마는 그럼에도 불구하고 어쩐지 돈을 엄청 잘 벌어서 멤버들이 다 부자가 됐어요.  (This group was not very famous, but in spite of that they somehow earned a lot of money and the members all became rich.)
  • PRESENT: -건마는 — 이 영화는 어른들도 공포로 벌벌 떨리게 할 정도로 무섭건만 저 아이가 한번도 눈을 안 가렸네요. (This movie is scary enough to make even adults tremble with fear, but that kid didn’t cover his eyes even once.)
  • FUTURE: -겠건마는 — 요리 재능이 아예 없는 민수 씨가 만드는 음식은 정말 맛없겠건만 민수씨를 장려해주고 싶어하는 민수 씨의 여자 친구는 가장 심하게 탄 것까지 다 먹었어요. (The food that Minsu, who has absolutely no cooking talent, makes must be disgusting, yet his girlfriend, who wants to encourage him, ate even the most severely burnt parts.)
  • PAST: -이었/였건마는 — 열두 살도 안 된 아이였건만 서울대에 입학했어요. (He was a child not even twelve years old, yet he entered Seoul University.)
  • PRESENT: -(이)건마는 — 저 하얀색 개는 엄청 크고 무서워 보이는 동물이건마는 사실은 정말 느긋하고 사랑스러운 개예요. (That white dog is really big and scary-looking, but it’s actually a very relaxed and lovable dog.)
  • FUTURE: -(이)겠건마는 — 승진을 가장 많이 기대하는 사람은 승혁 씨겠건마는 일을 가장 무성의하게 하는 사람도 바로 승혁 씨예요. (The person most looking forward to a promotion is probably Seunghyeok, but he’s also the one who works the most carelessly.)


Feel free to ask any questions! Happy studying~