There is a Korean song that i get addicted to it these day, so i said way not try to get what it says, so i started to analyse it, and i had to say Korean is truly a hard one. well here is where i get stuck again:

말해 했었던

  • 말해: to say
  • 야: ?
  • 했었던: for past perfect

Here is the context (the song lyrics) :

아무리 외쳐봐도

너에겐 들리지 않나 봐

매일 속으로만


말해야 했었던

널 향한 사랑의 말이야

Thank you for your attention

2 Answers 2


Let's focus on this final phrase:

말해야 했었던 널 향한 사랑의 말이야

First off, see that 의 말이야 is a form of that's what i'm talking about.
In other words, 사랑의 말이야 is then, love is what I'm talking about.

Now, getting closer to your question surrounding (아/어)야 했었던, let's first point out that everything in this phrase before 사랑 modifies that noun (which obviously means "love").

There are two modifying phrases for love:

말해야 했었던

널 향한

Let's take the 2nd one first since it's easier: 널 향한 is just to your direction, so the song is saying that love they're talking about is meant for/in the direction of "you/너".

Now for the trouble spot: vs 았(었,였)던.

~던 - A reminisced past action or continued action from the past is stated

Here are some examples:

이 음악은 내가 자주 듣던 것입니다 - I used to listen to this music often.

여기 있던 책을 누가 가져 갔나요? - Who took the book that was here?

~았(었,였)던 - A past action more clearly conveyed as having completed

떠들썩 했던 방이 갑자기 조용해졌어요 - The classroom which was noisy suddenly quietened down.

3년 전에 해어졌던 친구에게서 전화가 왔습니다 - I got a phone call from a friend who left three years ago.

** examples from Korean Grammar for International Learners, Yonsei University Press, 1988

말해야 했었던 사랑

We've left out so far the (아/어)야 해 portion of this, but that just means (as I think we already know) that one "must" do something.

To put all the pieces together then we have

말 + 해야 (하다) + 았(었,였)던 + 사랑

which we might piece together in pseudo language as

Things to say + must/needed to + recalling + love

which makes no sense of course, but that's because the ordering is off...but it should more properly translate to something like

the love that I should have (completely) told you about

  • @habibhassani It's a great lyric, very beautiful. Thank you for sharing it! Jan 26, 2018 at 16:29
  • Yeah it really is, i'm glad that you like it Dec 18, 2018 at 18:27

말해: to say

말해야 해: have to say

말해야만 해: have to say(emphasis)

말해야 했어: had to say

I hope this helps you.

  • Thank's it helped a lot, but what does it all means => "말해야 했었던" Jan 25, 2018 at 20:47
  • 1
    말해야 했어 and 말해야 했었어 are almost the same. but grammatically, 말해야 했었어 is closer to 'had had to say'. and..'~던' is the same with 'that' in this sentence 'it is the word of love that I had had to say'
    – henry
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:20

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