-느니(보다) – “I would rather…”, “I prefer…”, “Rather than…it’s bettter to…”, “Compared to”
In Korean, there are a few ways in which you can express preference. The -느니 grammar pattern is one of them, and is also one of the more useful ones. Please note that it can also come in the form of -느니보다 without any change in meaning.
So how does this differ from the other ways of expressing the same thing? Well first of all, let’s take a look at how we use it.
- Only action verbs!
- A proposal, suggestion or a request (like -하세요) can also follow.
- Is used both in speaking and in writing.
A Closer Look
The second clause (the part that comes after -느니), although undesirable by the speaker, is preferred over the first clause. In other words, we compare two bad things, and we choose the second option, even though we don’t really want that either.
If you are familiar with the -는 것보다 grammar pattern (similar meaning, different nuance), maybe you can spot a major difference. With -는 것보다, we simply state our preference, that something is better than the other thing. Even if we prefer something over something else, the other alternative might still be considered postitive (it’s not implied). But with 느니, the first option is always considered to be negative.
You’ll often see 차라리 (rather) and 아예 (at all, entirely, never) used in conjunction with -느니. This is to further emphasize the speaker’s preference. If this somehow confuses you, think about how you in English can say “I would much rather…” to emphasize the meaning. Of course, as always in Korean, this is a loose translation so it’s not completely accurate.
This expression is also identical in meaning with the less common –ㄹ 바에(야) 차라리/아예.
A popular way to use this grammar pattern is to say “I’d rather die than…”, which can be done by saying:
…느니 차라리 죽는다. or 죽는 게 낫겠다.
So if you REALLY don’t like listening to someone, you can say:
너의 말을 듣느니 차라리 죽는 게 나아. – I’d rather die than listen to you speak.
- 이런 맛이 없는 음식을 먹는니 차라리 굶겠다. – I’d rather starve than eat this kinda of tasteless food.
- 이렇게 날마다 야근하느니 직장을 옮기는 게 어때요? – Why don’t you change jobs instead of working night overtime every day like this?
- 이렇게 사느니 차라리 죽는 게 낫겠어요. – I’d rather die than live like this.
Overall, a relatively simple grammar point as it only has one conjugation and you don’t have to worry about using it in improper places since it’s used in both writing and speaking. Think of -느니 similarly as you think of -보다. Think of it as you are marking the clause you want to compare against.
- 야근하다- to work overtime
- 직장을 옮기다 – to change job
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By Kimchi Cloud
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