-는지: He walked past me as if he did not recognise me

This post will talk about a more advanced use of the 은/는지 grammar. Before that, a quick refresher on the basic usage (or the usage generally introduced in textbooks):

  • 저 사람 누구인지 알아요? – Do you know who that person is?
  • 뭘 하고 싶은지 말해요 – Tell me what you want to do
  • 내가 너를 왜 싫어하는지 알아? – Do you know why I don’t like you?
  • 문제가 있는지 확인해봐 – Check if there is a problem

“Whether or not” would probably be the best way of summarising what this grammar does. However, beyond this basic structure there are tonnes of ways to end the sentences other than using 알다, 모르다, 말하다. I’ll illustrate using sample English sentences and then translate them into Korean.

  1. He walked past me as if he did not recognise me. 그 사람이 나를 못 알아봤는지 그냥 나를 지나갔어. It may be confusing at first why this grammar works in this sentence. Try interpreting the translation like this. Whether or not he recognised me, he just walked past me.
  2. Now that you mention it, I do remember. 지금 네가 말해서 그런지, 이제 기억이나
  3. The flowers are dying as if it’s too hot. 날씨가 너무 더운지 꽃이 다 죽고 있어.
  4. The flowers are dying as if it’s too hot. 날씨가 너무 더워서 그런지, 꽃이 다 죽고 있어. Same meaning as above but more emphasis on you wondering if the reason of the flowers dying is because its too hot.
  5. 다들 나갔는지 집에 아무도 없어. There is no one home as if everyone went out. 

The most important thing is understanding that the 는/ㄴ지 indicates an ambiguous reason about the second clause. It doesn’t matter what the second clause is. The following example ties the theory of the grammar together between the simple initial examples with the more complicated examples.

  1. 그 사람이 중요한 사람인지 알아요? Do you know if he is an important person?
  2. 그 사람이 중요한 사람인지 말해요. Tell me if he is an important person
  3. 그 사람이 중요한 사람인지 다들 그의 말을 잘 듣고 있어요. Everyone is listening carefully to him as if he is an important person.
  4. 그 사람이 중요한 사람이라서 그런지, 다들 그의 말을 잘 듣고 있어요. Same as above

그 사람이 중요한 사람인지 제가 집에 가야돼요. Nonsensical but grammatically fine. I wrote this example on purpose to show that it doesn’t matter what the second clause is.

Hope this blog has helped. If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

 

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