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In the conversation:

가: 나 슬픈데.
나: 왜 그래?

그래 refers to 슬퍼, or if I'm not mistaken 당신 슬퍼.

Given the example above, what does 그래 refer to in this sentence?

이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 그래?

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I think there are two ways to read the sentence. (I'm not sure if other native speakers would feel the same: feel free to chime in.)

  1. "-하려고 그러다" can be used as an idiom to mean "-하려고 하다" (is going to...). In that way, the sentence is the same as:

이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 해? = How are you going to explain this to your wife?

(For some reason, here "-하려고 그래" feels much more natural for conversation.)

  1. Literally, 그래 (or 그러다) means "doing that thing": what "that thing" means is inferred from the context. For example:

은미한테 도대체 왜 그랬어? = Why did you do that to Eunmi?

내가 어떤 사람인지 보여주려고 그랬다. 왜? = I did it to show what kind of person I am. Why?

Using this sense, it's difficult for me to find a literal translation of the original sentence to English, because English has restrictions on how to build a "how"-question. So let's consider a possible answer (which is not really a natural answer for the question, but understandable):

[이걸 내 아내에게 사고가 났다고 설명하려고] 이런다. = I'm doing this [with the intention to explain this to my wife as an accident].

(I changed 그런다 to 이런다, because using 그런다 here would almost guarantee the reading of case 1 (-하려고 그런다 = -하려고 한다).)

And you can think of the original question as asking for "사고가 났다고" part. So, the (more-or-less literal) reading of the question can be:

You are doing it and then going to explain this to your wife how?

(As you can see, the meaning is almost the same as case 1, so other Korean speakers might feel that I'm making an unnecessary distinction.)

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  • Let me first thank you for your great effort to answer my question. If I got it right, can I say that 그래 in my conversation refers to 설명해. In other words and although it is not very sound, 이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 설명해 is very close to the meaning carried by the original sentence. Jun 2 '17 at 12:40
  • No, not at all. "그래" refers to whatever the listener is doing right now, and clearly 설명 is something they are expected to do in the future, so they cannot be the same action. It's basically the difference between breaking a vase and explaining how that happened. You can ask "Why did you break it?" but cannot say "Why did you explain it?"
    – jick
    Jun 2 '17 at 15:52
  • Could you please give me another example by substituting 이걸 and 그래 with direct noun and verb, respectively. Jun 3 '17 at 9:59
  • Hmm, one example could be: "차가 없어진 걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 여기에 사인을 하는 거야?" (You are signing this! How are you going to explain the absence of the car to your wife?) Imagine someone is selling his wife's car without the wife knowing.
    – jick
    Jun 3 '17 at 15:14
  • Thank you once again for your answers and patience. You make a great Korean language teacher! Jun 3 '17 at 15:34
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그래 means 'Do'.

이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 그래?

In here, 그래 means 'Some doing cause 이걸'(cheat on other girls, or something else)

Generally, 그래 can skip.

이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 그래? equals 이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고?

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  • Does it differ if 그래 was replaced with 해? Jun 1 '17 at 5:54
  • Not exactly same. But you can use it because it depends on the context. For example, You can use '이걸 네 아내에게 어떻게 설명하려고 해?'. But you can't use '왜 해?' instead of '왜 그래?'
    – Newkie
    Jun 1 '17 at 8:39
  • Your answer is short but make a lot of sense. Could you please give me another example by substituting 이걸 and 그래 with direct noun and verb, respectively. Jun 3 '17 at 10:00

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