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Lesson 146: ~느라고 – A Negative Result Occured Because a Purposeful Action was Done

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밤길 = a street at night
곤경 = trouble, predicament
농사 = farm work
시금치 = spinach
앵무새 = parrot
철분 = iron content (in food)
빈혈 = anemia
고열 = high fever
미각 = sense of taste
후각 = sense of smell
청각 = sense of sound
시각 = sense of sight
촉각 = sense of touch
주가 = stock price
육상 = track and field
맹물 = plain water
탄산 = carbonic acid
탄산수 = carbonated water
제시간 = the right/appropriate time
자료실 = a room with documents

처하다 = to encounter some sort of trouble/predicament
허비하다 = to let something waste away
유산하다 = to have a miscarriage
조작하다 = to forge
훼손하다 = to damage

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There are so many ways to create a sentence in Korean where one clause causes the next. Let’s learn about another one! In this lesson, you will learn how to use ~느라고 to connect two clauses to indicate that the reason why the second clause happened is because of the first clause. Of course, it’s not that simple! Let’s get started!




There are many grammatical principles in Korean that allow speakers to indicate that one clause causes another. Here are the ways that you have learned you could do it so far:

~아/어서 (Lesson 37)
~기 때문에 (Lesson 38)
~ㄹ/을까 봐 (Lesson 65)
~ㄴ/은/는데 (Lesson 76)
~(으)로 인해 (Lesson 78)
~(으)니(까) (Lesson 81)
~다가 (Lesson 88)
~거든 (Lesson 91)
~ㄹ/을 텐데 (Lesson 100)
~(으)므로 (Lesson 103)
~더니 (Lesson 119)
~기에 (Lesson 136)
~길래 (Lesson 136)

You could argue that all of those grammatical principles would translate to “because” in English. That is a lot of ways so say one word in English. In Korean, each one has its own subtle nuance and appropriate situation in which it can be used. In order to use ~느라고 correctly, I would like to teach you its subtle nuance and appropriate situations of its use.

The simplest and most direct explanation anyone could give is that it is used to indicate that one cannot do an action because of other action. For example:

저는 공부하느라고 청소를 못 했어요
= Because I was studying, I wasn’t able to clean, or
= I was studying, so I wasn’t able to clean, or
= I wasn’t able to clean because I was studying

Yes, lots of ways to translate the same sentence. I’ll just stick with one from now on.

When using ~느라고, the second clause could indicate that an action didn’t happen (as above), or it could imply a negative outcome for the subject. For example:

주식을 하느라고 돈을 다 잃었다
= I put money into stocks and lost it all

I feel like the simple description I gave above and the two example sentences explain almost everything I could explain about ~느라고. However, that’s not why you came here. Let’s distinguish ~느라고 from ~아/어서, which I like to call the mother of all causality grammatical principles.

~아/어서 is used generally when one clause occurs because of another. There are few “rules” to using it, and it can generally be used in most situations that have this relation. For example:

친구를 만나서 재미있는 시간을 보냈어요 = I had a great time because I met my friend

The sentence above has a positive outcome. Therefore, you could not use ~느라고 in this sentence. For example, this sentence would be unnatural:

친구를 만나느라고 재미있는 시간을 보냈다

Instead, the second clause would have to indicate that the subject couldn’t do something or there was some sort of negative result for him/her. For example, these sentences could work if ~느라고 were used:

친구를 만나느라고 드라마를 못 봤다 = I couldn’t watch the drama because I was meeting a friend
친구를 만나느라고 집에 늦게 들어갔다 = I went home late because I was meeting a friend

Another way to distinguish ~아/어서 from ~느라고 is that the clause connected to ~느라고 should have a purpose for the subject. That is, the subject should be doing the action for a reason, and it is unnatural to use a verb that is not “purposeful” for the subject. For example, look at all of the sentences below, and notice how ~아/어서 is used to indicate that the second clause occurs “because of” the first clause:

고열이 있어서 약을 먹고 잤어요
= I had a high fever so I ate medicine and went to sleep

미각을 잃어서 아무것도 먹고 싶지 않았어요
= I lost my sense of taste, so I didn’t want to eat anything

탄산수에 김이 다 빠져서 그냥 맹물 같아요
= The carbonated water lost all of its fizz, so it just tastes like plain water

주가가 떨어져서 많은 사람들이 고통 받고 있어요
= The stock prices are falling so a lot of people are suffering

제가 육상을 좋아해서 육상대회에 매번 참가했어요
= I like track-and-field so I attended the track events every time

제가 새를 싫어해서 우리 가족은 앵무새를 키우지 않았어요
= I don’t like birds so my family never had a pet parrot (never raised a parrot)

제가 시금치를 안 사서 대신에 철분이 시금치 만큼 많이 있는 소고기를 샀다
= I didn’t buy spinach so instead I bought beef, which has as much iron content as spinach

Now imagine that ~느라고 replaced ~아/어서 in each case. I want you to try, based on what I have taught you about ~느라고, to think of a way to possibly finish these sentences:

고열이 있느라고 …
미각을 잃느라고 …
탄산수에 김이 다 빠지느라고 …
주가가 떨어지느라고 …
제가 육상을 좋아하느라고 …
제가 앵무새를 싫어하느라고 …
제가 시금치를 안 사느라고 …

I cannot, and my wife cannot think of any way to finish those sentences to make them sound natural. The clauses above lack purpose for the subject.

The subject of the sentence does not need to be the speaker. For example, I could be talking about my father when I say this sentence:

아빠가 평생 일만 하느라고 여행을 많이 하지 못했다
= Dad only worked his whole life, so he didn’t travel much

Before we finish, let’s look at a bunch of example sentences to give you even more of a feel for how it can be used:

인터넷 게임만 하느라고 소중한 시간을 허비했다
= I wasted my precious time by only playing internet games

사람들이 농사를 지을 수 있는 땅을 만드느라고 산림을 훼손했다
= People ruined/damaged the forests by trying to turn the land into farm land

밤길에 운전하느라고 길을 건너는 고양이를 보지 못했다
= I didn’t see the cat crossing the street because I was driving at night

가짜 지갑을 진짜 지갑처럼 조작하느라고 하루 종일 고생했다
= I struggled/worked all day because I was (trying) to make a fake purse look like a real one

제대로 쉬지 않고 계속 일만 하느라고 결국 아이를 유산했다
= I eventually had a miscarriage because I never got a chance to rest and was only working

늦게까지 공부하고 자느라고 핸드폰 알람소리를 듣지 못했다
= I didn’t hear the sound of my alarm because I was up late studying

자료실에 있는 자료를 모두 정리하느라고 점심을 먹지 못했다
= I wasn’t able to have lunch because I was (busy) organizing all of the documents/data in the data room

새로운 정책에 대해 오래 회의하느라고 중요한 미팅을 놓쳤다
= I missed the important meeting because I had a long meeting about the new policy

곤경에 처한 사람을 도와주느라고 제시간에 학교에 가지 못했다
= I wasn’t able to go to school on time because I was helping a person going through some trouble

That’s it for this lesson!

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