When you want to emphasize an action or state in English, you either do it by adding more stress to the verb in the intonation, or by adding the word "do" in front of the verb.
A: It's not easy.
B: No, it IS easy!
A: Why did you not go there?
B: I DID go, but I came back early.
A: Do you think you can do it?
B: Well, I COULD do it, but I don't want to do it.
Now in this lesson, let us take a look at how to express these in Korean.
The simplest way to do this is by changing the intonation.
A: 왜 안 했어요? [wae an hae-sseo-yo?] = Why didn't you do it?
B: 했어요! [hae-sseo-yo!] = I DID do it!
The above is when you are simply disagreeing with the other person and presenting a different fact.
But if you want to add some conditions or premises to your sentence and say “I did do it, but...” or “I do like it, but...” you need to use a different verb ending.
A: So you didn’t even do it?
B: I did!! I DID do it, but I had some help.
A: Can you do it?
B: I COULD do it, but I don’t want to do it.
Now let’s look at how to express these in Korean.
The key is “-기는”. This is the noun form -기 plus the topic marker -는. The topic marker is used to show contrast.
갔어요. [ga-sseo-yo.] = I went (there).
→ 가기는 갔어요. [ga-gi-neun ga-sseo-yo.] = I DID go (there) but...
→ 가기는 했어요. [ga-gi-neun hae-sseo-yo.] = I DID go (there) but...
→ 가기는 갔는데, 일찍 왔어요. [ga-gi-neun gat-neun-de, il-jjik wa-sseo-yo.] = I DID go there, but I came back early.
→ 가기는 갈 거예요. [ga-gi-neun gal geo-ye-yo.] = I WILL go, but … ( + other premises )
봤어요. [bwa-sseo-yo.] = I saw (it).
→ 보기는 봤어요. [bo-gi-neun bwa-sseo-yo.] = I DID see (it) but ...
→ 보기는 했어요. [bo-gi-neun hae-sseo-yo.] = I DID see (it) but …
→ 보기는 봤는데 기억이 안 나요. [bo-gi-neun bwat-neun-de gi-eo-gi an-na-yo.] = I DID see it, but I don’t remember.
How to say “I COULD do it but ...”
To say that you can do something, you use the structure, -(으)ㄹ 수 있다. And since here, -(으)ㄹ 수 is a NOUN GROUP that literally means “a method for doing something” or “possibility/ability”, you can JUST use the topic marker without having to change it again into the noun form. It’s already a noun.
할 수 있어요. [hal su i-sseo-yo.] = I can do (it).
→ 할 수는 있어요. [hal su-neun i-sseo-yo.] = I COULD do it, but …
→ 할 수는 있는데, 안 하고 싶어요. [hal su-neun it-neun-de, an ha-go si-peo-yo.] = I COULD do it, but I don’t want to.
→ 할 수는 있는데, 조건이 있어요. [hal su-neun it-neun-de, jo-geo-ni i-sseo-yo.] = I COULD do it, but there’s a condition.
More Sample Sentences
1. 어제 친구를 만나기는 했는데, 금방 헤어졌어요.
[eo-je chin-gu-reul man-na-gi-neun haet-neun-de, geum-bang he-eo-jyeo-sseo-yo.]
= I DID meet a friend yesterday, but we parted soon.
2. 시간 맞춰서 도착하기는 했는데, 준비를 못 했어요.
[si-gan mat-chwo-seo do-cha-ka-gi-neun haet-neun-de, jun-bi-reul mot hae-sseo-yo.]
= I DID manage to get there on time, but I couldn’t prepare.
3. 읽기는 읽었는데 이해가 안 돼요.
[il-gi-neun il-geot-neun-de i-hae-ga an dwae-yo.]
= I DID read it, but I don’t understand it.
4. 좋기는 좋은데, 너무 비싸요.
[jo-ki-neun jo-eun-de, neo-mu bi-ssa-yo.]
= It IS good, but it’s too expensive.
5. 맛있기는 맛있는데, 좀 짜요.
[ma-sit-gi-neun ma-sit-neun-de, jom jja-yo.]
= It IS delicious, but it’s a bit salty.