In one reference, it is said that this expression simply means that something does not meet a given standard. However, another goes on to say that this expression means "not at all." What is the full picture?

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    Do you happen to have the two reference sources handy? I'd kind of like to read the whole parts you refer too, because it is a little unclear without the context. Did they both give examples?
    – B. Alvn
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 12:29
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    Here is one excerpt: "However, one difference is that although the short pattern with 못 cannot appear with descriptive verbs, the corresponding long pattern with -지 못하- can. Resulting constructions express a strong negative meaning and often hint at the speaker's dissatisfaction that certain qualities are missing: ... 물이 깨끗하지 못해요. The water is not at all clean."
    – 94000d
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


Verb-root지_못하다 is the "long form" inability form...It means the speaker is unable to do the verb..it is not possible. It is rarely used with DVs (descriptive verbs or "adjectives") but in those rare cases when it is, the nuance of "dissatisfaction" is usually included.

For completeness, the two short forms are: 못_Verb and for Chinese-noun-based 하다 verbs (such as 주장하다), N_못_하다 (e.g. 주장 못 하다).

(Underscores above indicate "required" spacing, which is sometimes left out.)

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