Lesson 77: More ~는데 (그런데) and ~는 데

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The Meaning of 그런데
Finishing a Sentence with ~는데
~는 데 meaning: To Take an Amount of Time or Resources




물품 = articles, goods
무지개 = rainbow
상업 = commerce, business
걸레 = rag
빗자루 = broom
자물쇠 = a lock
허리띠 = belt
근로자 = ordinary workers
창의 = originality
최악 = the worst

훈육하다 = to discipline
털다 = to dust off, to shake off
설득하다 = to convince, to persuade
꽂다 = to stick into
짚다 = to put one’s hands on something
염려하다 = to worry
맞이하다 = to welcome, to greet, to receive guests
줍다 = to pick up
감다 = to wind, to coil, to wrap around
선발하다 = to select, to pick out
검사하다 = to examine
인정하다 = to acknowledge, to admit, to concede
앓다 = to be in pain because of an illness
닦다 = to wipe
쓸다 = to sweep

섭섭하다 = to be upset
실용적이다 = to be practical
긴급하다 = to be very urgent
간편하다 = to be simple, to be convenient
창의적이다 = to be creative

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.



In the previous lesson, you learned the meaning of 데 as a noun, and also learned how to apply ~는데 to sentences. In this lesson, you will continue to learn about ~는데, and will also learn about the meaning that is created if you put a space between ~는 and 데. Let’s get started!


The Meaning of 그런데

In the previous lesson, you learned that you can use ~는데 between two clauses. When used like this, “~는데” has a meaning that is slightly less strong than the expression “even though,” where the first clause will often prepare the scenario for the second clause.

In Lesson 23, you learned about the word “그렇다” and how many grammatical principles can combine with it. As you know, 그렇다 is an adjective. Therefore, ~ㄴ데 attaches to 그렇다 to create “그런데” (remember the ㅎ irregular, also introduced in Lesson 23). The most common English translation of 그렇데 is “by the way.” In my opinion, this translation is not perfect.

In English, we would use “by the way” introduce a new topic that wasn’t previous being discussed. I picture “by the way” being used in the following scenario:

Imagine you are talking with a friend about learning Korean. A few minutes go by, and you both eventually run out of things to say about that topic. Things start getting a little awkward, and then you remember that you bumped into your friend’s mother yesterday. You might say:

“Oh, by the way, I bumped into your mother the other day.”

That is not really how 그런데 is used in Korean.

In order understand its meaning, we need to remember the purpose of 그렇다. 그렇다 is used to refer to a situation. Grammatical principles are often attached to 그렇다 to add their respective meanings to 그렇다.

A simple example of this is when ~아/어서 (Lesson 37) is added to 그렇다.

When some situation is being talked about, you can refer to that situation using 그렇다, and then attach ~아/어서 to it to indicate “because of that situation…” For example:

Person 1: 비가 왔어요? = Did it rain?
Person 2: 응, 그래서 나가기 싫어요 = Yeah, that’s why/therefore I don’t want to go out

When we use 그렇다, we are referring to a situation that was previously known or discussed.

When we use 그런데, the speaker acknowledges the situation (through 그렇다) and the use of ~는데 sets up the next clause by indicating it will go in another direction. 그런데 is therefore used in sentences where a prior situation is slightly negated, and the speaker will bring up other information.

It is difficult to give a simple English definition because we do not have the same type of thing. Let’s look at some examples to help you grasp its usage. 그런데 would typically be used in response to some previously stated sentence. Therefore, in the examples below, I have included a sentence before “그런데” to give the usage some context.

Person 1: 집을 다 청소했어요 = I cleaned the whole house
Person 2: 그런데 바닥을 언제 닦았어요? = (But….) when did you wipe the floors?

Person 1: 지금 엄마를 보러 가려고 집에 가고 있어요 = I am going home to see mom now
Person 2: 그런데 제가 집에 갔을 때 엄마가 없었어요 = (But…) when I went home, mom wasn’t there

You will often hear the word “근데” being used instead of 그런데. 근데 is a contraction of 그런데, and therefore has the same usage. I specifically presented the meaning of “그런데” first because I wanted to show you how it is created – and then now I can introduce you to “근데” which is an evolved contraction. However, I feel that “근데” is much more common in speech. Below are many examples. You could replace 근데 with 그런데 in all cases, but I prefer to use 근데.

Person 1: 좋은 결과가 드디어 나왔어요
= Finally, we got a good result (a good result came out)
Person 2: 근데 다른 사람들이 결과가 왜 최악이라고 해요?
= (But…) then why do other people say that the result is the worst?

Person 1: 우리가 검사를 해서 문제가 있다는 것을 깨달았어요
= We did an inspection, and we realized that there are many problems
Person 2: 근데 검사를 언제 했어요?
= (But…) when did you do the inspection?

