Adverbs and Other Words:
모금 = a counter for a “sip,” “breath,” or “drag”
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This lesson, along with Lesson 64 and Lesson 65 will focus on the use of ~ㄹ/을까. Originally, I wanted to introduce all of the usages of ~ㄹ/을까 in one lesson, but there is simply too much content. Therefore, I have separated the general usages and will introduce them to you over the next three lessons. The usages will be generally divided into the following:
~ㄹ/을까 can have a variety of meanings depending on the context, and my goal for the upcoming lessons is to explain the context in which they are typically used.
In this lesson, you will learn about how ~ㄹ/을까 can be used to ask a question. The topics in this lesson will further be divided into separate sections:
- ~ㄹ/을까 being used to ask a question to oneself
- ~ㄹ/을까 being used to ask a question to a listener
Asking a Question to Oneself
The first (and simplest) way you will hear ~ㄹ/을까 being used is at the end of a sentence where the speaker is directing a question towards himself. This would happen when somebody is wondering something and just expressing their thoughts out loud and not directing their speech at any person in particular.
When ~ㄹ/을까 is added to a verb or adjective where the subject of the sentence is the speaker, this type of question has a nuance that does not exist in the “regular form” of that question. For example:
(내가) 밥을 먹을 거야? = Will I eat rice? (This is illogical if directed to yourself)
(내가) 밥을 먹을까? = Should I eat rice?
Because the speaker is directing the question to himself, the translation of “Will I eat rice?” is illogical and would not describe the subtle nuance of this sentence. It is illogical because the speaker is asking himself about his own free will – something that nobody knows except for himself. Rather, the speaker is asking himself if he should go (or not). Therefore, a better translation would be “Should I eat rice?”
(내가) 이렇게 할 거야? = Will I do it like this? (This is illogical if directed to yourself)
(내가) 이렇게 할까? = Should I do it like this?
Again, because the speaker is directing the question to himself, the translation of “Will I do it like this?” is illogical because the speaker is asking himself about his own free will. Rather, the speaker is asking himself if he should do it like that (or not). Therefore, a better translation would be “Should I do it like this?”
You can see this same nuance when a question word is used as well. For example:
(내가) 뭐 먹을 거야? = What will I eat? (This is illogical if directed to yourself)
(내가) 뭐 먹을까? = What should I eat?
(내가) 언제 갈 거야? = When will I go? (This is illogical if directed to yourself)
(내가) 언제 갈까? = When should I go?
Here are many more examples of ~ㄹ/을까 being used by the speaker to ask a question to himself:
친구를 만날까? = Should I meet my friend?
공연을 보러 갈까? = Should I go to see the performance?
어디 갈까? = Where should I go?
책자를 그냥 두고 갈까? = Should I just put the pamphlet down and leave?
지금 퇴근할까? = Should I leave work now?
바퀴를 어떻게 갈까? = How should/can I change the wheel?
When you look at these sentences by themselves, there is really no way to know if the speaker is talking to himself or speaking to another person. However, real-life conversation has context and only through this context can the specific usage of these sentences be clear.
In all of the examples above, you can see that the speaker is not only asking a question to himself, but also about himself. In all of the examples above, the speaker is the acting agent of the sentence. It is possible to ask a question to oneself about another person, but I will talk about that usage later in the lesson when I talk about ~ㄹ/을까 being used to ask about possibility.
In Lesson 93, you will learn another common ending that can be used to ask questions to yourself.
Asking a Question to a Listener
Shall we/Should we…
In the previous section, you learned that ~ㄹ/을까 can be added to ask a question to oneself, about oneself. For example:
This same idea and structure can be used to ask a question to another person about you and the listener. Here, both the speaker (you) and the listener (the person you are talking to) are the acting agents of the sentences.
We see a very similar translation as the sentences above, for example:
The typical English translation for sentences like this is “Shall…” For example:
In Lesson 48, you learned about ~ㄹ/을래(요) and how it can be used to have this meaning as well. For example:
Below are many more examples of ~ㄹ/을까 being used to have this meaning.
Note that ~요 can be added to ~ㄹ/을까 in these cases and anytime a sentence ends with ~까 to make it more formal. I didn’t introduce this at the beginning of the lesson because ~요 would not be added if the question is directed at the speaker himself:
지금 갈까요? = Shall we go now?
영화를 볼까요? = Shall we watch a movie?
