“…would…but…” -(으)련마는

More advanced grammar! This form actually gave me a lot of problems, especially its usage with past tense, but with some quiet thinking time and some help from some friends, I figured it out. I hope that reading this helps you as much as actually thinking about and writing it helped me!

This one is a pretty old form and it is also fairly literary as well, so you might hear it spoken by older people but you’ll probably be okay if you can just recognize and understand it when it pops up even if it doesn’t really come to mind for personal usage.

Function:

This grammar is similar to some that I already covered. Expressing a supposition or expectation in the antecedent (preceding) clause that is then offset by an opposite situation or condition in the following clause, this grammar carries a feeling of hoping for one thing but getting something else instead. In this way, it’s similar to -겠건마는/건만 for advanced grammar, -(으)ㄹ 텐데 for intermediate, and -겠지만 for a rough beginner-level equivalent. You can think of it as “but” in the context of an expectation and the reality when that expectation is not fulfilled. An important facet of this grammar is also that you not only point out that something other than the expected occurred but also express some sort of regret or feeling of dissatisfaction. To emphasize that expectation/reality divide in English we could, depending on the situation, translate it roughly as “It would be nice if… but…” or “One would think that… but…” A bit more simply, just “would… but…” will suffice in general!

Usage:

This grammar can be used with action verbs, descriptive verbs, and nouns in the past and present tenses. In all cases, it can be shortened to -(으)련만.

Action verbs:
  • PAST: -았/었으련마는
    • 우리가 파티에 도착했을 때 음식이 조금만이라도 남았으면 친구들과 같이 먹었으련마는 사람들이 이미 다 먹어버렸었어요. (When we arrived at the party if there had been even a little food left we would have eaten with our friends, but they had already eaten it all.)
    • 용기를 좀 더 냈었더라면 고백했으련마는 너무 소심해서 하지 못했어요. (If I had had a bit more courage I would have confessed, but I was too timid so I couldn’t do it.)
  • PRESENT: -(으)련마는
    • 돈이 좀 더 많으면 여행 가련만어차피 돈이 없어서 그런 생각을 안 하는 게 나아요. (If I had a bit more money I would go on a trip, but I don’t have the money anyway so not thinking about it is better.)
    • 보통 그런 간단한 문제를 쉽게 풀련만 왠지 오늘은 잘 안 풀여요. (Normally I would easily solve that kind of simple problem, but for some reason today I can’t do it.)
Descriptive verbs:
  • PAST: -았/었으련마는
    • 담배를 피우지 않았더라면 예뻤으련마는 오랫동안 담배를 피워서 얼굴이 실제 나이에 비해 더 늙어보였어요. (If she had not smoked she would have been pretty, but since she smoked for a long time, her face looked older than her true age.)
    • 내 남동생이 좀 더 일찍 일어났더라면 공항에 가기 전에 아침을 먹을 시간이 충분했으련만 너무 늦게 일어나서 밥 먹기는커녕 물을 마실 시간도 없었어요. (If my brother had gotten up a little earlier there would have been enough time to eat breakfast before going to the airport, but since he got up too late there wasn’t even time to drink water, never mind eating a meal.)
  • PRESENT: -(으)련마는
    • 1등 당첨이 되면 좋으련만 매번 아무 상도 못 받아요. (It would be nice if I won the grand prize in the lottery, but I never get anything.)
    • 운동을 좀 했으면 건강하련만 그는 너무 오랫동안 운동을 안 해서 건강이 나빠지고 있어요. (If he exercised a bit he would be healthy, but he hasn’t exercised in a long time so his health is deteriorating.)
Nouns:
  • PAST: -이었/였으련마는
    • 원래 계획한 대로 기차로 갔으면 통근 시간이 한 시간이었으련만 차로 가서 거의 두 시간이 걸렸어요. (If I had gone by train as originally planned my commute would have been one hour, but since I went by car it took almost two hours.)
    • 좀 더 빨리 백화점에서 도착했으면 그 상품이 무료였으련만 이벤트 마감 시간 5분 뒤에 도착해서 할인을 조금밖에 못 받았어요. (If I had arrived at the department store a bit more quickly that product would have been free, but since I arrived five minutes past the event cutoff time, I only got a small discount.)
  • PRESENT: -이련마는
    • 제 친구들 중에서 유빈이는 가장 외향적인 사람이련만 요즘 무슨 일이 일어났는지 갑자기 소심해졌어요. (Yubin would usually be the most extroverted person among all of my friends, but lately it seems something happened and she’s suddenly become more timid.)
    • 저 카페는 미나 씨가 제일 좋아하는 곳이련만 요즘 돈이 없어서 못 가고 있어요.(That cafe is [would be] Mina’s favorite place, but lately she has no money so she can’t go.)

BONUS: This form can also be used to end a sentence! When used in this way, it sounds like a wistful exclamation.

  • 1등 당첨이 되면 좋으련만…! (If only I got the lottery grand prize…!)

 

As always, thank you for reading! Happy studying, everyone <3