Back with more advanced grammar for you! This time, we’ll look at one of Korean’s many ways to say “even if…”. When should we use this one? How is it different from other ways to say the same thing?
This form is used when you want to indicate that the information in the preceding clause has little or no impact on the following clause, or when you want to indicate that something different to the outcome you expected has happened. In English, this can be very comfortably translated to “Even if…”.
There are already other ways to say the same thing in Korean, and they are more or less interchangeable. The only difference is in how likely the situation in the following clause is to occur.
As you can see, this form is pretty low on the “expected outcome likely to happen” scale, so you don’t want to use it for situations where the hypothesized outcome is fairly certain to be what actually occurs!
This form can be used with action verbs, descriptive verbs, and nouns alike in the past and present tenses! In the present tense simply add -은들 if the verb ends with a consonant, or -ㄴ들 if the verb ends with a vowel or you are using the grammar with a noun + 이다. In the past tense, conjugate the verb to past tense and add -다고 한들. Also, you can conjugate the verb to the past tense and add the retrospective -더 before adding -ㄴ들. When used in this manner, there is sometimes (but not always!) a sense of reflecting on a past situation in a regretful or desirous way. In the following clause would come a desired or better outcome that did not actually occur.
This grammar can also appear in the form -ㄴ/는다(고) 한들.
PAST: -았/었다(고) 한들
- 바로 1시간 전에 밥을 먹었다 한들 아직까지 배가 부를까? (Even if he just ate an hour ago do you think he would be hungry by now?)
- 제가 아무리 많이 컸다 한들 제게 아기 때 붙여주신 애칭을 쓰시는 할머니께서 저를 어른 대접 해주시는 건 불가능한 것 같아요. (No matter how much I’ve grown, it seems impossible for my grandmother, who still uses my baby pet name, to treat me as an adult.)
PAST RETROSPECTIVE: -았/었던들
- 파티에서 좀 더 일찍 나갔던들 그렇게 많이 마시지 않았을 테고 지갑도 잃어버리지 않았을 거예요… (If I had left the party a bit earlier, I wouldn’t have drank so much and I wouldn’t have lost my wallet…)
- 그 친구를 좀 더 소중하게 여겼던들 계속 친하게 지낼 수 있었을까? (Even if I had not taken that friend for granted, would we still be close?) [LIT- If I had considered that friend a bit more preciously…])
- 그 친구를 좀 더 소중하게 여겼던들 어차피 내가 이사 가버릴 거라서 별로 친하게 지내지도 못 했을 것이다. (Even if I had not taken that friend for granted, I would have moved away anyway so we wouldn’t have been able to be that close.) [NOTE: We can feel little/no sense of regret, but there is some reflection and the content of the preceding clause has little/no impact on the outcome in the following clause]
PRESENT: -(으)ㄴ들 / -ㄴ/는다고 한들
- 매일 밤 잠을 3시간밖에 못 잔들 (잔다고 한들) 그래도 돈이나 많이 벌 수 있겠어요? (Even if I can’t sleep any more than three hours each night, is it possible to earn a lot of money?)
- 돈을 10년 동안 열심히 모아 둔들 (모아 둔다고 한들) 그렇게 비싼 차를 살 수 없어요. (Even if I save money for ten years, I couldn’t buy such an expensive car.)
- 공부를 아예 안 한들 (한다고 한들) 시험에 합격할 수 있다고 생각해요? (Even if you don’t study at all, do you think you can pass the the exam?)
PAST: -았/었다(고) 한들
- 제 이력서가 뛰어났다 한들 사장님은 아들을 고용하고 싶어해서 제가 고용될 가망이 없었어요. (Even though my resume was outstanding, the boss wanted to hire his son so I had no chance of getting hired.)
- 그 케이크가 아무리 맛있었다 한들 상희 씨는 알레르기가 있으니까 먹지는 않았을 거예요. (No matter how delicious that cake was, Sanghee has an allergy so he wouldn’t have eaten it anyway.)
PAST RETROSPECTIVE: -았/었던들
- 어렸을 때 더 외향적이었든들 대학교 때 친구를 더 쉽게 사귈 순 없었을 거예요. (Even if I had been more extroverted when I was younger, I would not have been able to make friends more easily at university.)
- 성적이 좀 더 좋았던들 더 좋은 대학교를 다닐 수 있었을 텐데… (If my grades had been better I would have been able to attend a better university…)
PRESENT: -(으)ㄴ들 / -다(고) 한들
- 윤서 씨가 아무리 예쁜들 (예쁘다 한들) 계속 남들 뒷담화를 하면 누가 윤서 씨랑 친해지고 싶겠어요? (No matter how pretty Yoonseo is, if she keeps talking about others behind their backs who will want to be close with her?)
- 가격이 많이 저렴한들 (저렴하다 한들) 이렇게 품질이 안 좋은 걸 사는 사람은 거의 없을 것 같아요. (Even if the price is really cheap it seems like there would be hardly anyone buying something of such poor quality.)
- 상준 씨가 아무리 친절한들 (친절하다 한들) 음주운전을 하다가 상준 씨의 어머니를 죽인 사람은 절대로 용서하지 못해요. (No matter how nice Sangjun is, he can never forgive the person who killed his mother while drunk driving.)
PAST: -이었/였다(고) 한들
- 그날 소개팅으로 만난 남자가 세상에서 가장 멋있는 남자였다 한들 성격이 너무 안 좋아서 계속 만나지는 않았을 거예요.(Even if the man I met on a blind date that day was the coolest guy on earth, his personality was so bad that I wouldn’t have continued meeting him.)
- 오래된 빌딩이 아니었다고 한들 주변에 거의 아무 것도 없어서 거기서 살고 싶어하는 사람은 거의 없었을 거예요. (Even if it was not an old building, there was nothing nearby so nobody would have wanted to live there.)
PAST RETROSPECTIVE: -이었/였던들
- 제가 좀 더 부지런한 사람이었던들 대회 신청 기한을 놓치지 않았을 거예요. (If I had been a more diligent person, I wouldn’t have missed the contest application deadline.)
- 제가 학교를 다닐 때 게으른 사람이었던들 공부를 할 땐 열심히 했어요. (Even though I was lazy when I was in school, I studied hard.)
PRESENT: -인들 / -(이)라(고) 한들
- 준호 씨가 아무리 부지런한 사람인들 (사람이라 한들) 2주일 치 일을 1주일 만에 하지는 못할 거예요.(No matter how diligent a person Junho is, he won’t be able to finish two weeks’ work within a week.)
- 아무리 예쁜 원피스인들 (원피스라 한들) 한두 번만 입을 옷에 그렇게 큰 돈을 쓸 수 있는 사람은 많지 않아요. (No matter how pretty the dress is, there aren’t many people who can spend that much money on something they will wear only once or twice.)
Honestly, this grammar form (and thus, this post) gave me a TON of trouble. If you check the Schedule link at the top of the page with any regularity, you might have noticed that the scheduled posting date for this particular post got pushed back more than once, and that was because I was busy trying to wrap my brain around the concept, haha! Anyway, I hope that this post is as helpful to you as the process of struggling to write it was to me!