If you’ve already read the explanation of how this particle works in your textbook or online but still aren’t “feeling” this grammar in your gut, have a read ahead of my own personal interpretation of how you should interpret this particle.
Firstly some examples:
- 오랜만에 여기에 오네요 – It’s been a long time since I’ve come here
- 3년만에 현우를 만났어요 – I met 현우 after not seeing him for 3 years
I think there is a much better interpretation of the sentences above. I’m not sure if the interpretation is strictly correct from a “language” perspective but it really works. Bear with me, you may be surprised like I was when I thought of this.
One of the definitions 만 has is a hanja term for the word “full”. It is used very often when counting ages. In Korea the legal drinking age is 19 so you will see ‘만 19살/세’ which translates to a full 19 years. Another example is ‘그가 미국으로 떠난 지 만 10년이 된다’ which means a full 10 years has passed since he went to America. It can be used with pretty much any counting word such as 만 하루, 만 이틀, 만 5개월, 만 3주, etc etc.
Now combine the ‘만’ with the grammatical particle ‘에’. For example ‘3년만에 현우를 만났어요’. Combining with ‘에’ with ‘3년만에’ means ‘at after 3 full years, I am meeting 현우’. The translate is very crude but I think the meaning should be clear. In the first example ‘오랜만에 여기에 오네요’ means ‘at after a long time I’m coming here’. They key is to just interpret it as ‘at’ ‘after a full amount of time has elapsed’. Don’t take it so literally of course, I’m only being extremely literal to help convey the meaning.
Thats it! This is my own personal interpretation so you won’t find this in a textbook or anywhere else online. But I haven’t thought of any usage of 만 that violates my theory. Hope this helps in your understanding of this somewhat tricky word.