We always search for other to confirm whatever we think is correct. Healthy people tend to put themselves in doubt over a lot of things. So it is important how to express that doubt and how you can get others to confirm your information. In Korean one of the ways is through -(으)ㄴ/는지. This grammar pattern is quite nifty.

When, What, Where Of -(으)ㄴ/는지

If you think about it, you use a sentence with “whether”, “what”, “where”, “how”, etc. a lot in your daily conversations. Not to simply ask questions, but to confirm what you think or believe. You use them to seek confirmation from others. Now in Korean they generally don’t use those words for that purpose. Instead they use other ways and one of those ways is -(으)ㄴ/는지.

The Korean grammar pattern -(으)ㄴ/는지 can mean all those question words and more. It is a method to either ask for confirmation of others or express you feel uncertain about something you think. This pattern is especially useful as it clearly indicates that you need more information when you it in a question.

Furthermore you will often see in the clause that follows the -(으)ㄴ/는지 part with verbs such as 알다 (to know), 모르다 (to not know), 궁금하다 (to be anxious; to be curious), 질문하다 (to ask a question), 조사하다 (to investigate), 알아보다 (to look into), 생각나다 (to remember, to recall), etc.

3 Ways to Use -(으)ㄴ/는지

The pattern -(으)ㄴ/는지 is generally used in three specific ways give or take. These ways of using have their own specific uses and I think you will find all three of them quite useful.

1. Question word + Verb -(으)ㄴ/는지

  • Example: 알랰 씨가 공원에서 무엇을 하는지 알아요?
  • Translation: Do you know what Alec is doing in the park?

2. Verb 1 -(으)ㄴ/는지 + Verb 2 -(으)ㄴ/는지

  • Example: 헨드리크 씨가 독일 사람인지 네덜란드 사람인지 몰라요.
  • Translation: I don’t know whether Hendrik is German or Dutch.

3. Verb 1 -(으)ㄴ/는지 + 안 Verb 2 -(으)ㄴ/는지

  • Example: 입원이 필요한지 안 한지 몰라요
  • Translation: I don’t know if I need to be hospitalized or not?

How To Use

The rule set for the pattern -(으)ㄴ/는지 might seem a bit overwhelming. Though it is merely a matter of getting used to it. Like noun modifying verbs and adjectives, it is important to know whether you are dealing with an action verb or a descriptive verb. For your enjoyment we will go over all possible tenses.

Confirming Information: -(으)ㄴ/는지
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A shortened version of how to use -(으)ㄴ/는지.

Present Tense

The present tense is perhaps the most complicated. You need to know type of verb for this tense. There are two major groups:

  1. Action verbs and 있다
    This group is the easiest in the present tense. Regardless the verb stem the ending you use in this situation is always -는지.
    Example:

    • 일하다: 일하 + 는지 = 일하는지
    • 먹다: 먹 + 는지 = 먹는지
  2. Adjectives and 이다
    Adjectives are a bit more complicated than action verbs, though not by much. Here you need to consider whether the stem ends in a batchim (final consonant) or not. If it does end in a batchim the ending is -은지, if not it becomes -ㄴ지. For the copula verb 이다 it is always 인지.
    Example:

    • 크다: 크 + ㄴ지 = 큰지
    • 높다: 높 + 은지 = 높은지
    • 이다: 이 + ㄴ지 = 인지

Past Tense

When it comes to the past tense you needn’t worry about the complexity of the present tense. Regardless the verb type, the rules remain the same. However, in the past tense you will need to adhere to the rules you follow for the past tense in general:

  1. If the verb stem ends in or contains ㅏ or ㅗ, you use -았는지.
  2. If not, you use the ending -었는지.
  3. For 하다  verbs the ending becomes 했지.

Future Tense

The last tense is the future tense. You generally only use action verbs in the future tense with tis pattern. The rules are quite similar to the rules you already know for the future tense:

  1. If the verb ends in a batchim (final consonant), the ending becomes -을 건지.
  2. If the verb ends in no batchim, the ending turns into  -ㄹ 건지.

For all tenses, however, you need to keep the irregular verbs strongly in mind, lest you mess up.

With the explanation and the conjugation rules you are all set to start asking after more information when in doubt.