Monday, January 24, 2005

What does "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다 mean?

Which of the following is the more accurate translation of "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다"?
  1. "It is almost 6 o'clock."
  2. "I think it is almost 6 o'clock."

The answer is Sentence 2.

The pre-final ending -겠 is used to express either one's conjecture or one's volition. If you use it to talk about someone or something else, you are expressing conjecture. If you use it to talk about yourself, you are expressing volition.

In the sentence, "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다," the speaker is talking about "the time," not about him- or herself, which means the speaker is using -겠 to express conjecture. In other words, the speaker is simply guessing (conjecture) at the time. If the speaker had known the time, he should have said one of the following:
  • 곧 여섯 시가 된다.
  • 곧 여섯 시가 될 것이다.


  1. Granted upfront that I'm not a native speaker, but at least to me it sounds unnatural to have 곧 (straightaway) and a conjecture particle (~겠) in the same sentence.

  2. In my understanding, 곧 here means "momentarily" or "soon". In don't thing there's anything wrong with its use here. It might seem strange to say 확실하게 though.

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  4. Anonymous,

    I looked up 곧 in my dictionary and found the following example sentence:

    * 그도 곧 오겠지.
    * He will come before long also.

    As Tae Kim said, besides "straightaway," 곧 can also mean "soon" or "momentarily," which seems to be a meaning that allows the use of 곧 with 겠 in sentences that express conjecture.

  5. I don't know, the one thing that sounds odd to me is the 가 after 여섯 시. The sentence reads like "6 o'clock will soon be ready" to me. Are you sure it's ok to put that particle in? I could be wrong but it sounds better to me without it.

  6. Tae Kim,

    Yes, I am almost positive 가 comes after 여섯 시, but, of course, it can be dropped in conversation if the subject is understood.The reason I am almost positive is that my dictionary lists this example sentence:

    * 곧 세 시가 된다.
    * It's almost three o'clock.

    여섯 시 and 세 시 are the subjects of the sentences, so it is perfectly natural for them to be followed by the subject maker, "가."

    By the way, I just noticed that I did not explain why Koreans use 된다 instead of 되겠다 when talking about time.

    Time is a certainty. We cannot stop it. There is no reason to guess that 6 o'clock will arrive; it will definitely arrive. Therefore, the following sentence is wrong:

    * 여섯 시가 되겠다.
    * I think 6 o'clock will arrive.

    The reason it is wrong is that -겠 means the speaker is guessing that 6 o'clock will arrive, even though it is an absolute certainty it will.

    So why is 곧 여섯 시가 되겠다 possible?

    곧 여섯 시가 되겠다 is possible because the speaker is not guessing that "6 o'clock will arrive," but guessing that "it is almost 6 o'clock."

  7. Does it really make a difference in practical use though? I have seen people ask what time it is and the person responding is looking right at their watch as they say 곧 여섯시 되겠다. I would say he has a pretty damn good idea of when it will be six. The important thing to remember is that language and proper grammar as far as spoken (and conjecture is used in spoken language) only matter as far as they are used.

  8. Anonymous,

    You may be right. If people say it, maybe there ain't nothin' wrong with it.

  9. I think it's less a guess and more of an observation like, "Looks like it'll be six soon". Off topic, but what's the difference between 되겠다 and 되겠군? (Or any other verb for that matter)

  10. To expound on my previous comment, I think conjecture would be better expressed as 되겠지. I think it would be strange if a person said "곧 여섯 시 되겠지" while looking at right at a watch. I would probably think, "시계를 보고있으면서 왜 확실하게 몰라?" (Any corrections appreciated)

  11. Tae Kim,

    군 is used to express "surprise" or "exclamation." Other endings that do pretty much the same thing are as followings:

    -구나 - 군 is the shortened form of 구나
    -로구나 - added to 이다 and 아니다
    -어라 - added to adjectives and 이다 to show exclamation
    -네 - added to verbs and adjectives


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