Menu Close

Lesson 143: ~ㄹ/을걸(요) To state or refute in an unsure way

 Jump to:


To state or refute in an unsure way: ~ㄹ/을걸(요)
Past tense
아니다 + ~ㄹ/을걸(요)




백합 = lily­­
물질 = object, matter, substance
경주 = running race
선장 = the captain of a ship
겨자 = mustard
어부 = fisherman
정점 = peak, top, climax
고도 = altitude
산불 = forest fire
철사 = wire
양가 = both families
당분 = sugars
포도당 = glucose
철조망 = barbed wire
상견례 = Korean tradition of a couples’ parents meeting before their wedding
찰과상 = abrasion, scratch
은박지 = tinfoil

의심하다 = to doubt, to question
대신하다 = to fill in for
주저앉다 = to drop down into, to sink into, to flop into
통과하다 = to pass, to pass through

의심스럽다 = to be doubtful about
허술하다 = to be lax, to be slack, to be not done well
해롭다 = to be detrimental to
촘촘하다 = to be dense, to be fine




In this lesson, you will learn how to make or refute a statement in doubt by using ~ㄹ/을걸(요). Although typically used in response to what other people say, it can also be used when one is just talking making a guess. You will learn ways that this is commonly used to make your speech sound more natural. Let’s get started



To state or refute in an unsure way: ~/을걸()

In Lesson 115, you learned how to add ~ㄹ/을걸(요) to the end of a sentence to indicate that one regrets that an action was performed. Depending on the context, it can have another meaning. That is, to indicate one’s guess or presumption.

For example:

거기에 아직 사람이 없을걸
= There probably isn’t anybody there yet

You probably wouldn’t just say a sentence like this out of nowhere. You would most likely use ~ㄹ/을걸(요) in a conversation when responding to somebody. Specifically, when:

1) Responding to a question. For example:

거기에 사람이 많을까?
사람이 없을걸
= Do you think there will be a lot of people there?
= There probably won’t be anybody there

2) Disagreeing or refuting a statement. For example:

거기에 사람이 많이 있을 거야
사람이 없을걸
= There will be a lot of people there
= There probably won’t be anybody there

In either case, you aren’t really sure of the answer – it is more of a guess. Therefore, there is a feeling that the sentence is somewhat directed to yourself (the person speaking). It is almost as if the speaker is asking him/herself a question. This “self-directed” feeling is quite strong specifically in the second situation above, when disagreeing or refuting what somebody else said. It is often difficult to disagree with somebody. In a way, it is kind of a way for the speaker to deflect his/her disagreement away from the listener. As is usual when there is so much nuance in adding something as simple as one syllable, this is difficult to translate to English.

거기에 사람이 많이 있을 거야
사람이 없을걸
= There will be a lot of people there
= Hmmm… I don’t know. I guess there probably won’t be anybody there…

 I’d like you to notice the tone of “없을걸” in the audio recording above. There isn’t a question mark on the Korean version because grammatically it officially isn’t a question. However, it is often pronounced in a way that makes it sound like the speaker is asking a question.

Below are many more examples:

Again, forgive my translations. It’s very difficult to translate the nuance of ~ㄹ/을걸(요). At this point, you’re probably not relying on English translations anyways. Regardless, I think you will benefit from seeing ~ㄹ/을걸(요) used many times, even if the translations are a bit lame.

1) Situations where somebody is responding to a question:

이 소스가 뭐일까?
= What is this sauce?
= It is probably mustard

이 꽃은 뭐예요?
잘 모르겠지만 백합일걸요
= What is this flower?
= I don’t know, but it is probably a lily

제가 그 선생님의 수업을 대신하면 별도 수당을 받겠지?
안 줄걸
= If I fill in for that teacher’s class, I will get overtime pay, right?
= They probably won’t give it to you

빨래가 다 말랐나?
아직 축축할걸
= Is the laundry all dry?
= It’s probably still a bit wet

양가 사이가 별로 안 좋지만 상견례가 중요해서 하겠지?
안 할걸
= Even though the two families don’t get along, the 상견례is important, so they’ll do it, right?
= They probably won’t

저 철조망이 허술해 보이는데 구멍을 만들어서 통과할 수 있을까?
못할걸. 저기 철조망이 철사로 매우 촘촘하게 만들어져서 힘들 거야
= That barbed wire looks a little weak/poorly made, do you think we could go through it if we make a hole?
= We probably won’t be able to. Barbed wire is made out of really dense metal, so it will be difficult

2) Situations where somebody is disagreeing or refuting a statement.