Person 1: 다음 달부터 모든 학생들이 창의적인 물품을 만들 거예요
= From next month, all students will make a creative product/good
Person 2: 근데 이런 것이 중요하다고 교장선생님을 어떻게 설득해요?
= (But…) how do we convince the principal that this type of thing is important?

Person 1: 지난 주에 제가 경기를 잘해서 코치가 이번 경기에 저를 선발했어요
= I did well in the match last week, so the coach selected me for this game
Person 2: 근데 왜 이렇게 섭섭해 보여요?
= (But…) then why do you look so sad?

Person 1: 우리 회사에서 모든 근로자들이 경민이 제일 중요한 사람이라고 인정했어요
= All workers at our company agreed/admitted that Gyeong-min is the most important person
Person 2: 근데 그녀를 왜 아무도 안 좋아해요?
= (But…) then why does nobody like her?

Person 1: 우리 과학 수업에 학생들이 이해할 수 있게 항상 아주 간편하고 실용적인 내용만 해요
= During science classes, I try to always only do/teach simple and practical content so students can understand it well
Person 2: 근데 학생들이 과학을 왜 싫어해요?
= (But…) then why do students not like science?

Before we move on to another grammatical principle, I would like to discuss another way that ~는데 is commonly used.



Finishing a Sentence with ~는데

“~는데” is often added to the end of a sentence. The meaning isn’t entirely different than what has already been described in the previous lesson and in this lesson with 그런데 but its usage is slightly different so I am presenting separately.

We have seen how other grammatical principles can be added to the end of sentences. For example, in Lesson 37 you saw how ~아/어서 can be used at the end of a sentence in the following dialogue:

Person 1: 한국에 왜 가고 싶어?
Person 2: 너무 좋아서

In that example, “~아서” ends the sentence, but only because the remainder of the sentence can be assumed from context. Similar to how “Because I like it” is not really a perfect sentence in English “너무 좋아서” is not really a perfect sentence in Korean.

In that same way, ~는데 can end a sentence – where the remainder of the sentence can be assumed. Imagine this dialogue between two people:

Person 1: 내가 너무 더워서 창문을 열 거야 = I’m going to open the window because I’m so hot
Person 2: 나는 추운데…. = … But… I’m cold

This usage of ~는데 (when used at the end of a clause followed by nothing) creates a similar meaning to “But….”. For example:

가기 싫은데… = But I don’t want to go…
맛없는데… = But it’s not delicious…

Using “But…” to translate these constructions into English works in a pinch (pun intended), but it doesn’t fully describe how and when these types of constructions would be used. These types of constructions are most commonly used when you are disagreeing with what somebody says – and your response is indicating your feelings towards what was said (directly or indirectly). For example, you can see in the example “나는 추운데,” Person 2 wasn’t directly telling Person 1 “Hey, don’t open the window, I’m cold!” Instead, Person 2 was trying to point out that he/she is cold – and therefore, doesn’t want Person 1 to open the window.

The same could be said for the other two examples above. For example:

Person 1: 빨리 가자! = Let’s go!
Person 2: 가기 싫은데… = (But…) I don’t want to go…

Person 1: 야채를 다 먹어라 = Eat all your vegetables
Person 2: 맛없는데 … = (But…) it’s not delicious…

I should point out, if you haven’t already guessed, that responding this way might be a little bit rude. Responding this way feels like you are talking back to the listener – as if you are thrusting your opinion towards him/her. However, this would depend on the context and the tone in which it is said. It is possible to make ~는데 formal at the end of a sentence by attaching ~요.

Let’s look at many examples:

Person 1: 그 플러그를 여기에 꽂아 봐요 = Try plugging that plug in here
Person 2: 너무 큰데 = (But…) it’s too big

Person 1: 빨리 와요! 우리 지금 바로 해야 돼요! = Come quick! We need to do it right away!
Person 2: 그렇게 긴급하지 않은데 = (But…) it’s not that urgent

Person 1: 와! 저 무지개를 봐 봐요! = Wow! Look at that rainbow!
Person 2: 별로 안 예쁜데 = (But…) it’s not that pretty

Person 1: 이 선을 여기에 감아 줘 = Wrap that line/cord around here, please
Person 2: 귀찮은데 = (But…) it’s annoying/I don’t want to

Person 1: 이 교무실을 쓸어 주세요 = Sweep this (teacher’s) office for me please
Person 2: 빗자루가 없는데요 = (But…) there is no broom

Person 1: 담요에 왜 이렇게 먼지가 많아요? = Why is there so much dust on the blanket?
Person 2: 아까 털었는데 = (But…) I shook it off earlier

