If you’re eavesdropping on the table next to you in one of Korea’s many posh coffee shops, you might wonder at all the times you hear “그” used as parts of other words.
그, 그, what’s your function? Often it’s a conjunction! 그 literally means “that”. It’s useful as a pause in conversation that lets you think, like the English “uh” or “um”. It’s also used to make a lot of other words that are extremely useful (and common!) in Korean. But… however… and so… OK… so then… good job! 그…그…그…그…
Let’s look at some of these words with examples, and also pull them apart to learn other useful parts of words.* In particular, watch for the word ending -고 (and). Also watch for -서/-니까 (therefore). Also watch for -은데/는데 and -지만 (but).
1. Conversational responses
a. 그래. That’s right; OK; Gotcha. Ex. -집에 가서 전화해주세요. -그래. (-Call me when you get home. -Gotcha.) Another example from the first few words of Kpop’s 취중진담: 그래 난 취했는지도 몰라 (That’s right, I might have gotten drunk.)
b. 그래요. Polite version of 1a. Ex. -커피 먹을까요? -그래요. (-Do you want to have coffee? -OK.)
c. 그렇습니다. Formal version of 1a. Ex. -토요일에 일 할 수 있는 것 맞지요? -그렇습니다. (-You can work on Saturday, right? -That’s right.)
2. Cause and effect
a. 그럼… So; So then (Can be used to start a sentence that expands on information previously revealed in conversation.) Ex. 그 것 5,000원에요? 그럼 이 것은 얼마예요? (That thing’s 5,000 won? So then, how much is this thing?)
b. 그러면… So then (Can be used to start a sentence that expands on information previously revealed in conversation.) Ex. 형 주말에 시간이 있어요? 그러면 같이 놀러 가자. (“Older brother”, you have some free time on the weekend? So then let’s hang out.)
c. 그래서… So; And so (therefore). Notice the 서 ending. This is a cause and effect word ending. What comes before is the cause, and what follows is the effect. Ex. 점심을 못 먹었어요. 그래서 배 고파요. (I couldn’t eat lunch. So I’m hungry.) Combine this into one sentence by using -서 as a verb ending like this: 점심을 못 먹어서 배 고파요.
d. 그러니까… Therefore Ex. 토요일에 일 해야돼요. 그러니까 못 나가요. (I have to work on Saturday. Therefore, I can’t go out.) Combine this into one sentence by using -니까 as a verb ending like this: 토요일에 일 해야돼니까 못 나가요.
e. 왜냐하면… And that’s because; Because. (Use this sparingly since it can sound awkward or too strong.) Ex. 토요일에 못 나가요 왜냐하면 일 해야돼요. (I can’t go out Saturday and that’s because I have to work.)
a. 그렇지! Good! Well done! Like that! Ex. 그렇지 잘한다! (Just like that! Well done!)
a. 그런데 (근데)… But. 근데 is the abbrevated word, which can be used interchangeably. Ex. 나가고 싶어요. 그런데 시험 봐야돼요. (I want to go out. But I have to take a test.) Combine this into one sentence by using -는데 / -은데 as a verb ending like this: 나가고 싶은데 시험 봐야돼요.
b. 그렇지만… However Ex. 나가고 싶어요. 그렇지만 시험 봐야돼요. (I want to go out. But I have to take a test.) Combine this into one sentence by using -지만 as a verb ending like this: 나가고 싶지만 시험 봐야돼요.
c. 그리고… And then; And so 샤워 할 거에요. 그리고 카페에 가고 싶어요. (I’ll have a shower. And then I want to go to a cafe.) Combine this into one sentence by using -고 as a verb ending like this: 샤워 하고 카페에 가고 싶어요.
*틀렸으면 죄송합니다. 저도 아직 한국말을 배우고 있습니다. Please forgive any mistakes or awkward phrases in the sentences as I’m not a native speaker and their main purpose is to illustrate Korean conjunctions and interjections.