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Can the 는 be replaced with ㄴ/은/던 for past and ㄹ/을 for future?

The way I see it, it’s (noun)+동안, and the 는 makes the verb a noun. So the other ways should work, right?

However, I haven’t been able to find anything saying specifically “yes” or “no” or “yes, but only in certain cases.” I’ve only experimented with different translators, and those weren’t much help.

For example, are any of the sentences below correct?

A. 저는 텔레비전을 본 동안 제 동생은 숙제를 했어. B. 저는 텔레비전을 보던 동안 제 동생은 숙제를 했어.
C. 저는 텔레비전을 볼 동안 제 동생은 숙제를 할 거예요.

If any of those sentences are correct, then what’s the different between using the different ending and using 는 and a past/future final verb?

Thank you in advance.

1 Answer 1

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First of all, those sentences sound better rewritten this way.

A. 내가 텔레비전을 본 동안 (내) 동생은 숙제를 했다 / 했어 (or 제가 ... 했어요)
B. 내가 텔레비전을 보던 동안 (내) 동생은 숙제를 했다 / 했어.
C. 저는 텔레비전을 볼 동안 (제) 동생은 숙제를 할 거예요.

The polite 제가 doesn't work well with the plain 했어, and ditto with 내가 and 했어요. And the subject particle 이/가 is typical in a sub-clause because it is not supposed to receive the main focus of the sentence. 했어 is more of a colloquial speech form; for writing 했다 is usually better.

As for using 본, 보던, and 볼 with 동안, it is kind of a long story. The sentences are not wrong, but 보는 is more natural even when the main clause has those different tenses. Korean sub-clause tenses can be more unpredictable compared with the English rules which make them agree with the main clause one fairly closely. In Korean, the speaker's point of view sort of shifts to the time of the action, so we often (but not always) express the tense only in the main clause and leave the sub-clause in the present tense. It also varies a lot with the verb endings and other things that make the connection between the clauses. For instance, V/A-아/어서 connects the two parts very tightly, so the verb always remains in the present tense (그 사람이 그렇게 말해서 (never 말했어서) 그만뒀어요); on the other hand, V/A-기 때문에 is a fairly loose connector and its verb tense can easily change (그 사람이 그렇게 말했기 때문에 그만뒀어요 is more natural than 그렇게 말하기 때문에).

For your examples, the present tense -는 동안에 is the most natural partly because of the semantics. Watching TV is something you do continuously for a fairly limited duration, and for this kind of activities -는 동안(에) works best because -는 indicates something that is happening at the moment. Using 본 동안 for the past and 볼 동안 for the future is also possible in some cases. 보던 동안 sounds pretty unnatural for this example because 보던 doesn't work too well with a continuous activity.

As an example of how those phrases can be more or less natural depending on the particular use case, I'll show you an example of "while I worked for a certain company" which is a more abstract duration that lasted much longer.

  1. 내가 그 회사에 다닌 동안 우리 가족에게 많은 일이 있었다. Ok, but not the best.
  2. 내가 그 회사에 다니던 동안 ... Ok, perhaps better than 다닌.
  3. 내가 그 회사에 다니는 동안 ... Ok.

For more abstract or on-and-off activities of the past like this, 다니던 (from 다니다 = commute to, work at or frequent regularly) is a better choice than 다닌 which usually indicates a plain fact or the result of an action. -던 indicates past activities that repeated or lasted for a while, so 다니던 fits the situation of long lasting period with many things happening on and off. 다니는 also works fine, and might be the best choice if you want to describe it with more realism.

So I think there is no simple answer for all cases. Korean tenses varies a lot with many things. I'll give you another example that shows this, using the construct of doing something before, while, or after doing another thing.

  • 회사에 가기 전에 오늘의 스케줄을 점검했다. * 가 전에 (가기 = noun form of the verb)
  • 회사에 가는 동안에 오늘의 스케줄을 점검했다. * 가 동안에 (가는 = present tense determiner form)
  • 회사에 도착한 후에 오늘의 스케줄을 점검했다. * 도착 후에 (도착한 = past/completion determiner form)

You can see that the sub-clause forms and tenses vary, but note that they do according to their relation to the noun used (전, 동안, 후) and not with the main clause tense. You can change the main clause to the future (스케줄을 점검할 것이다) and the sub-clauses can stay exactly the same because the main clause pretty much has no bearing on the verbs (i.e. the sub-main clause relation is implied by the nouns 전, 동안, 후, so the verbs don't have to reflect it). So, all in all, it is hard to make a blanket statement about Korean sub-clause tenses.

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