My language book has the following conversation (excerpt):

  • 모레까지 꼭 해야 하는데.
  • 친구 중에 번역을 많이 해 본 친구가 있기는 해. 소개해 줄까?

I'd assume the somewhat literal translation of the relevant sentence would be: "Between my friends there's one who has a lot of experience translating."

What I don't understand is how the -기는 하다 grammar alters the meaning here. The explanations for this grammar I've found online (contrasting a second sentence, while acknowledging a first one) don't make much sense to me in this context. Is the urgency (conveyed by the first speaker) being acknowledged here? How would you translate this into English (or perhaps German or Hungarian)?

To phrase the question more generally: what does this grammar mean if there's no contrasting sentence to follow it up?

  • To make things more frustrating, the book uses this conversation to introduce this grammar for the first time, but all the remaining examples are completely different from this usage (so you can't even try to infer the meaning from multiple examples).
    – akosch
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 23:00
  • 1
    this does not alter any meaning and your assumption is correct
    – user17915
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 0:43
  • 1
    It does alter the meaning but it cannot be directly translated to English-like languages. ~긴 하다 delivers the speaker's hesitation or dissatisfaction even though (s)he admits that there is a fact (s)he cannot deny. Something like "for what it's worth...", "although this may not be what you're looking for..."
    – Coconut
    Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 17:18
  • 2
    The nuance added by -기는 하다 depends on the context. For your example sentence, -기는 하다 emphasizes a fact adding the speaker's unsureness, as Coconut's mention suggests. (The speaker is unsure about whether her/his friend will help someone else when she/he asks.) The point is that 는 is a marker for implicit or explicit comparison/contrast; 는 adds such a nuance, so you cannot omit 는.
    – Klmo
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


Although @user17915 already confirmed in a comment that your assumption is basically correct, I'll try to add a little more based on my experience.

First two comments:

  • In common usage you will more often see/hear ~기는 in the contracted form ~긴.
  • You will also see this construction but with the original verb repeated instead of 하다. In your example, this would be "있기는 있다" or "있긴 있다."

Although the literal meaning is the same, to me, this form puts some more emphasis on the fact that the statement is in fact true or does in fact happen. As a native English speaker I might express it this way: "I do have a friend who has a lot of translation experience," rather that just a straight "I have a friend who has a lot of translation experience."

In this example there's no contrasting statement, but the same concept works well when there is a contrasting statement. For example: "그 신발 예쁘긴 한데 너무 비싸다." = "Although those shoes are pretty, they're too expensive."

Edit to contrast with the ending ~지

I realized that without hearing voice tone, the English examples I wrote could also sound more like the Korean ~지, which is used to definitively confirm something (in a declarative sentence). In my shoe example we could have something like

"네 신발 예쁜데 비쌌나?" "비쌌지!"

"Your shoes are pretty. Were they expensive?" "Yeah they (definitely) were!"

This use of ~지 would not typically be followed by a contrasting statement.

  • Thank you for your answer. @Coconut suggests in a comment that the grammar does alter the meaning (albeit only slightly), so I won't accept this as the answer for now.
    – akosch
    Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 19:28
  • I think @Coconut and I are saying the same thing. It doesn't change the literal content of the sentence, but changes the nuance of how the speaker is presenting that content. And as Coconut says, it has a feeling of "Well, this thing is true..." + (possibly) "but..." Of course expressing these nuances from one language to another is never perfect. It's fair to wait for a native speaker to answer. I'm not that. My experience is based on living in Korea for several years now.
    – kaylimekay
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 2:21
  • I made an edit because the way I wrote the English examples could come across more like ~지.
    – kaylimekay
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 2:41
  • In my opinion, this answer is acceptable. I would just add that 하다 is a pro-verb or pro-adjective in such a construction. For the OP's example, 하다 is the pro-adjective for 있다.
    – Klmo
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 17:55

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