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Lesson 117: ~더~ and ~던가

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Recalling a Fact from Experience: ~더~
Asking Questions to Yourself Using ~던가
Asking Questions to Somebody Else Using ~던가




이자 = interest (from a bank)
학생증 = student ID
열람실 = reading room (in a library)
파리 = fly
옥상 = rooftop
턱걸이 = chin-up
철봉 = chin up bar/horizontal bar
차원 = dimension
애국 = patriotism
애국자 = patriot
강좌 = lecture/course
방식 = way/means/method
효율 = efficiency
강도 = robbery
갈매기 = seagull
표준어 = standard language
향신료 = spice
짝수 = even number
홀수 = odd number
반쪽 = half

박살내다 = to smash
제시하다 = to exhibit
표하다 = to express
추위/더위를 타다 = to be sensitive to cold/heat
유발하다 = to motivate
빨다 = to wash clothes, to launder

Passive Verbs:
박살나다 = to be smashed
부딪히다 = to be bumped/crashed into

효율적이다 = to be efficient/effective
저렴하다 = to be cheap/inexpensive





In this lesson, you will be introduced to the grammatical principle ~더~ and the meaning it creates in a sentence. You will apply your knowledge of –더- by combining it with another grammatical principle to create ~던가. Let’s get started.





Recalling a Fact from Experience: ~더~

The grammatical principle ~더~ is interesting. As you can see, there are connecting lines both before and after “더” – which indicates that it not only gets attached to something when it is used, but something also attached to it as well. It would rarely (if ever) be used by itself – as you will always see another grammatical principle attached to it.

Just to show you what I mean by “not only does it attach to something, but something also attaches to it” – here are the three grammatical principles that we will study over the next three lessons:

~더~ + ~ㄴ/가 = ~던가 (for example = 아프던가)
~더~ + ~라 = ~더라 (for example = 아프더라)
~더~ + (으)니 = ~더니 (for example = 아프더니)

You were first introduced to ~더~ in Lesson 27 when you saw how it can be used to describe upcoming nouns with ~던 and ~았/었던.

The specific meaning that ~더~ creates in a situation heavily depends on the grammatical principle that attaches to it. However, constructions with ~더~ usually contain the meaning of ~더~ plus the meaning of the next grammatical principle.

Therefore, before I introduce you to the meanings of the constructions including ~더~ in the upcoming lessons, I would like to remind you of the meaning of ~더~ from Lesson 27.

When you see ~더~ used as part of a grammatical principle, it signifies that the speaker is recalling (or requesting that somebody recall) some fact from the past that was experienced. It is hard to give you specific examples now because you haven’t studied the complete constructions yet. However, if you keep this in mind when you learn about things that include ~더~, it will help you with your understanding. It will also help you differentiate between two similar looking grammatical principles, differing only in their inclusion of ~더~. Let’s look at an application of ~더~ to create ~던가.

Asking Questions to Yourself Using ~던가


In Lesson 21, you learned how to ask questions. You learned that one way to end a sentence with a question is to add ~ㄴ/은가. You can add ~ㄴ/은가 to ~더~ to form “~던가,” which is a specific way to ask a question that we can discuss.

In that lesson, I mentioned that ~ㄴ/은가 is mostly used with adjectives and not with verbs. However, it is acceptable to attach the construction ~던가 to verbs.

The most common way ~던가 is used is when the speaker is asking a question to himself/herself. For example:

내가 이 책을 읽었던가? = Did I read this book?

As in the example above, ~던가 is usually used when the speaker is unsure of something that was experienced, and therefore something that probably should be known. However, for some reason – perhaps a lapse in memory – the speaker can’t remember for sure and is asking himself to draw on this experience for clarification.

We would do this in English as well. For example, imagine you are at your house and look at your bookcase and see about 100 books. As an avid reader, you read a lot and because of that you can’t remember sometimes which books you have read, and which books you haven’t. You pull one book out, and ask yourself to try to recall if you have read it before:

내가 이 책을 읽었던가? = Did/have I read this book?

Technically, you should know if you have read the book or not. It’s your experience. However, sometimes you can’t remember perfectly.

In the example above, “~았/었” is attached to the word before ~더~ to indicate that this experience occurred in the past. Although most of the time the speaker is asking about an experience that happened in the past, a present tense conjugation is possible as long as the situation allows for it. For example:

내가 이 책을 읽던가?
This would translate to something like “Am I reading this book?” or “Do I read this book?”
Would this make sense in any situation? This sounds like the speaker has Alzheimer’s disease and can’t remember if he was reading the book or not.”


