After lists and choices comes contrasting. I am going to discuss a few ways to make contrasts in Korean; two of which are verb endings: -지만 and -(으)ㄴ/는데.

Creating Contrast with Verb Endings

In English we create contrast by using the conjunction word ‘but’, for example. We so often use this little word in our daily conversations that I even believe that it is perhaps the most important conjunction word there is.

In Korean, you can indicate contrast using two methods, the same as with choices and lists in Korean. The first method is using verb endings. The second uses conjunctive adverbs. First we will go over the verb endings. Unlike the previous conjunctions, I am going to discuss two verb endings. The first verb ending is -지만. The second is -(으)ㄴ/는데.

Verb ending -지만

-지만 is the first verb ending we can use to express contrast between two sentences. You use it to clearly make that first part of the sentence is the opposite or the contrary of the second part of the sentence. Like the previous verb endings -고 and -거나, you needn’t worry about any irregularities when using -지만. If you happen to use it with the past tense -지만 becomes -었지만, -았지만 or -했지만.

Verb ending -(으)ㄴ/는데

-(으)ㄴ/는데 is the other way to express contrast between sentences, but I think it is a bit more complex to use than -지만. There are many reasons why I consider -(으)ㄴ/는데 more difficult. The first and obvious reason is that this verb ending does have a lot of things to consider when using it such as irregular verbs. Another reason is that it is highly similar to -지만, but it can have a clear different feeling when used. Lastly, you use -(으)ㄴ/는데 also to indicate the reason or background information, a use I might discuss later. In fact, -(으)ㄴ/는데 is a very important grammar topic in Korean as you will hear it often during Korean conversations.

As mentioned, using -(으)ㄴ/는데 is far more complex than the previous mentioned verb endings. You need to consider not only whether a verb is regular or irregular, but you also need to remember whether a verb is an adjective (descriptive verb) or an action verb. On the chart below you can see how to use the verb ending -(으)ㄴ/는데, but for the Korean irregular verbs you ought to read my series on them.

-(으)ㄴ/는데 Verb Ending Chart

Creating Contrast with Conjunctive Adverbs

There are many conjunctive adverbs in Korean that express a certain sense of contrast. These adverbs are even more diverse than the two verb endings -지만 and -(으)ㄴ/는데. The contrasting conjunctive adverbs I will deal with are: 그렇지만, 하지만, 그러나, 그런데, 그래도. They have their specific uses so it is important to know the difference between them.

그렇지만, 하지만 and 그러나

그렇지만, 하지만 and 그러나, all of these three have approximately the same meaning, but you use them somewhat differently. 그렇지만 you mainly use like the english ‘However’, while 하지만 is often used like ‘but’. However, you will see they can be used interchangeably. Sometimes though you will prefer one over the other.

그러나, on the other hand, you use more in writing rather than when talking to someone. In colloquial the preference goes to the simple 하지만 or 그렇지만. As you might guess the use of these three is derived from the verb ending -지만.


The conjunctive adverb 그런데 you can use in a few ways, just like the verb ending -(으)ㄴ/는데. The first way you can use it is to express a contrast. In this case it pretty much means the same as 그렇지만.

The other way you can use it is to give the reason or some background information where that comes to a surprise. In English we would use “and to my surprise” or “yet”.

  • Korean: 어제 명동에 갔어요. 그런데 거기에서 영화배우를 봤어요.
  • Translation: Yesterday I want to Myeongdong and to my surprise I saw a movie actor.


Lastly there is the conjunctive adverb 그래도. This is used when something is stated completely to the contrast of what might have been said in the previous sentence. In English we will translate this as ‘however’, ‘but still’ and ‘nevertheless’.

With -지만 and -(으)ㄴ/는데 I end my little short series on Korean listing and contrasting. I hope you have enjoyed reading my notes and perhaps they helped you understand something you did not before. If you have suggestions about Korean grammar or what I should focus on next, let me know in the comments below.


About Author

Nick is a someone who enjoys exploring new and different things. 2 years ago when he met his Korean friends he decided to go for it and learn Korean. Now he is struggling with the language while sharing an apartment with his Korean roomie.


  1. ㄴ/는데 really is difficult especially as you further studying Korean. I am still not exactly sure with the use of this yet. Guess have to take some time and to sort it all out before I can remember it by heart.

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