겠 for future or intention

So here’s the deal.  I’m going to teach you how to use the infix 겠 to indicate the future tense or intention.  But there’s something you need to remember.  Textbooks lie to you.  And so does the title of this post.  Textbooks are fond of presenting grammar patterns with headers like this:

Using -겠 to indicate future or intention
Expressing the future tense with -겠
겠 = future tense

The problem is that all of these titles (and their myriad permutations) are misleading.  So before we can move on you need to know the following.  No kidding, make sure you understand this.

1.  When Koreans want to express their intention or the future tense they might use 겠.  They don’t have to because there are lots of other ways to express future tense or intention.  겠 just happens to be one way of doing so.

2.  Likewise, when you hear Koreans using the infix 겠, there’s a possibility that it could mean future or intention.  But it doesn’t have to because the infix 겠 is also used for other things, like conjecture, guessing, or to raise the politeness level of certain phrases.

겠 differs from other forms of “future”, “intention” and “will” in that it is usually used in formal settings and phrases.  겠 usually appears in newscasts (or any other broadcast for that matter), newspapers, and other forms of communication aimed at a non-specific audience.

Note:

  • Although you can use 겠 to mean 1st person future/intention, or to inquire about 2nd person intention; you cannot use it for 3rd person future or intention.  In other words, the subject must be either 1st or 2nd person.
  • And although it’s perfectly acceptable to use 겠 in spoken Korean, most people use the pattern ‘-ㄹ거예요’ because it’s much more colloquial.
  • In colloquial speech, 겠 is far more often used for speculation and conjecture than it is for future and intention.
  • The negative is formed by adding -지 않겠어요 to the verb stem, or using 안 (verb stem)겠어요.

In this particular usage, 겠 doesn’t really carry any special weight or other meaning.  (In other words it merely expresses tense, not aspect or modality.)  It simply expresses futurity.

To use the pattern, all you have to do is attach 겠어요 or 겠습니다 to the verb stem.  Here are some examples:

내일은 비가 오겠습니다.
It’s going to rain tomorrow.  (matter of fact statement, no guessing or conjecture.)

다음 주말에 부산에 가겠습니다.
I’m going to Busan next week.  (just matter of fact futurity.  It’s gonna’ happen.)

So remember, 겠 can be used to express 1st person future/intention or to inquire about 2nd person intention.  And while it can be used in spoken Korean, it’s mostly found in broadcasts, newspapers, etc.

6 thoughts on “겠 for future or intention

  1. To be honest, I don’t think teaching ‘겠’ on its own is helpful to Korean learners. You are giving it a meaning and significance that it doesn’t have. Teach it WITHIN a context.

  2. Worst. Article. Ever. I want my 5 minutes back. Do you even know how to use the words “likewise” and “futurity”?

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  4. 정말 감사합니다. 제가 다른 사람들이 쓴 것을 읽어서 그렇게 생각하지 않습니다. 대단히 끌이었습니다. 도와주고 싶운 누가 진심으로 진절하나 봅니다. 그러니까 듣지 말고 계속 필요한 사람들이 도와줍시다 그리고 틀린 걸 하면서 배울게요. What I mean is that making and helping others is itself a good thing. And I think you did a good work, it is lack of examples but you wrote some explanaitions. I think it was worthly to read it.

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