Korean Grammar Bank

HOW TO EXPRESS SURPRISE IN KOREAN

Across countries, how we express surprise is different, and being natural in how you do so is a learning process.

Let’s see how to express surprise in Korean, in formal and informal settings.

EXPRESSING SURPRISE WITH 구나

In Korean, one can indirectly express a surprise by acknowledging new information.

Structure 1 shows how to make this expression for familiar setting by conjugating the verb with (는)구나 or 네 or (는)군.

PATTERN // FAMILIAR SPEECH

Subject + Verb + (는) 구나 / 네 / 군

All expressions are interchangeable:

그녀가 부산에서 오는구나.
그녀가 부산에서 오는구나.
그녀가 부산에서 오네.
(I didn’t know that) she is coming from Busan.
기차가 좀 늦구나.
기차가 좀 늦네.
기차가 좀 늦군.
(I didn’t know that) the train is late.
View More Examples:
그는 집안 형편이 어렵구나.
그는 집안 형편이 어렵네.
그는 집안 형편이 어렵군.
(I didn’t know that) his family has struggles.
선생님이 아프시구나.
선생님이 아프시네.
선생님이 아프시군.
(I didn’t know that) the teacher is sick.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싸구나.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싸네.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싸군.
I didn’t know that) the train ticket is expensive in France.

EXPRESSING SURPRISE WITH 군요

This structure is a moderately formal version compared to the previous structure.

It is made by conjugating the verb with (는)군요 or 네요.

PATTERN // MODERATELY FORMAL

Subject + Verb + (는)군요 / 네요

All expressions are interchangeable:

그녀가 부산에서 오는군요.
그녀가 부산에서 오네요.
(I didn’t know that) she is coming from Busan.
기차가 좀 늦네요.
기차가 좀 늦군요.
(I didn’t know that) the train is late.
View More Examples:
그는 집안 형편이 어렵군요.
그는 집안 형편이 어렵네요.
(I didn’t know that) his family has struggles.
선생님이 아프시군요.
선생님이 아프시네요.
(I didn’t know that) the teacher is sick.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싸군요.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싸네요.
(I didn’t know that) the train ticket is expensive in France.

SURPRISE WITH 줄 / 지 몰랐어요

In Korean, one can indirectly express a surprise by leading a sentence with ‘I didn’t know that~’.

Structure 3 shows that this can be done by conjugating the verb with ㄴ지 몰랐어요 or 을 줄 몰랐어요.

For conjugation, there are several different cases:

CASE 1

If a verb ends with a consonant and has more than two syllables in its infinitive form, the verb is conjugated by removing the last consonant and adding ㄴ지 몰랐어요 or ㄹ/을 줄 몰랐어요.

Example: 어렵다 (to be difficult)

  • Remove the last consonant from the infinitive: 어렵다 -> 어려 (‘ㅂ’ is removed)
  • Add the conjugation ㄴ지 몰랐어요 or ㄹ 줄 몰랐어요.
    • 어려 → 어려운지 몰랐어요 / 어려울 줄 몰랐어요.

CASE 2

If a verb ends with a vowel and has more two syllables in its infinitive form, the verb is conjugated by adding ㄴ지 몰랐어요 or ㄹ/을 줄 몰랐어요.

Example: 오다 (to come)

  • 오다 → 온지 몰랐어요/ 올 줄 몰랐어요.

CASE 3

If a verb ends with a consonant and has two syllables, the verb is conjugated by adding 는지 몰랐어요 or 을 줄 몰랐어요.

Example: 늦다 (to be late)

  • 늦다 → 늦는지 몰랐어요/늦을 줄 몰랐어요.
PATTERN #1

Subject + Verb + 는 / ㄴ지 몰랐어요

PATTERN #2

Subject + Verb +ㄹ / 을 줄 몰랐어요

Both expressions are interchangeable:

그녀가 부산에서 온지 몰랐어요.
그녀가 부산에서 올 줄 몰랐어요.
I didn’t know that she is coming from Busan.
기차가 늦는 지 몰랐어요.
기차가 늦을 줄 몰랐어요.
I didn’t know that the train would be late.
View More Examples:
그의 집안 형편이 어려운지 몰랐어요.
그의 집안 형편이 어려울 줄 몰랐어요.
I didn’t know that his family was struggling.
선생님이 아프신지 몰랐어요.
선생님이 아프실 줄 몰랐어요.
I didn’t know that the teacher was sick.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비싼지 몰랐어요.
프랑스에서는 기차표가 비쌀 줄 몰랐어요.
I didn’t know that the train ticket was expensive in France.

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FAQs

How to express surprise in Korean?

To express surprise in Korean you can use the following sentence structures:

Familiar speech: Subject + Verb + (는) 구나 / 네 / 군

기차가 좀 늦구나.

기차가 좀 늦네.

기차가 좀 늦군.

(I didn’t know that) the train is late.

Moderately formal: Subject + Verb + (는)군요 / 네요

그녀가 부산에서 오는군요.

그녀가 부산에서 오네요.

(I didn’t know that) she is coming from Busan.

How to express certainty in Korean?

In Korean, following expression can be used to express certainty on an event or an action.

Verb + 다고/ᄅ 것이라고

A verb conjugated with 다고/ ᄅ것 이라고 is often followed by a verb “생각한다” or “확신한다” which means “think” and “be sure”, respectively.

Example:

I think (I am certain) that she will come to the party tomorrow.

그녀가 내일 파티에 온다고 생각한다.

그녀가 내일 파티에 올 것이라고 생각한다.

Learn more about certainty in Korean in this lesson.

How to express uncertainty in Korean?

In Korean, different expressions can be used depending on the degree of uncertainty.

VERB+ᄅ지

#1 General uncertainty. The subject has no bias on the degree of uncertainty.

#2 Uncertainty on the future/present event.

VERB + 는지

#1 The subject has bias on the degree of uncertainty, typically on the side that the event or action will not take place.

#2 Uncertainty on the present event

VERB + ᄊ는/을지

#1 General uncertainty for past event/action.

— View our full lesson for sentence examples.

Learn more about uncertainty in Korean in this lesson.

How to express hope in Korean?

Some sentence structures to express hope in Korean:

Verb + 기를 바라다 and Verb + 는 것을 바라다

Another sentence structure would be

Subject + Object+ Verb + ᄊ으면 좋겠다

ᄊ으면 implies a conditional wish or hope (“if”).

Learn more about hope in Korean in this lesson.

Where to find more lessons like this?

You can visit our Korean Grammar Bank for more lessons on levels A1, A2 and B1.

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