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Episode 40: Indirect Speech with Verbs ~ㄴ다고


I think it's been over a month that I haven't written blog posts for our Weekly Korean series and it definitely feels weird to have to write one now. Hope you didn't miss my awkward writing too much (I'm definitely better at public speaking than writing) ^^

As for what we'll be discussing today, I decided to pick a topic that will not fit into a single video so that we can break it down into manageable bite-size pieces and stretch it over multiple episodes. And this seemingly difficult topic is Indirect Speech. Sounds a bit vague, doesn't it? Let's figure out what indirect speech actually means!

In short, we use indirect speech every time we quote someone else (or even ourselves). Example of that would be something like "He said that he didn't study" or "I'll tell them that I didn't eat dinner." Now let's figure out how to say this in Korean. Any guesses, anyone?

Common Intuitive Misconception

As I mentioned in the video, if you have been studying Korean for a while you would probably try to intuitively figure out how to form indirect sentences. So let's try and go down this intuitive route:

Here is a sample English sentence: "She said she will go to Korea next week."

Looking at this sentence we can see a clear subject, object and verb.

Subject: She

Verb: said

Object [clause]: she will go to Korea next week

Let's translate these bits and piece into Korean.

Subject: 그녀는

Verb: 말했어요 (말하다)

Object: 그녀가 다음 주에 한국에 갈 거예요

Intuitively speaking we can assume that directly modifying the object using ~는 것 would solve the issue by turning it into a compound noun (we will basically get rid of the 갈 거예요). As much as I would love Korean to be THAT simple, it isn't. However, if we dig deeper into semantics we can actually see why it is impossible to use ~는 것 in this case. Would you like to know why?

As we can see, the object clause is pretty much a sentence of its own, which is what makes it impossible for us to use direct modifying. What I am getting at is that when we directly modify a clause, we rid it of any verb-like qualities. This raises a question of what is the fundamental difference between verbs and nouns? In short, verbs portray action and nouns simply describe objects (whether animate or inanimate). So by directly modifying "she will go to Korean next week" we are turning this clause into something like "her going to Korea next week." Now let's plug this clause into the English sentence and see if it makes sense. "She said her going to Korea next week..." Yea, that didn't work out too well, did it?

In the end, indirect speech allows us to talk about certain actions and occurrences which are dynamic. The girl in the example sentence is talking about going, which is an action, so we have no choice but to keep the verb in that clause. Phew~~ hope that made sense :)

Now let's look at what to use instead of ~는 것 to finally form this tricky sentence!

Plain/Diary Form Conjugation

I have received a lot of questions from my dear viewers about one particular way to conjugate Korean verbs, which seems to confuse a lot of them in terms of when to use it and how. Thankfully, we get a chance to talk about this interesting conjugation form because it is used in indirect speech! Woooo~~~ The form I am talking about is called plain form (keep watching the video to find out why it is sometimes called the 'diary form').

Here's a table of some of the most common Korean verbs in plain form:

Now after familiarising ourselves with this table we are ready to create an indirect sentence! How exciting ^^

Quoting with Verbs: ~ㄴ/는다고

Let's take the bits of pieces of our sentence that we translated to Korean earlier:

Subject: 그녀는

Verb: 말했어요 (말하다)

Object: 그녀가 다음 주에 한국에 갈 거예요

Now let's substitute 갈거예요 with future tense plain form of 가다, which is 가겠다. So now we have 그녀가 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다. Let's try plugging it into the full sentence*:

*By the way, we can drop the 그녀가 in the object clause because we know that the girl is talking about herself, otherwise she would specify who she was talking about.

그녀는 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다 말했어요

Oh no, it seems like we have another clash of verbs here! 가겠다 is clashing with 말했다, so what do we do? Of course, we use our foul proof connective particle ~고 and just stick it right in between these verbs! We end up with:

그녀는 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다고 말했어요- She said she will be going to Korean next week

Woooooo~! We've succeeded :D :D

So this is how we form indirect sentences and now let's practice playing around with tenses of the quoted part or the final verb because we can have all sorts of situations requiring sentences in different tenses.

Conjugating the Quote

Let's say that the girl said that she will be going to Korea today. In this case we will need to use the present tense of the plain form for 가다:

그녀는 오늘 한국에 간다고 말했어요- She said she is going to Korea today

What if she told us that she went to Korea last month?

그녀는 지난 달에 한국에 갔다고 말했어요- She said she went to Korea last month

Conjugating the Final Verb

Hope you guys are following so far and aren't feeling completely lost, so I am going to throw in a bit more conjugation into the pot, which shouldn't be too difficult for us because it's one of the fundamental parts of Korean that all of us have learned, right? :P

This time our friend is saying that she will be going to Korean next week and she is saying it right now:

그녀는 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다고 말하고 있어요- She is saying that she will go to Korean next week

I know, it is not necessarily logical, but let's say that she will be saying that she will be going to Korea next week:

그녀는 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다고 말할 거예요- She will say that she will go to Korea next week

Useful Tip:

Lastly, I just want to remind you all that Koreans love to make their language easier and shorten things so in the case of indirect speech, instead of using 말하다, Koreans just say 하다 and of course conjugate it however is necessary:

그녀는 다음 주에 한국에 가겠다고 했어요- She said she will go to Korea next week

그는 시험을 준비했다고 했어요- He said he prepared for the exam

저는 물을 안 마셨다고 했어요- I said I didn't drink water

Phewwww~~ That is it for today!

Hope it wasn't too difficult and if you have any questions let me know :)

Much love,


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