I came across a song called Sarang hae (I love you). Part of the lyrics go:

멀리 떠나버련

못 잊을 님이여

Meolli tteonabeoryeon

Mot ijeul nim i yo

It is rather unfortunate that this part of the lyrics only appears in this private video as far as youtube is concerned. Anyway, I analysed this as follows:

  • Meolli (which sounds an awful lot like an English name :) ) means "far away";
  • Tteonabeoreyeon is, I guess, a form of tteonada, "to leave", but I couldn't find it on the Wiktionary; the -n ending suggests a fusion with the particle neun, the topic particle;
  • Mot means "not", "cannot";
  • Ijeul is the Future Determiner form of itda (잊다), "to remember", and I'm not sure how such a form fits here;
  • Nim is explained as either 情人 (beloved person) or 第二人称代词 (second-person pronoun) by the Chinese Wiktionary;
  • Iyeo is explained as 정중하게 부르는 뜻을 나타내는 격조사. 흔히 감탄이나 호소의 뜻이 포함된다 by Korean Wiktionary, which translates to Shows will of polite address. Often includes admiration and appeal..

From this analysis I gather this bit is talking about them two being far apart and having almost forgotten each other. However, I am not sure it is correct. In particular, I am not sure about the -n ending; I cannot understand that future determiner; and "nim iyeo" is completely guessed. So how do the various bits fit together and what do these two lines mean?


3 Answers 3


The correct spelling is 멀리 떠나버린 못 잊을 님이여.

멀리 – far
떠나버린 – (who) has left (past adjective form of 떠나버리다. 떠나다 means "leave" and the -버리다 ending intensifies the feeling.)
못 – cannot
잊을 – (who) will forget (future adjective form of 잊다)
님 – honorific word for an esteemed person. Hard to translate on its own. "beloved person", as you said would fit.
-이여 – Archaic vocative

Putting it together:

Oh you, who has gone far away, who I cannot forget!

To make the structure more clear:
멀리 떠나버린 님이여 Oh, you who has gone far away
(내가) 못 잊을 님이여 Oh, you who I cannot forget


I do not think I will be able to satisfy you completely with this answer, but here goes:

  • "떠나버련" - "[he] who has left." You are right in saying that 떠나다(tteonada) means "To leave." The -버련(beoreyeon) suffix turns it into some form of Present Perfect (Now, I might be wrong there.)
  • "못 잊을" - "that cannot be forgotten." That is what the song intends to say by using that Future Determiner form.
  • "님이여" - -님 is a suffix used to denote respect. 이어 is a particle attached to a noun. It makes the noun independent from the sentence. In this case, the noun I used "[he]" as a placeholder for becomes independent. The particular orders used to construct the Korean language makes it impossible (for me, at the very least) to translate the entire lyrics in the order it was written. Putting it together, I get:

[He] who has left

That cannot be forgotten.

  • 2
    -버리다 attached to a verb usually conveys a nuance of "totally", or simply some stronger feeling than the normal verb. It's often not translatable. In this case, the person didn't just walk away, they are completely gone.
    – 파울울
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:37
  • But if nim is a suffix, how come it starts a word?
    – MickG
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:45
  • 1
    @MickG It is a suffix, but it is also an honorific. As to why it can be used to start a word, I've only seen it used that way in literature, like music lyrics. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_honorifics#-nim Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:51
  • 1
    Everybody has flaws ;) Don't worry, keep studying!
    – 파울울
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 22:37
  • 1
    @파울울 As we say, 화이팅! Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 22:38

Just one thing about "님" as the above explanations are incorrect. When 님 is suffix, it is used to show respect. e.g.) 선생님, 사장님, 사모님; 파울울님, 미키님, 스티브님, etc. Then, there is a case when 님 is used as noun, meaning "beloved". So, 못 잊을 님이여..can be roughly translated as "My beloved, I won't be able to forget you." or "Beloved, how can I forget you?"

But as a noun, 님 is no longer used. It was used before the Korean government set the rules for the correct usage of the language, and currently the correct word for beloved is 임 instead of 님. (e.g. 임을 위한 행진곡) There is a well known Korean poem 님의 침묵, silence of the beloved, written by 한용운. The poem is so famous that no one dared to correct its title according to the standard usage. Likewise, in the song 사랑해, the lyricist used 님 instead of 임, maybe because he wanted to evoke the more traditional Korean emotions between two lovers.

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