우리는 지금 안 가면 늦을 거야
안 늦을걸
= If we don’t go now, we will be late
= We probably won’t be late

그 사람은 한국어를 엄청 잘하네
한국어가 모국어일걸
= That person is really good at Korean
= Korean is probably his mother tongue

포도는 건강에 엄청 안 좋은 거야
진짜? 포도에는 포도당이 많아서 운동하고 먹으면 좋을걸
= Grapes are really not good for you (one’s health)
= Really? There is a lot of glucose in grapes, so it is probably good to eat them after exercise

저기 누군가가 산불을 냈나 봐. 연기가 많이 나는데
자연산불일걸. 이 시기에 나무가 건조해서 산불이 자주 나
= It seems like somebody started a forest fire over there. There is a lot of smoke coming up.
= It is probably just a natural forest fire. At this time (of year), the trees are dry so forest fires often come up


It is also possible for a speaker to guess that something happened in the past using ~았/었 before ~ㄹ/을걸. For example:

1) Situations where somebody is responding to a question:

배가 출발했나?
선장님한테 연락이 없어서 아직 출발 안 했을걸
= Did the boat leave?
= No word from the captain yet, so it probably hasn’t left yet

올림픽에서 마라톤 경주를 우승한 사람은 누구였을까?
기억은 잘 안 나는데 케냐 선수였을걸
= Who do you think was the person who won the marathon (race) at the Olympics?
= I don’t remember, but it was probably a Kenyan athlete

어떤 사람이 술에 취해서 길에 주저앉아있는데 경찰을 부를까?
이미 누군가가 경찰을 불렀을걸
= There is a drunk man just plopped on the street, should we call the police?
= Somebody probably already called the police


2) Situations where somebody is disagreeing or refuting a statement.

아빠가 돈을 다 썼나 봐
조금 남았을걸
= It seems like dad spent all of the money
= There is probably a little left

사람들이 다 그 한식당에 갈 거야
오늘은 추석이라서 식당이 안 열었을걸
= Today everybody will probably go to that Korean restaurant
= It is Chuseok today so that restaurant is probably not open


I always like to provide a little bit of insight wherever I can. That often means I like to give you some words that a specific grammatical principle is often used with. ~ㄹ/을걸(요) is very commonly attached to 아니다. For example:

1) Situations where somebody is responding to a question:

그 아저씨가 바닷가 맨날 배를 타고 있는데 어부일까?
= That man is always in the ocean on a boat, do you think he is a fisherman?
= Probably not

그 사람이 되게 의심스러워 보여. 혹시 경찰관들이 찾는 사람이 아니야?
= That person looks very suspicious. Is he not the man the police are searching for?
= Probably not

은박지에 고기를 구워도 몸에 나쁘지 않겠지?
아닐걸. 그렇게 하면 은박지에서 해로운 물질이 나올걸
= Cooking meat in tinfoil can’t be bad for one’s health, right?
= It’s probably not good. If you do it like that, some substances not good (for one’s health) will probably come out (of the tinfoil)

넘어져서 무릎이 엄청 아픈데 수술을 해야 되나요?
아닐걸요. 의사선생님은 단순한 찰과상이라고 할걸요
= You fell and hurt your knee bad, do you think you need to get surgery?
= Probably not. The doctor will probably say that it is just a simple abrasion.


2) Situations where somebody is disagreeing or refuting a statement.

그게 엄청 힘들 거야
= That will be really difficult
= It probably won’t be

이 산의 정점에 도착하면 고도가 높아서 두통이 생길 수도 있을 것 같아
아닐걸. 괜찮을걸. 우리가 출발 전에 약을 먹었으니
= When you get to the summit of this mountain, the altitude is so high that you might get a headache
= No, we probably won’t. We’ll probably be okay. We took some medicine before we left.

That’s it for this lesson!

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