Advanced Korean Grammar: ~만도 못하다

Hidden in the interesting Korean phrase 짐승만도 못한 놈 is a Korean grammar construction that’s useful in a variety of situations – but I guess the original sentence is useful, too, if you want to insult someone… 

Let’s get started!

~만도 is most easily remembered as a contraction of 만큼 and ~도.

만큼 signifies an amount or quantity; it means “as much as”. Sad love songs frequently use this as 죽을 만큼 아프다, or “to hurt as much as dying”.

~도 is attached to nouns and sometimes verbs to emphasize or to say that this also is or happens. For example, 나도 김치를 좋아해 means “I too like kimchi.” We can assume that someone else already said they like kimchi, and the speaker’s saying they like it, too.

Sometimes ~도 can be translated as “even”. For example, “I waited for him every single day. I even sent him a letter.” becomes

내가 매일매일 기다렸다. 그에게 편지 보냈다.

In the phrase 짐승만도 못한 놈, ~만도 applies to 짐승, or beast.

짐승만도 = even as much as a beast

못한 = can’t do (from 못하다)

놈 = disrespectful term for a (generally male) person

Altogether, it becomes a phrase to describe someone who can’t even manage to do what a beast can do. Essentially, they’re no better than a beast – maybe even worse off than one.

Another sentence that uses this construction is:

나는 짚신만도 못한 게 아닐까 싶었다.

짚신 is a word for the straw shoes that Korean commoners used to wear. The speaker here is paraphrasing an old Korean phrase for describing someone who continually struggles to find someone to love. They’re someone who can’t even manage to do what straw shoes do – have a partner.

짚신만도 = even as much as straw shoes

못한 = can’t do

게 = (contracted form of 것이) thing

아닐까 싶다 = to wonder if (one isn’t ____)

Altogether, this translates to “I wondered if I was worse off than a straw shoe.” Koreans will know this references the fact that a straw shoe always has a partner; it’s always part of a pair.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

지금 재생 중

Okay, so it’s not the fabulous full five of BIG BANG – and it won’t be while they fulfill their military service – but Seungri’s back with a bop.

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