Episode from the podcastTalk To Me In Korean

TTMIK Level 6 Lesson 18 PDF

Released Thursday, 8th September 2011
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TTMIK Level 6 Lesson 18 - Or / -거나, -(이)나, 아니면

Welcome back to another TalkToMeInKorean lesson. Sometimes very simple words in English can become something more complicated in Korean and vice versa. Today’s key expression is an example of that. In this lesson, let us learn how to say “or” in Korean.

The word “or” can be used to link nouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, or even sentences. You don’t need to use a different expression for all of these different usages in English, but in Korean, depending on what kind of word you are linking, the translations for “or” can be different.

Noun + OR + noun
In order to link two nouns, you need to use -(이)나.

공원이나 영화관
[gong-won-i-na yeong-hwa-gwan]
= a park or a movie theater

학생이나 선생님
[hak-saeng-i-na seon-saeng-nim]
= a student or a teacher

여기나 저기
[yeo-gi-na jeo-gi]
= here or there

You can also use the word 아니면, which originally literally means “if not”.

- 공원 아니면 영화관
- 학생 아니면 선생님
- 여기 아니면 저기

Verb + OR + verb
Since adjectives are essentially “descriptive verbs” in Korean, adjectives and verbs are linked in the same manner. After verb stems, you need to use -거나.

= eat or ...

= make a phone call or ...

집에 가거나
[ji-be ga-geo-na]
= go home or ...

The tense (present, past or future) is expressed through the last verb, so the last verb has to be conjugated accordingly to show the tense of the entire sentence.

집에 가거나 친구를 만날 거예요.
[ji-be ga-geo-na chin-gu-reul man-nal geo-ye-yo.]
= I will (either) go home or meet a friend.

Sometimes people add -거나 to all of the sentences (Ex: 집에 가거나, 친구를 만나거나) and in that case, they use the verb 하다 (= to do) to finish the sentence.

집에 가거나 친구를 만나거나 할 거예요.

In addition to using -거나 at the end of the sentence, you can add 아니면 as well between the two actions.

집에 가거나 아니면 친구를 만날 거예요.

** There are other ways of saying “or” with verbs, such as “-든지" and “-든가" but more on those in future lessons!

Sentence + OR + Sentence
In the previous usages, we’ve seen that -(이)나 is used with nouns and -거나 is used with verbs. When you want to say “or” between two sentences, you simply use 아니면. 아니면 is broken down to “아니다 (= to be not) + -(으)면 (= if)”. 아니면 literally means “if not” or “if that’s not the case”.

집에 갈 거예요? 아니면 친구를 만날 거예요?
[ji-be gal geo-ye-yo? a-ni-myeon chin-gu-reul man-nal geo-ye-yo?]
= Are you going to go home? Or are you going to meet a friend?

이거 살 거예요? 아니면 다른 거 살 거예요?
[i-geo sal geo-ye-yo? a-ni-myeon da-reun geo sal geo-ye-yo?]
= Are you going  to buy this? Or are you gong to buy something else?
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