Listing and Contrast: Two Or Are Not The Same: (이)나 / 거나
Giving options or choices often involves one little omnipotent word: Or. This one little word is so important that is not only used in normal languages, but also in various forms of math, the language of science. In Korean there is not one, but two ‘or’. You need to use the correct or depending the situation. Time for a closer look at both (이)나 and 거나.
The first form is exclusively used by nouns. It behaves pretty much like a particle such as the topic particle 은/는. This means if you want to give a range of options between nouns, you use the particle (이)나. Like many particles, this one changes forms depending the last letter of the noun. If the noun ends in a vowel you use 나. And, if the noun happens to end in a consonant you have to use (이)나.
There is, however, one important thing we need to discuss about the “Noun Or”. You see this particle is used on nouns that often already needs/uses a different particle such as the topic particle I mentioned earlier. The rules here is pretty simple.
- When (이)나 is added to a subject (이/가), a topic (을) or an object (를), those particles are omitted and replaced by (이)나.
- When (이)나 is added to nouns with other particles it can be attached after the other particle. However, you can just as well omit them , which is the more natural option.
Correct: 커피숍에서나 공원에서 데이트해요.
Also correct, but more natural: 커피숍이나 공원에서 데이트해요.
Verb and Adjective Or
Besides (이)나, which is exclusively used with nouns, there is a different ‘or’ for verbs and adjectives 거나. In a way 거나 is a lot easier to use than (이)나 as it does not bother with the whole vowel-no vowel thing. To use it you simply attach it to whatever verb stem you need to attach it. In fact, you needn’t even worry about irregular verbs as it bothers not a single verb. Sometimes Korean can be easy!
While it is often just used with two verbs or adjectives, you can use it with three or more verbs. Try to keep it sensible nonetheless.. No one likes a sentences that keeps on going and going. There is little else to be said on this. As I said, it is a pretty easy verb ending to understand.
If you feel a real need to use a lot of 거나 or (이)나, you can also just change things up by writing new sentences for each options. As you perhaps know, Korean has something what I call connective adverbs. These adverbs link two words in the same way a conjunction. 아니면 is the adverb that is used when you giving options and can be translated as ‘or’ and ‘either’.