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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




= thread
환율 = exchange rate
갈등 = conflict
통장 = bankbook
목사 = reverend
육아 = infant care
간접 = indirect
간접흡연 = second hand smoke
기후 = climate
기후변화 = climate change
조각상 = statue
대나무 = bamboo
호객꾼 = touts
색연필 = colored pencils
청취자 = listener

짜다 = to weave a thread
비추다 = to shine a light
비치다 = for a light to shine
거치다 = to pass through, to go through
끌리다 = to be drawn, pulled, attracted to
청취하다 = to listen
복용하다 = to take medicine

시리다 = for one’s bones or 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… Well, it kind of is. 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:

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

치마가 너무 길어서 치마가 바닥에 끌렸어요
= My skirt was so long it was dragging along on the street

그 길을 거쳐서 할아버지가 사는 동네에 갔어요
= We passed that road and went to the neighborhood that grandpa lives in

이 길을 계속 따라가면 대나무 숲이 나올 거예요
= If you keep following this road, you will reach the bamboo forest

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. When 길 is described by a preceding phrase, we can express that somebody is on their way to or from a place. For example:

제가 집에 가는 길
제가 회사에서 오는 길

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 and conjugate it! By using 이다, we can complete our sentences:

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

This grammatical principle only works if the verb is some action where one is coming or going. In addition to 가다 and 오다, other common possibilities are:

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
돌아가다 = to go back
돌아오다 = to come back

For example:

제가 산을 올라가는 길이에요
= I am on my way (going) up the mountain

지금 회사에서 나오는 길이에요
= I’m on my way out of the office

우리는 경기장에 들어가는 길이에요
= We are (on our way) going into the stadium

이가 매일 시려서 이제 치과에 가는 길이에요
= My teeth are sore everyday so I’m on my way to the dentist now

약을 과다하게 복용해서 부작용 때문에 병원에 가는 길이에요
= I took too much medicine, and because of the side effects I’m on my way to the hospital

어제 산 옷이 너무 헐렁해서 교환하러 가는 길이에요
= The clothes I bought yesterday are too loose, so I’m on my way to exchange them

우리 딸 육아를 도와주려고 지금 집에서 나가는 길이에요
= I’m on my way out now to help look after my daughter

옷이 젖어서 안이 다 비쳐서 새로운 옷을 사 오는 길이에요
= My clothes got all wet and you can see everything inside so I’m on my way back from buying new clothes

In this form, the verb describing “길” is only 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

I imagine this 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

Other examples::

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 use it between two clauses. The most common thing that you will see used here is ~아/어서. For example:

목사님이 지금 교회에 오시는 길이라고 했어요
= The reverend said he is on the way to the church now

색연필을 사러 가는 길인데 혹시 필요한 것이 있어요?
= I’m heading out to buy some colored pencils, by chance do you need anything?

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?


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 usage of 길 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 사람을 살릴 길이 없다
= There is no way to save that person

그 사실을 확인할 길이 없다
= There is no way of checking that fact

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:

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

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

Here are some other examples with other verbs being used:

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

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

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

손전등이 없어서 빛을 비출 길이 없어요
= We don’t have a flashlight so there is no way for us to shine a light

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

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

That’s it for this lesson!

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

Okay, got it! Take me to the next lesson!