Person 1: 그 선생님이랑 지금 바로 얘기해야 돼요
= I need to talk with that teacher right now
Person 2: 공항에서 손님을 맞이하러 나갔는데요
= (But…) the teacher went out to meet/greet the guests at the airport

Person 1: 저는 미래에 아직 무슨 일을 할지 몰라요
= I still don’t know what (job) I will do in the future
Person 2: 네가 아직 어려서 미래를 염려하지 않아도 되는데
= (But…) you are still young, so you don’t need to worry about the future

Person 1: 선생님이 오시기 전에 바닥에 있는 종이를 다 주워야 돼요
= Before the teacher comes, we need to pick up the papers on the floor
Person 2: 시간이 없을 것 같은데
= (But…) there probably won’t be enough time…

Different regions in Korea have different accents and dialects. My wife’s family all comes from the province “전라남도,” which is in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. People from this region usually pronounce the “데” in ~는데 as “디.” This is not specific to just using ~는데 at the end of a sentence as you just learned, but also in the middle of a sentence (separating two clauses) as you learned in the previous lesson.

I live in Seoul and on numerous occasions I have been able to correctly identify that the person I am talking to is from 전라남도 just from hearing this different pronunciation. A foreigner speaking Korean is usually shocking enough to Korean people, but imagine how they might feel if you can identify their accent!

Sometimes I like to use “~는디” when I speak in Korean as well. “는디” comes out of my mouth naturally sometimes because I have been exposed to it for so long.

Pronouncing ~는데 as “는디” in Seoul as a foreigner would be the equivalent to a Korean person living in America learning English, but randomly busting out a thick British Cockney accent. It will definitely make people laugh if you do it sometimes. For example, the next time your Korean friend tells you to do something, you can say something like:

이미 했는디 = But, I’ve already done it, or
하기 싫은디 = But, I don’t want to do it

In the previous lesson, you learned about “데” as a noun meaning “place.” Also in the previous lesson, and continuing to this lesson, you learned the meaning that ~는데 can create if it used to connect clauses, used at the end of a sentence, or used with 그렇다. For the remainder of this lesson, I would like to introduce you to a similar looking (and sounding) grammatical principle.




~는 데: To Take an Amount of Time or Resources

So far, you have learned the meanings that ~는데 can have. Notice that there is no space between “는” and “데.” You also learned that ~는 (or any other ~는 것 derivative) can describe “데” to refer to a place.

When described by a previous clause using ~는, “데” can have another meaning. When describing “데” this way, the speaker can indicate that it takes a certain amount of time (or resources) to complete an action. The action that is being done is placed before ~는 데, and the time (or resources) it requires is placed after ~는 데. Let’s look at a simple example:

밥을 다 먹는 데 한 시간 걸렸어요

Here, the speaker is indicating how long it took to “eat all of the food” (밥을 다 먹는다). This is placed before “~는 데” and the indication of how much time – one hour (한 시간) describes how long it took. The translation for this sentence would be:

밥을 다 먹는 데 한 시간 걸렸어요 = It took an hour to eat all the food

The clause describing “데” always describes it using ~는, and not any other derivative of ~는 것. Below are many more examples:

여기까지 오는 데 시간이 많이 걸렸어요
= It took a long time for me to come here

자물쇠를 여는 데 시간이 왜 이렇게 오래 걸려요?
= Why is it taking so long to open the lock?

제가 우리 집에서 친구의 집까지 가는 데 5분 걸렸어요
= It took 5 minutes for me to get from my house to my friend’s house

이 작은 걸레로 바닥을 다 닦는 데 시간이 많이 걸릴 거예요
= It will take a long time to wipe the floor with this small rag

Notice that the verb 걸리다 is often used when indicating that an action takes a certain amount of time. You can also use this same style of sentence to indicate that doing an action takes a certain amount of money, energy, or some other resource. For example:

그렇게 큰 박스를 드는 데 사람 두 명이 필요해요
= You need two people to lift that kind of a big box

집을 짓는 데 돈이 많이 들었어요
= It cost a lot to have this house built (literally: I put a lot of money into making this house)

Alright! I think that is enough about ~는데 and ~는 데.


The usages and meanings of ~는데 are very confusing at first. To make the problem more complex, ~는 데 sounds identical to ~는데 in speech. This often makes it very confusing for Korean learners – who not only have a hard time understanding the subtle nuance of ~는데, but also have to distinguish between ~는데 and ~는 데 – both of which have more than one meaning.

The context can always help distinguish these sentences for you, but this will only become easy if you expose yourself to Korean as much as possible (and of course, use Korean as much as possible). ~는데 and ~는 데 are two grammatical principles that take a lot of practice (using and hearing) to fully understand. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start practicing!

That’s it for this lesson!

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