Conjecture: -(으)ㄴ/는/(으)ㄹ 것 같다
In the following posts I want to talk about a topic I have meant to tackle: conjecture. This essentially means expressing your supposing things. I will start with one of the most often used conjecture pattern in Korean: -(으)ㄴ/는/(으)ㄹ 것 같다. It has a few meanings so let’s see what it’s all about.
The first and primary function of -(으)ㄴ/는/(으)ㄹ 것 같다 is to expressing what you suppose happened in the past or the present. When you use it like that it can be translated into “looks like”, “sounds like” or “appears that”.
There is, however, a slight nuance difference between using -(으)ㄴ/는, the present tense, and -(으)ㄹ, the future tense. You use the present tense when you make your supposition based on a clear and definite basis. However, when you lack a direct basis and thus make a vague supposition you use the future tense, -(으)ㄹ. Let’s explain:
Image you see someone leaving your office with an umbrella and rain coat. Then you can say to someone: “비가 오는 것 같아요.”. Because you base your assumption on a clear direct observation.
However, if you see some dark clouds and think it is going to rain your supposition is more vague and thus you say: “비가 올 것 같아요”.
Indirect OpinionsKoreans often express their opinions using this pattern as to not come on too strongly.
Another important use, perhaps its most frequent use, is to express your opinion on something indirectly. This is done to be more polite, nonassertive and gentle in expressing an opinion which might be hurtful to the listener. Therefore don’t be surprised you hear Koreans use this pattern often when talking about their opinions as they never want to come on too strong.
Example: -음식 맛이 어때요? -좀 짠 것 같아요.
The How To
The careful observer might have noticed that the -(으)ㄴ/는/(으)ㄹ part of the pattern is an already discussed grammar pattern. It will therefore come to no surprise that this grammar expression thus adheres to the same rules. Of course, be aware of the irregular verbs as they end up having some shenanigans going on.
As a quick reminder -(으)ㄴ is the form for the past tense of verbs and the present tense of adjectives. -는 is the present tense of verbs. And lastly, -(으)ㄹ is the future tense for both adjectives and verbs. After that you just continue with 것 같다 with conjugating 같다 as needed.