Lesson 133: For there to be no way ~ㄹ/을 리가 없다

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For There to be No Way that Something is True




절차 = procedure, process
원유 = crude oil
꼬마 = little kid
뚜껑 = lid
작동 = the operation of a machine
제자 = pupil, disciple
편도 = a one-way trip
왕복 = a return trip
초반 = the first half
후반 = the second half
동화 = children’s story
밥값 = money for food, the price of food
맞춤법 = spelling

훑다 = to skim through
접속하다 = to gain access
순찰하다 = patrol
용서하다 = to forgive
후원하다 = to sponsor
조회하다 = to inquire
역전하다 = to come from behind
취업하다 = to find a job/be employed
착각하다 = to mistake A for B

동그랗다 = to be round, to be spherical

Adverbs and Other Words:
대 = indicates the age of somebody by decade



In this lesson, you will learn the meaning that is created when 리 is described as a noun. Let’s get started.


For There to be No Way that Something is True

In previous lessons, you have learned many nouns that can only be used when described by an adjective or verb. I often call these “pseudo-nouns” because they cannot be used on their own like regular nouns. Examples of these pseudo-nouns that you have learned in previous lessons are 수 (Lesson 45) and 적 (Lesson 32). For example:

저는 암호를 몰라서 이 컴퓨터에 접속할 수 없어요

= I don’t know the password, so I can’t access this computer

저는 한국인인데 고등학교를 캐나다에서 다녀서 한국어 맞춤법을 배운 적이 없어요
= I am Korean, but I attended high school in Canada so I never learned Korean spelling

In the sentences above 수 and 적 are nouns, but there are nouns that can only be used when described. As these nouns are always found as part of a larger construction and not by themselves, it is often difficult to translate the nouns by themselves. However, a translation of 수 could be “ability” and a translation of 적 could be “experience.”

리 is another one of these nouns that must be described and is not used on its own. Therefore, again, it is often hard to give it a translation when used on its own.

Let me describe the meaning of 리 (and its usage) with a story. I teach at a high school in Korea, and all of the students know that I can speak Korean (although, I pretend I can’t for the first six months when the new freshmen come every year). Our school recently hired another foreign teacher, and apparently he can speak Korean as well. Some of the kids would say:

새로 오시는 선생님이 윌 선생님보다 한국말을 더 잘해요
= The new teacher (who is coming) is better at Korean than “Will teacher”

In response to that, I would hear other students say:

윌 선생님보다 잘할 리가 없어요

Let me explain what this means.

These students are saying that there is no way that the phrase describing 리 is true. Even though they don’t have the appropriate and specific evidence to make this claim for sure, their prior experience or knowledge relating to this is sufficient enough for them to know what is possible, and what isn’t possible.

In this situation, the speaker of the sentence “윌 선생님보다 잘할 리가 없어요” probably hasn’t met the new teacher (and therefore doesn’t really know for sure if his Korean is really good or not), but he/she would have experience or knowledge relating to the situation that would allow him/her to make this claim. In this case, the students know that I speak Korean, and they know that I speak Korean really well. Really well. Their knowledge of this would allow them to say:

윌 선생님보다 잘할 리가 없어요
= There is no way he is better than “Will teacher.”

A common translation for this type of sentence (as you can see in the example above) is “there is no way that…” However, make sure you realize that these sentences are indicating that some claim cannot be true.” Be sure to not confuse this type of sentence with sentences containing 길, which you learned in Lesson 113. For example:

그 팀이 후반에 역전시킬 길이 없어요
= There is no way for us to come back in the second half

Notice the “there is no way…” English translation. When using “길,” the speaker is indicating that there is no method or way to do something. When the speaker says the sentence above, the team is probably being outplayed and losing badly.

To make the English translation more clear, it might be better to translate sentences with 리 to “it can’t be true that…” Regardless, I always suggest that you understand the meaning of the Korean sentences, and pay less attention to their respective ambiguous English translations.



In Lesson 23 you learned about 그렇다, and in many later lessons you learned how various grammatical principles can be applied to it.

It is common for 그렇다 to describe 리 to form 그럴 리가 없다. When some situation is being discussed, you can use this construction to indicate that “it can’t be true.” For example:

Person 1: 경비 아저씨가 지금 순찰 중이에요
= The guard/watchman is patrolling (doing his rounds of checks)

Person 2: 이렇게 이른 아침에 그럴 리가 없는데요
= At this time, this early, that can’t be true


Below are many more examples:

뚜껑이 그냥 다 없어질 리가 없어요
= There is no way that the lid just disappeared

원유 값이 작년처럼 떨어질 리가 없어요
= There is no way that the price of oil will drop like last year

선생님이 자기 제자를 용서할 리가 없어요
= There is no way that the teacher will forgive his pupil

점심으로 많이 먹고 또 벌써 배고플 리가 없어요
= After eating a lot for lunch, there is no way that you can be hungry again

삼성이 이 축제를 후원해서 돈이 부족할 리가 없어요
= Samsung is sponsoring this event, so there is no way money can run out

매일 열심히 운동을 하는데 그렇게 아플 리가 없어요
= You exercise every day – there is no way that you can be that sick

그 학생이 내용을 아주 대충 훑어서 다 외울 리가 없어요
= That student looked over the contents very “half-assed,” there is no way he memorized it all

그 사람이 나이가 많아 보이는데 30대 초반일 리가 없어요
= That person looks old; there is no way that he is in his early thirties

그 두 명이 아주 다르게 생겨서 사람들이 착각할 리가 없어요
= Those two look very different, so there is no way that people will mistake them (for each other)

왕복 비행기표가 편도보다 더 쌀 리가 없어요. 한번 더 조회해 보세요
= There is no way that a return ticket is more expensive than a one-way ticket. Try inquiring/looking into it again


It sounds counter-intuitive to English speakers, but it is also possible to describe 리 with a negative. In English (and I guess technically in Korean too), this creates a double negative. For example:

그 꼬마가 이 동화를 안 좋아할 리가 없어요
= There is no way that kid doesn’t like this story

이 일을 그 절차대로 하면 못 끝낼 리가 없어요
= If you do this job according to procedure, there is no way you can’t finish it

공부를 많이 해서 그 학생이 시험을 못 볼 리가 없어요
= That student studied a lot, so there is no way that he did poorly on the exam

그 사람이 지난 달에 취업하니 밥값을 못 낼 리가 없어요
= That person got a job last month, there is no way that he can’t pay for food (have enough money to put food on the plate)

우주에 그렇게 많은 행성이 있는데 외계인이 없을 리가 없어요
= There are so many planets in the universe, there is no way that there are no aliens
= It can’t be true that there are no aliens when there are that many planets in the universe

그 가계에서 항상 CCTV가 작동 중이라서 범죄자를 못 잡을 리가 없어요
= There is always surveillance running at that store, so there is no way that they don’t catch the criminal

That’s it for this lesson!