Korean Language Blog

“Only” Posted by on Feb 16, 2010 in Grammar

To start this lesson off, let’s take a look some sentences:

(1) 술을 마셨어요. ( = alcohol. = object marking particle. 마셨어요 = past tense of 마시다 = to drink)

(2) 술만 마쎴어요. ( = alcohol. = only. 마쎴어요 = drank)

The first sentence can be interpreted as, “[I] drank alcohol” while the second sentence can be interpreted as, “[I] only drank alcohol”. The particle that provides the meaning “only” is.

Let’s look at another example:

(1) 학생들이 공부했어요.

(학생 = student. = plural marker. = subject marker. 공부했어요 = past tense of 공부하다 = to study)

(2) 핵생들만 공부했어요.

(핵생 = student. = plural marker. = only. 공부했어요 = studied)

The first sentence means, “The students studied” while the second sentence means, “Only the students studied”. In this set, the subject of the sentence, (the students) have the particle attached, but in the previous sentence the object of the sentence, (the alcohol) has the attached. From this, you can conclude that the attachment of is very flexible.

Now let’s look at slightly different but related construction:

(1) 어제는 운동만 했어요.

(어제 = yesterday. = topic marking particle. 운동 = exercise/work out. = only. 했어요 = past tense of 하다 = to do)

(2) 어제는 운동하기만 했어요.

(어제 = yesterday. = topic marking particle. 운동하기만 했어요 = nothing but exercise)

The first sentence would mean something like “Yesterday, I only worked out” while the second sentence would mean something like, “I did nothing but work out”. The second sentence has the ending ~기만 했다 which gives off a more extreme meaning than the first sentence. Also to form the 기만 했다 ending, drop the of the infinitive of the verb and add it to 기만 했다. So If you want to say, “I did nothing but play” it would be 놀기만 했다. The of 놀다 was dropped and added to 기만 했다, and that’s all there is to it!

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