It looks like the future form of 는 게 아니라, I just want to know how different are its nuances compared to 는 게 아니라. It's difficult to find examples, so that's something that has kept me from fully understanding this grammar. Thank you.

  • Is this the usage you are asking about? howtostudykorean.com/upper-intermediate-korean-grammar/… . Please add more details if possible. Sample sentences from the book you are following, for example
    – user17915
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 15:47
  • @user17915 yes, that usage, but they don't explain the future tense in that page. I found the future form is explained here: ohmykorean.com/?p=1859 but I don't think is enough information. Thank you.
    – Vicky E
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 23:13

1 Answer 1


You mentioned the future tense, but, in a normally ordered sentence, the form of the last verb or adjective governs the tense because there are relative and absolute tenses in the Korean language. Please refer to this to grasp the meaning of relative tense with some pictures.

In general, ...는 게 아니라 (relative present) and ...을 게 아니라 (relative future) are used to contrast two things (I would say that 아니라 does not indicate any tense here):

  • 옷은 보는 게 아니라 입는 것이다. (Clothes are not things you see but things you wear.)

  • 검은 옷만 입는 게 아니라 파란 옷도 입는다. (1. I do not always wear dark clothes; I wear blue/green clothes, too. / 2. I am going to wear not only dark clothes but also blue/green clothes.)

  • 지금 입을 게 아니라 겨울에 입을 옷을 샀다. (I (have) bought clothes to wear them not in this season but in winter.)

The first example sentence can be an answer to the question: "How do you define clothes?" Because it ends with 것이다, it is the absolute present. You should note that the second one relates to either absolute present tense or absolute (near) future tense, which is normal for the Korean language. For the third example, wearing follows buying (You buy clothes and then wear them), so you can see that ...을 게 아니라 here indicates the relative future whereas 샀다 indicates the absolute past.

The clause including ...는 게 아니라 and ...을 게 아니라 can also be a reason for the action said in the following clause, because you can use 아니라 instead of 아니라서:

  • 검은 옷만 입는 게 아니라 파란 옷도 샀다. (I do not always wear dark clothes, so I (have) bought blue/green clothes, too.) = 검은 옷만 입는 게 아니라서 파란 옷도 샀다.
  • 검은 옷만 입을 게 아니라 파란 옷도 샀다. (I (have) bought blue/green clothes, too, because I was(/am) not going to wear dark clothes only.) = 검은 옷만 입을 게 아니라서 파란 옷도 샀다.
  • 앉아만 있을 게 아니라 나가서 뭐라도 한다. (1. I am going out to do something because I am not going to be sitting still only. 2. I am doing something outside (at the moment) because I do not want to be sitting still only.) = 앉아만 있을 게 아니라서 나가서 뭐라도 한다.

As you see, the reason mentioned with ...을 게 아니라 (...을 게 아니라서) relates to the relative future.

...을 게 아니라 is, however, quite commonly used to suggest or order the listerner to do something else:

  • 검은 옷만 입을 게 아니라 파란 옷도 입어라. (Do not always wear dark clothes; wear blue/green clothes, too.)
  • 이렇게 앉아만 있을 게 아니라 나가서 뭐라도 해라. (Go out and do something, not just sitting still like this.)

검은 옷만 입을 게 아니라 shows that the speaker thinks the listener is always wearing dark clothes or that the speaker has just seen the listener wearing only dark clothes.

이렇게 앉아만 있을 게 아니라 shows that the listener is sitting still (without doing anything about something) at the moment.

These two examples suggest that ...을 게 아니라 alone relates to the present (The listener did, has done, or has been doing something, so she/he will do the same thing unless she/he change her/his minds).

Indeed, ...는 게 아니라 and ...을 게 아니라 are too ambiguous for language learners to use. Fortunately, we can avoid using these constructions. These clearer sentences may be used instead of the sentences I wrote above:

  • 옷은 보는 물건이 아니고 입는 물건이다.

  • 검은 옷만 입지는 않고 파란 옷도 입는다.

  • 겨울에 입을 옷을 미리 샀다.

  • 검은 옷만 입지는 않으니까 파란 옷도 샀다.

  • 검은 옷만 입지는 않을 생각이어서 파란 옷도 샀다.

  • 앉아만 있고 싶지 않아서 나가서 뭐라도 한다.

  • 검은 옷만 입지는 말고 파란 옷도 입어라.

  • 이렇게 앉아만 있지 말고 나가서 뭐라도 해라.

If I missed something or if this answer is far beyond your understanding, please leave a comment.

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