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Lesson 113: On one’s way ~는 길

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On my way to/from… : ~는 길이다
While on my way to/from: ~는 길에
There is no way of/to… ~ㄹ/을 길이 없다




육아 = infant care
녹음실 = recording studio
실 = thread
색실 = colored thread
호객꾼 = touts
색연필 = colored pencils
청취자 = listener
간접 = indirect
간접흡연 = second hand smoke
갈등 = conflict
통장 = bankbook
목사님 = reverend
지상 = ground
조각상 = statue
기후 = climate
기후변화 = climate change
대나무 = bamboo
장대 = pole/rod
환율 = exchange rate

비추다 = to shine a light
비치다 = for a light to shine
거치다 = to pass through, to go through
짜다 = to weave a thread

Passive Verbs:
끌리다 = to be drawn, pulled, attracted to

인상적이다 = to be impressive
시리다 = for one’s bones/teeth to be cold
과다하다 = to be excessive
헐렁하다 = for clothing to be loose




In this lesson, you will learn how to use 길 as a noun that can replace 것 in the ~는 것 principle. Don’t be confused! This grammatical principle isn’t describing a road. It has a special meaning that we can study as a separate grammatical principle. Let’s get started.



On my way to/from… : ~는 길이다

By this point, you are probably very familiar with how to use the word 길 in Korean. It translates to “street” or “road”, and there is nothing overly complicated. For example:

이 길의 이름이 뭐죠? = What is the name of this road/street?
어떤 길을 찾고 있습니까? = What road are you looking for?
제가 저 길에서 살아요 = I live on that road

In addition to this simple meaning, when used as the noun in the ~는 것 principle (so, for example, ~는 길), it can take on a different meaning. Well, actually, I don’t want to say this new meaning is completely different from its original noun form meaning because it is, in some way, related to a “street”.

Anyways, regardless of that, when 길 is described by a preceding phrase, we can express than somebody is on his/her way to/from somewhere. For example:

제가 집에 가는 길
제가 회사에서 오는 길

However, I have taught you well enough by now for you to know that you can’t end a sentence that way. We need to attach something to that noun! By using 이다, we can complete our sentences:

제가 집에 가는 길이에요 = I am on my way home
제가 회사에서 오는 길이에요 = I am on my way (coming) from work

Other examples:

제가 산을 올라가는 길이에요 = I am on my way (going) up the mountain
우리는 경기장에 들어가는 길이에요 = We are (on our way) going into the stadium

In this form, the verb describing “길” is only ever used in the present tense. However, you can express that you were (or will be) on your way going or coming somewhere by changing the tense of 이다. For example:

제가 산을 내려가는 길이었어요 = I was going down the mountain

which would probably be more natural if you used it to answer a question. For example:

야! 아까 전화를 왜 안 받았어? 내가 전화를 몇 번 했는데… = Hey! Why didn’t you answer your phone earlier? I called you a bunch of times…
미안해~~ 내가 그때 산을 내려가는 길이었어 = Sorry… I was on my way down the mountain at that time

내가 어제 너를 봤어! 어디 가는 중이었어? = I saw you yesterday! Where were you going?
난 어제 공부하러 학교에 가는 길이었어 = I was on my way to school to study

The ~는 길이다 construction doesn’t need to be used at the end of a sentence. By connecting other grammatical principles to 이다, you can also find it used between two clauses. The most common thing that you will see used here is ~아/어서. For example:

제가 지금 집에 가는 길이라서 20분 후에 또 전화하면 안 돼요? = I am on my way home right now, so can you call me back in 20 minutes?

However, you need to realize that this grammatical principle only works if the verb is some action where one is coming or going somewhere. The most common of which would be:

오다 = to come
가다 = to go
들어가다 = to go in
들어오다 = to come in
나가다 = to go out
나오다 = to come out
내려가다 = to go down
내려오다 = to come down
올라가다 = to go up
올라오다 = to come up

This isn’t to say that it is incorrect to place other verbs (and their preceding clauses) behind the ~는 길 form. It just means that constructions without the use of a ‘coming’ or ‘going’ verb don’t have this “on my way from/to”. For example:

큰 집이 많이 있는 길의 땅값은 비싸요 = The price of land on the street with a lot of big houses is expensive
시민들이 홍수로 인한 피해를 입은 길을 복구하고 있다 = The citizens are restoring the street that was damaged by the flood

The examples above show ~는 길 being used just as if “길” was a normal noun and not some sort of special grammatical principle. However, if the verb in the preceding describing clause is related to coming or going the constructions usually have this “on my way” meaning. However, if the entire construction is not finished by “이다” it can have a similar, but slightly different meaning. Notice the following:

제가 산을 올라가는 길이에요 = I am on my way (going) up the mountain
제가 산을 올라가는 길에 있어요 = I am on the road that goes up the mountain

The first one specifically indicates that the speaker is “on his/her way” up the mountain. However, the second one (without the use of “이다” – and thus – without the use of this grammatical principle) is just like the grammar in any other sentence, and doesn’t take on this special meaning.

While on my way to/from: ~는 길에

In addition to the usages described above, it is also common to see ~에 attached to 길 in the ~는 길 form. The meaning that is expressed here is; while one is on route coming or going somewhere, he/she stopped to do something. For example:

제가 집에 가는 길에 빵을 사 줄까요? = On my way home, should I buy some bread (for you)?
집에 오는 길에 맛있는 것을 사 주면 안 돼요? = On your way home, can you buy something delicious please?
친구를 만나러 나가는 길에 책을 반납할 거예요 = On my way out to meet a friend, I will return the book
음식을 가져오는 길에 포크를 갖다 주세요 = On your way back from getting/bringing food, can you get/grab me a fork?

I love this grammatical principle. Easy to use, easy to understand, and it makes your Korean that much stronger.



There is no way of/to… ~ㄹ/을 길이 없다

Another way you can find “길” being used is in the grammatical principle “~ㄹ/을 길이 없다.” This literally translates to something like “there is no direction/road to do…” but a better translation that more accurately describes what this grammatical principle means is “There is no way of…”. First, let’s look at some easy examples:

그 사실을 확인할 길이 없다 = There is no way of checking that fact
그 사람을 살릴 길이 없다 = There is no way to save that person

The most common verb that you will find before ~ㄹ/을 길이 없다 is 알다, which altogether would create “there is no way of knowing….”. For example:

우리 가 미국에 2개월 후에 갈 거니까 그때의 환율을 알 길이 없어요 = We are going to America in two months, so there is no way of knowing the exchange rate at that time

죽은 그 사람이 누구인지 알 길이 없어요 = There is no of knowing who that dead person is

우리 프로그램의 청취자가 몇 명 있는 지를 알 길이 없어요 = There is no way of knowing how many listeners our program has

Here are some other examples with other verbs being used:

암에 걸린 이유는 간접흡연 때문인지 오염 때문인 지 알 길이 없어요 = There is no way of knowing if the reason you caught cancer was because of second hand smoke, or because of pollution

해외여행을 할 때 호객꾼을 피할 길이 없어요 = There is no way of avoiding touts when you travel abroad

낯선 사람이랑 좁은 데에서 산다면 갈등을 피할 길이 없어요 = There is no way of avoiding conflict if you live in a small space with somebody you don’t know well

기후변화를 측정할 길이 없어요 = There is no way of measuring climate change

어제 잃어버린 통장을 찾을 길이 없어요 = There is no way of finding the bankbook that I lost yesterday

부러진 조각상을 고칠 길이 없어요 = There is no way of fixing that broken statue

That’s it for this lesson!

Click here for a Workbook to go along with this lesson.

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