I try not to write about topics that have been covered to death already on the internet, but I feel like the way this is taught through available resources on the internet is very ‘textbooky’. By textbooky I mean it feels difficult to actually take those examples and apply in real life situations. And as a result they didn’t really resonate with me when I was learning this grammar. I want to give just a few examples but really drive home what this grammar achieves
The options provided isn’t all that important
집에 가든지 학교에 가든지 네가 알아서 해. The sentence explicitly states whether you go home or go school, it doesn’t matter, just figure it out. But actually there is an additional nuance which is – I don’t care whether you go home, go school, or anywhere really, you just figure it out. The important thing to note is that none of the options really matter even though the speaker lists two.
The speaker can achieve the same impact by listing only one option. 집에 가든지 네가 알아서 해. I’ve seen questions from learners getting hung up on the difference between having one 든지 or two 든지’s in a sentence. It doesn’t really matter here. The speaker doesn’t care whether you go home. Just figure it out and do whatever you want.
The difference of listing more than one option is the same in English. Consider this:
- Look, I don’t really care if you go home or whatever, just figure it out
- Look, I don’t really care if you go home, to school, up your a**, or whatever, just figure it out.
The difference by listing more options is that you add a stronger meaning of you not really caring about the actual things being listed.
Sometimes the speaker couldn’t care less about the options provided
The degree of which you “don’t care” depends on the context and your intonation. I’ll give one more example where the option provided is entirely meaningless and the speaker really doesn’t care about what you do.
- 일을 싫어하면 관두든지 해
If you hate work then just quit (or something). The speaker could be actually providing the option as a realistic option, but it is just as likely they couldn’t care less about what you do. 너 일을 싫어하면 관두든지 해. 이 직업을 원하는 사람이 얼마나 많은지 알아? Just quit or something, you know how many people want this job?
The importance of the options provided can vary
The last example was on the extreme scale of where the option given didn’t matter. Here we’ll look at an example where the options provided are more realistic.
- 살이 너무 많이 졌어. 밥을 줄이든지 운동을 하든지 하야겠어
In this case the meaning is that you could either reduce the amount you eat, exercise, do both, or do entirely something different in order to lose weight.
Its perfectly fine to follow up the 든지 with the 하다 verb
Maybe I was the only one who was confused how to the end the sentence after the last 든지. Taking the first example again, you can end it in a number of ways
- 집에 가든지 학교에 가든지 네가 알아서 해
- 집에 가든지 학교에 가든지 해
- 집에 가든지 학교에 가든지 나 상관없어
- 집에 가든지 학교에 가든지 나 엄마한테 이를거야 (이르다 rattle on)
- 그가 죽든지 살든지 하는 것은 내가 알 바가 아니었다