The grammar that we’ll be checking out today is -기는커녕. This form is interchangeable with -은/는 고사하고, so I will write all examples using both -기는커녕 and -은/는 고사하고.
This grammar has two meanings. The first is used when you want to show the extent to which something is difficult to achieve or unlikely to happen by comparing two actions or conditions, neither of which are achieved. The preceding clause contains the more difficult to achieve of the two conditions, and the antecedent clause contains something that is easier to achieve but still is not done.
The second meaning is used when you want to express an outcome or situation opposite or different from what the preceding clause leads you to expect.
Both meanings of -기는커녕 can be translated to English as
“never mind…” or “let alone…”. This expression is only used for negative meanings.
-기는커녕’s usage is pretty simple! Just add -기는커녕 to action and descriptive verbs and -은/는커녕 to nouns. Their equivalents using the -은/는 고사하고 form are -기는 고사하고 for action and descriptive verbs and -은/는 고사하고 for nouns.
- Action verbs: -기는커녕 / -기는 고사하고 /-는 것은 고사하고
- 오늘 아침 하도 바빠서 아침을 먹기는커녕(먹기는 고사하고) 물조차 마시지 못했어요. (I was so busy this morning that I couldn’t even drink water, never mind eating breakfast.)
- 요즘 동화 씨의 불면증이 심해져서 잠을 푹 자기는커녕(자기는 고사하고) 10분도 못 자요. (Lately Donghwa’s insomnia has gotten worse so he can’t even sleep for ten minutes, never mind sleeping sufficiently.)
- Descriptive verbs: -기는커녕’s first meaning does not seem to work with descriptive verbs! I racked my brains for a while, then asked my Korean friends to help me out. All of the examples they gave me fell pretty squarely in the bounds of meaning 2.
- Nouns: -은/는커녕 / -은/는 고사하고
- 그녀는 하도 가난해서 새 옷은커녕 밥도 못 사요. (That lady is so poor that she can’t even buy food, never mind new clothes.)
- 사교성이 부족한 그 남자는 애인은커녕(애인은 고사하고) 친구도 사귈 수 없어요. (That man with lacking social competence can’t even make friends, never mind finding a date.)
- Action verb: 채원 씨는 요리를 잘한다고 했는데 요리하기는커녕(요리하기는 고사하고) 물조차 끓이는 방법을 모르는 것 같아요. (Chaewon says that she’s good at cooking but it seems she doesn’t even know how to boil water, never mind cooking.)
- Descriptive verb:-기는커녕 / -기는 고사하고 / -은/는 것은 고사하고 —그는 팬이 엄청 많다고 자랑했는데 팬이 많기는커녕(많기는 고사하고) 팬카페에 가입한 사람은 7명밖에 없었어요. (He bragged that he has a ton of fans, but there were only seven people registered on his fan site, never mind a lot of fans.)
- Noun: 그녀의 생일이었는데 남편한테 선물은커녕(선물은 고사하고) 이혼서류를 받았어요. (It was her birthday but she got divorce papers from her husband, never mind a gift.)