그랬다 in [~ㄹ/을걸 그랬다]/[~지 말 걸 그랬다]

Flooooooooor

Senior Member
English - USA
Hi all,

This is transcribed from Question #21 of the Listening Section of the 37th TOPIK II Exam, released for students to use for test preparation. (Materials can be accessed here.)

A: 예전에 가입해 놓은 쇼핑몰에서 개인 정보가 유출됐다고 연락이 왔는데 뭘 어떻게 해야 되는 거야?​
B: 개인 정보 유출? 홈페이지에 들어가서 비밀번호부터 바꿔야지.​
A: 자주 이용하지도 않는데 가입하지 말 걸 그랬어.​

My question is not about the meaning of A's final utterance. Thanks to other example sentences on 네이버 사전, and to the thorough explanation at How to Study Korean, I was able to learn the meaning. My question is about the use of 그랬다.

How to Study Korean says:
The word 그랬다 is often placed after the ~ㄹ/을걸 construction for no real reason – and I have never seen or heard anything to suggest that adding “그랬다” changes the meaning in any way.
But what exactly is the grammatical role of 그랬다 in 가입하지 말 걸 그랬어, and does this role relate to the fact that 걸 ends with ㄹ, indicating an abbreviated form of 것을?

I know that when 그랬다 is used as a past tense verb, it can mean:

"did it/that", as in a sentence like 그저 장난으로 그랬어. ("I did it just for fun."); or​
"said", as in a sentence like 수잔이 네가 다이어트 한다고 그랬어. ("Susan told me you were on a diet.")​
(Examples from 네이버 사전.) Is it obvious to native speakers that one of these meanings is at play in the phrase ~하지 말 걸 그랬어요? Is ~하지 말 the object of the verb 그랬다?

Thanks for any perspective you can give on this question!
 
  • pcy0308

    Senior Member
    Korean
    sHello Flooooooooor,
    I wouldn't say "~하지 말 것" is the object of the verb "그랬다." Also, neither of those two definitions you've provided are obvious in the above given sentence. Rather, in the sentence given ("...가입하지 말 걸 그랬어"), the use of "그랬어" does not add much meaning to the sentence. For example, you could remove it without altering the meaning of what the narrator is trying to say: "가입하지 말 걸..." "먹지 말 걸..." "공부좀 할 걸..." Yes, removing it makes these sentences much more colloquial (notice that the omission results in an ellipsis/a suspension point).

    To better understand what "그랬어" means in this case, It would be better to look at the expression "~걸 그랬어" as a whole rather than dividing it up: "~걸 그랬어" literally translates to "I should have...", expressing one's regret for doing/not doing something. Hope this helps!
     
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    Flooooooooor

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Hi pcy0308,

    Thank you for this information! One quick follow-up question. You say:
    To better understand what "그랬어" mean in this case, It would be better to look at the expression "~걸 그랬어" as a whole rather than dividing it up.
    It seems, then, that it is best to learn this grammar structure as a single, atomic unit (albeit one whose ending can be elided in more casual speech). Does this mean that to native speakers, there really is not any meaningful breakdown of the expression into discrete parts?

    To contrast, I believe that we could express a similar meaning of regret by saying ~았/었으면 좋았을 텐데, but we can divide this expression into many parts, where each contributes to the overall meaning, and importantly, we know why each part contributes that meaning. We can even do a rough word-for-word translation: "if had done" + "would have been good" + "[added nuance of regret]".

    ~걸 그랬어, it seems, is different in that there is not even a rough word-for-word translation. Is that correct?

    Thank you again!
     

    pcy0308

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Hello Flooooooooor,
    Personally, I'd say no, breaking the expression "~걸 그랬어" would not really help you understand its meaning any better.

    If one insists on a word-to-word literal translation...
    "~(할)걸/(하지말)걸..." would translate to "should have done/should not have done,"
    and like you specified above, "그랬어" in the sentence could simply be adding that nuance of regret.
    Then again, this would seem redundant as "~걸..." implies that the speaker is regretting his or her action.
    Another way to look at the expression would be defining "그랬어" as "should have done."
    i.e. "I should have done 'not doing what I am regretting.'"
    i.e. "I should have committed to 'not doing what I am regretting.'"
    This sounds repetitive and strange. I personally think breaking "~걸 그랬어" overcomplicates things.
    Understanding its meaning as a single phrasal unit seems more practical. Hope this helps!
     
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