"The researcher guessed that the man couldn't speak Korean."

Translation:연구원은 남자가 한국어를 못한다고 추측했어요.

November 24, 2017

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研究員은 男子가 韓國語룰 못한다고 推測했어요.


究員은 男子가 韓國語 못한다고 推測했어요.


Can I write 못하다고?


2 things to remember here:

• Korean indirect quotation is not subjected to "time sequencing" as in the English language.

• When the quotation is in the present tense.

The form to use for such quote is: VS + (느)ㄴ다고 [main clause].

[VS]-ㄴ다고 - verb ending in vowel

[VS] -는다고 - verb ending in consonant

In the example, Verb is 하다 (abbr. for "speak"). VS is 하 so, the quotation would look:

[...] 하 -ㄴ다고 = [...] 한다고


very helpful, thanks


Where does it say this? In the Tips, the example showing quoted declaratives does not use (느)ㄴ다고:

철수가 선생님이 미국에 있다고 해요.

Cheolsu says the teacher is in the US.

Other examples from this lesson with quoted present tense also do not use (느)ㄴ다고:

저는 회사가 나쁘다고 믿어요.

I believe (that) the company is bad.

저는 동료가 많다고 말했습니다.

I said I have a lot of/many colleagues.

Is it because these are not action verbs?

EDIT: The Tips for this section are woefully inadequate. This howtolearnkorean page goes into very clear detail about the different ways to quote.


"-(느)ㄴ다" only applies to verbs (action verbs), not predicate adjectives (descriptive verbs)

For adjectives, it is just a case of simply replacing "-다" by "-다고".

From your cited examples, 있다, 나쁘다 & 많다 are "adjectives". So:

있다 => 있-다고;

나쁘다 => 나쁘-다고

많다 => 많-다고


Also, can I write 할 수 없다고?


From what I understand ~ㄹ/을 수 없다 indicates a permanent state of inability.

못 implies an impossibility by current circumstances.

But 할 수 없다고 is grammatically correct.

~ㄹ/을 수 없다 / 있다 are adjectives (adjectival verbs) so in a present tense, indirect quotations it is just a matter of adding -다고 to Verb stem.


Is it necessary to have a space between 못 and 한다고?


There are 2 grammar points in your question:

(1) V-ㄴ다고 which is part of the expression -ㄴ다고 추측하다/(abbr) -ㄴ다고 하다 = to guess that.

V-ㄴ다고 is used for indirect quotations.

(2) 못-하다 vs 못 + 하다

• 못-하다/못하다 = to do poorly/badly (i.e. unable to reach the required standard)

남자가 한국어를 못한다 = the man speaks Korean badly = the man cannot speak Korean.

• 못 + 하다/ 못 하다 = to not have the possibility to do = to be unable to do something because of the circumstance at the time

남자가 한국어를 못 한다 = the man cannot ("for now") speak Korean [He is capable of speaking Korean but is not able/available to do so at present]


I put researcher before the verb guessed in the end, this was not accepted. Is the position of the subject at the beginning of the sentence mandatory here?


That shouldn't make any difference in my opinion.

연구원은 남자가 한국어를 못한다고 추측했어요

= 남자가 한국어를 못한다고 연구원은 추측했어요.

cf. In another ex.

노르웨이에서 생선을 많이 먹는다고 우리는 들었어요. We heard that in Norway, they eat a lot of fish. => The main elements of the main clause are grouped together, 우리는 들었어요 We heard


Does anybody know why is it 못한다고 but not 못했다고?


I believe it has to do with "backshifting" (for reported speech) in English whereby the tense in the sub clause is shifted one tense back to the past. i.e.

[Direct speech]

Researcher: "I guess that man can't speak Korean."

[Reported speech]

The researcher guessed that the man couldn't speak Korean. [ "can't" has been shifted back by one tense in the past to "couldn't" to match with the tense used in main clause.

Korean does not have "backshift". The sub clause retains its direct speech tense.

[Lit.] The researcher guessed that the man "can't" speak Korean

= "연구원은 남자가 한국어를 못한다고 추측했어요."


"연구원은 남자가 한국어를 못했다고 추측했어요." would probably be interpreted as "The researcher guessed that the man had not been able (/had been unable) to speak Korean"

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