지금 주문할까? = Shall we order now?
버스를 탈까요? = Shall we take the bus?
부서진 집을 같이 지을까요? = Shall we build the shattered house again?
어디 갈까요? = Where shall we go?
전화번호를 주고받을까요? = Shall we exchange phone numbers?
그 사람을 고용할까요? = Shall we hire that person?
한 모금 더 마실까요? = Shall we drink one more sip?
너무 번거로워서 지금 그만할까요? = It’s so cumbersome, so shall we stop now?
기회를 사람들에게 선착순으로 줄까요? = Shall we give the opportunity to people on a first-come first-served basis?
In Lesson 23, you learned that the meaning of the word ‘그렇다’ is close to the meaning of ‘like that.’ By attaching this usage of ~ㄹ/을까 to 그렇다 you can create “그럴까?” It is commonly said after another person suggests something to do – at which point, the listener in effect agrees and repeats the question back to the original speaker. As with most grammatical principles that attach to 그렇다, a perfect translation is hard to create. Look at the following example:
In the above example sentences, the speaker is asking for the listener’s opinion about something they (the speaker and the listener) will both do.
This same idea and structure can be used to ask a question to another person about what you (the speaker) will do. Here, only the speaker (you) is the acting agent of the sentence, and the speaker is asking for the listener’s opinion.
This form is most commonly used immediately before giving/offering something to somebody. In a way, the speaker is asking “if it is okay” if he/she gives/offers something to the listener. For example:
밥을 줄까? = Shall I give you rice?
Though this often translates in English to “Shall…” it is more a statement of what you will be doing in the very near future, and you are slightly asking for permission to do that action. For example, both of these could be acceptable:
It is also possible to use the honorific 드리다 or combine a verb with 주다 (which you learned about in Lesson 41). Below are many examples:
문을 열어 줄까? = Shall I open the door for you?
불을 켜 드릴까요? = Shall I turn off the light for you?
내 상황을 자세히 설명해 줄까? = Shall I explain my situation in detail?
공고를 붙여 줄까? = Shall I post the announcement for you?
흘러나오는 물을 막아 줄까? = Shall I block the water that is flowing out for you?
책을 읽어 줄까요? = Shall I read you a book?
~ㄹ/을까(요) vs. ~ㄹ/을게(요)
By using ~ㄹ/을까 as introduced in the section immediately above, you can create sentences where the speaker is asking permission to help/service the listener. If you use ~ㄹ/을까 as in the examples above, the sentence is in the form of a question.
A very similar grammatical principle is ~ㄹ/을게(요). Despite having a very similar meaning and usage, sentences ending in ~ㄹ/을게(요) are not questions. Rather, they are statements of what the speaker will be doing unless the listener objects/interjects in some way. Aside from one being a question and the other one not being a question, their translations and meanings are essentially the same. For example:
In a way, using ~ㄹ/을게(요) is very similar to a regular future tense conjugation. The difference is that a regular future tense conjugation (for example, ~ㄹ/을 것이다) is more blunt and direct but using ~ㄹ/을게(요) softens the sentence a little bit. When using ~ㄹ/을게(요), you are checking with the listener before you perform the action. For example:
문을 열 거야 = I will open the door
문을 열게 = I will open the door (if that is okay with you)
The usage of ~ㄹ/을까(요) to ask for “permission” (as described earlier) is typically used when giving something or doing something for the listener. As such, it is more common to find ~ㄹ/을까(요) used with 주다, 드리다 or in other situations where the speaker is servicing or giving something to the listener.
On the other hand, the usage of ~ㄹ/을게(요) is more broad and the speaker does not need to be directly giving something to (or doing something for) the listener. Rather, any action can be used as long as the speaker is the acting agent of the sentence.
