I came across this sentence 힘이 다할 때까지 which means as I understood "until (your) strength runs out". 힘이 means power/strength, and once I looked for 다할, it says it comes from the verb 다하다.

But what does the '-ㄹ' stands for after '다하'? I need more explanation about this verb and '-ㄹ' and its uses and if possible a few examples.

2 Answers 2


It's one of attributive endings (관형 어미) which transform a predicate (verbs, adjectives) into a modifier of the following noun. When attached to a sentence, they make the sentence something like a relative clause in English.

There are four common attributive endings -ㄴ/-은, -ㄹ/-을, -던, and -는. They express different tense and aspect/modal.

-ㄴ/-은 implies a true statement, meaning that X DOES actually have the property of what the predicate states. Can roughly be mapped into present perfect in English - something happened in the past and still effective.

  • 존이 집에 것을 알고 있어요?
    Do you know the fact that John has gone back to home?
  • 활짝
    fully bloomed flower
  • 깨끗 책상
    a neat desk

while -ㄹ/-을 attributes possibility, meaning that X may or will have the property. Adjectives do not go with -ㄹ/-을

  • 존이 집에 것을 알고 있어요?
    Do you know that John will go back to home?

  • 그런 일이 일어나면 존이 집에 것을 알고 있어요?
    Are you aware that, in such a case, John may leave to home?
  • 활짝 필 꽃봉우리
    a bud that will bloom

-던 attributes some property that was true at some point in the past, but not likely at present. Can be roughly mapped into past perfect, or past progress.

  • 여기가 수잔이 살 집이다.
    This is the place where Susan used to live. (she doesn't any more.)
  • 깨끗하 책상
    a desk that were neat

Finally, -는. It's the attributive form from the present tense sentential ending (종결 어미) -ㄴ다/-는다. So it can express

  • something happens now
  • something is determined to happen soon
  • something happens habitually

You can think of present tense in English, and they will mostly fit. And again, adjectives do not go with this.

  • much better answer than mine!!
    – Memming
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 1:54
  • 1
    Note that ㄴ is used to express relative clauses that were done in the past. For present tense, we should use 는 which is also common.
    – user237
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 6:06
  • So as I understood from your explanation, I'd say the sentence 힘이 다할 때까지 it literally means " until one's strength will end " ? .aren't those attributive endings related to time; -ㄴ when talking about something happened in the past and -ㄹ used when something might or will happen? isn't? I'd like to make sure that I understood well. thank you for your efforts. Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 13:26
  • @SCHGB: Added -는 to the answer. Thanks for pointing out.
    – krim
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 13:39
  • @Sarah Chaygani: Yes, you can think their differences on the time frame, in case of verbs/relative clauses.
    – krim
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 13:43

(Disclaimer: I'm not an expert in Korean grammar, but just a native speaker.)

It transforms a verb into an adjective form that qualifies the following noun. In the case of "다할 때", it qualifies "때" which means time. "다할 때" therefore means "the time when (*) runs out".

Another example would be "마를 때", which comes from "마르다" (to dry) + "때". It means "time at which (it) dries".

The noun "수" which means "case" or "possibility" can also come after verb-ㄹ form. For example, "힘이 다할 수도 있다" would mean "strength could run out"; and "마를 수도 있다" means "(it) could dry out".

More examples:

  • 갈 방법이 없다: there's no way to go (가다 (to go) -> 갈)
  • 죽지 않을 수만 있다면: only if I could not die (않다 (not) -> 않을)
  • 막을 도리가 없다: there's no way to block it (막다 (to block) -> 막을)

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