그 사람이 화요일에 가던가?
I can’t even translate this one because it doesn’t make sense. I could try to translate it to something like “is this person went on Tuesday…”

However, look at the following examples, both of which are possible:
이 과자가 비싸던가? = Is this candy expensive?
이 과자가 비쌌던가? = Was this candy expensive?

Both sentences essentially have the same meaning – mainly because if something was expensive it is usually still expensive in the present tense. There is only a very subtle nuance between the two sentences. The difference in nuance is that the second sentence (using ~았/었) is referring to a specific time in the past when he/she bought the candy and is asking himself to try to recall if it was expensive or not. The first example (in the present tense) isn’t really referring to a specific experience from the past, but more of a general experience that can currently be applied. That is, the speaker is asking himself his experience about a general truth.

Here are many more examples:

아빠가 이 선물을 나에게 줬던가? = Did dad give me this present?
어제 설거지를 했던가? = Did I do the dishes yesterday?
파리를 죽였던가? = Did I kill the fly?
거기에 갈매기가 많던가? = Are there many seagulls there?
그 강좌를 들었던가? = Did I take that class?
옥상에 올라가도 되던가? = Am I allowed to go to the rooftop?
어렸을 때 턱걸이를 할 수 있었던가? = Was I able to do chin-ups when I was younger?
그날에 학생증을 가져왔던가? = Did I bring my student card that day?
그 방식이 효율적이던가? = Is that method effective?
어렸을 때 강도가 들었던가? = Were we robbed when we were younger?
서울 사람들이 표준어를 쓰던가? = Do people in Seoul use the standard language?
인도 사람들은 향신료를 많이 쓰던가? = Do Indian people use a lot of spices?
아버지가 추위를 많이 타던가? = Does dad get cold easily?
숫자 “3”이 홀수이던가? = Is “3” an odd number?
내가 책을 도서관에 반납했던가? = Did I return the book to the library?
우리가 어제 만났던가? = Did we meet yesterday?
선생님이 캐나다 사람이던가? = Is our teacher Canadian?
그 차가 내 친구 차던가? = Is that car my friend’s car?

You typically cannot use ~던가 to ask yourself anything but a “yes” or “no” question. For example, the following sounds unnatural in Korean:

내가 이 책을 무슨 날에 읽었던가?
This would be asking yourself “what day did I read this book?” – which requires an answer other than “yes” or “no”. Thus, this sentence is awkward.

You must be thinking to yourself – alright, so when I make a sentence like this, I just can’t use a “question word” like 언제, 어디, 뭐, etc… Right? Good thinking, but unfortunately it is not that simple.

Remember, in Lesson 25 you learned how to use question words – not to ask questions but to refer to something (like a place, time, person, etc…) that is ambiguous. For example, depending on how it is used “뭐 먹었어요?” could have two meanings:

뭐 먹었어요? = What did you eat?
뭐 먹었어요? = Did you eat something?

Therefore, it is possible to use question words in sentences ending with ~던가, but only if they are used in this way to refer to something ambiguous. Let’s look at some examples:


내가 이 책을 언제 읽었던가?

This sentence does not translate to “When did I read this book?” Instead, “언제” is referring to an ambiguous time and therefore translates to:

내가 이 책을 언제 읽었던가? = Did I read this book at some time?


그 사람이 어디 갔던가?

This sentence does not translate to “Where did that person go?” Instead, “어디” is referring to an ambiguous place and therefore translates to:

그 사람이 어디 갔던가? = Did that person go to some place?


오빠가 나한테 뭐라고 했던가?

This sentence does not translate to “What did my brother say to me?” Instead, “뭐” is referring to an ambiguous thing (that is said) and therefore translates to:

오빠가 나한테 뭐라고 했던가? = Did my brother say something to me?



Asking Questions to Somebody Else Using ~던가

When asking yourself a question, it is quite common to use ~던가. However, it would only be used in informal situations to ask a question to another person (usually an older person asking a question to a much younger person). I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but it is something that you should be aware of. Some examples:

슬기가 많이 아프던가? = Is Seulgi really sick?
The above would be more likely to be said as:
슬기가 많이 아픈가? = Is Seulgi really sick?

네가 생선을 먹던가? = Do you eat fish?
네가 핸드폰을 샀던가? = Did you buy a cell-phone?

That’s it for this lesson!

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