Below are many examples:
지금 밥을 먹을게요 = I will eat now (if that is okay with you)
에어컨을 틀게 = I will turn on the air conditioner (if that is okay with you)
먼저 갈게요 = I will go now (if that is okay with you)
밥을 줄게요 = I will give you rice/food (if that is okay with you)
지금 주문할게요 = I will order now (if that is okay with you)
교원 모두에게 메시지를 보낼게요 = I will send a message to all of the teachers (if that is okay with you)
~ㄹ/을게(요) is also often added to 그렇다. By attaching ~ㄹ/을게(요) to 그렇다 you can create “그럴게(요).” It is commonly used when somebody tells you what to do – at which point you can use “그렇게(요)” to say “okay, I will do it (that way) if that is what you want.” For example:
Asking about possibility
When speaking to a listener, you can also use ~ㄹ/을까(요) to ask about the possibility of something. Below are some simple examples:
Notice in the examples above that the acting agent in each sentence is not the speaker. The sentences above could be said either to oneself (as I mentioned earlier) or said to a listener. The context makes it clear if the speaker is speaking to himself or to a listener. If these types of sentences are said to a listener, I often prefer the following translations:
Here are some more examples:
I wrote these sentences and their translations to be appropriate for the context of a dialogue between a speaker and a listener. The following questions could be asked to oneself if the context allowed for it. Note that this would result in a slightly different English translation.
그 여자가 예쁠까? = Do you think that girl will be pretty?
이 셔츠가 비쌀까? = Do you think this shirt will be expensive?
결재를 받을까요? = Do you think it will get approval?
그 사람이 연기를 잘 할까요? = Do you think that person will be able to act well?
그 사람이 정체를 드러낼까요? = Do you think that person will reveal his/her identity?
술을 마시면 기운이 날까? = If I drink alcohol, do you think I will get energy?
살인범이 그 장소에 돌아올까요? = Do you think that the murderer will return to that place?
그 꿈이 이루어질 수 있을까요? = Do you think that dream will come true?
I would like to take a moment to describe the difference in meaning between two similar sounding (English) sentences:
Look at the following two sentences:
There is a subtle difference between the two sentences, even though they appear similar in Korean and English.
When you say the first sentence, the feeling is that the girl is there, and you can see what she looks like. However, in the second sentence, the speaker and listener have probably never met the girl – and the speaker is wondering if the listener thinks it is possible that the girl is pretty. Therefore, when you say the second sentence, you are not asking about whether or not the girl is pretty. Rather, you are asking if it is possible that she will be pretty whenever you meet her, or see her for the first time, or whatever.
Questions words are often used in this form as well. When using a question word, the meaning is quite similar to the example sentences above, but notice how the translation changes slightly:
Again, I wrote these sentences and their translations to be appropriate for the context of a dialogue between a speaker and a listener. The following questions could be asked to oneself if the context allowed for it. Note that this would result in a slightly different English translation.
그 사람이 누구일까? = Who do you think that person could be? (Who could he be?)
이게 무엇일까? = What do you think this could be? (What could it be?)
아빠가 언제 올까? = When do you think dad will come? (When could dad be coming?)
아빠가 어디 가고 있을까? = Where do you think dad is going? (Where could dad be going?)
You can ask about possibility in past situations by conjugating the verb/adjective into the past before attaching ~을까요. For example:
그 친구가 늦게 왔을까요? = Do you think our friend came late?
아빠가 돈을 냈을까요? = Do you think dad paid?
그 학생이 숙제를 벌써 다 했을까요? = Do you think the student finished all his homework already?
그 학생은 시험을 잘 볼 수 있을까요? = Do you think that student will do well on the exam?
The speaker could also be asking about possibility about himself or the listener (instead of a third person), but these types of sentences usually reference one’s ability (or some other variable) to do something. For example:
내가 할 수 있을까?
If asked to oneself: Would I be able to do it?
If asked to a listener: Do you think I could do it?
내가 해도 될까?
If asked to oneself: Would I be allowed to do it?
If asked to a listener: Do you think I would be allowed to do it?
Adding ~ㄹ/을까 to 어떻다
In Lesson 22, you learned that 어떻다 can change to 어때(요) and is used to ask about somebody’s opinion about something. For example:
어때(요) can also be used to ask about somebody’s opinion about an event that hasn’t happened yet. In order to do this, you can describe some event in the future and then turn the clause into a noun. The word “어때(요)” can then be placed after the clause. For example:
Those are perfect. However, “것이” can (and often is) shortened to “게.” Those two sentences above would be more likely heard/seen as:
In these situations, it is acceptable to replace 어때(요) with 어떻다 + ㄹ/을까(요). For example:
As you can see, the meaning that is created is very similar (if not identical) to simply using ~ㄹ/을까(요) at the end of a sentence to mean “shall.” For example:
That’s it for this lesson!
Although you have learned a lot about how ~ㄹ/을까(요) can be used, there are still more usages that you need to study. We will continue this discussion in the next two lessons.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to make a post on our Forum!