How To Say 'Barely' Or 'Hardly' In Korean (는 둥 마는 둥 하다)

The Korean grammar structure V + 는 둥 마는 둥 하다 is employed to convey actions performed with lack of wholeheartedness, enthusiasm, or completeness.

This pattern hints at some dissatisfaction or disappointment concerning a particular situation.

Grammar rule: Use V + 는 둥 마는 둥 하다 to signify an action done barely, half-heartedly, or in an unsatisfactory manner.

Examples of incomplete actions

To grasp the essence of this structure, let’s delve into some examples:

Situations of incompletion

밤새 이웃들이 큰 소리로 말싸움을 하는 바람에 저는 잠을 자는 둥 마는 둥 했어요.
Because my neighbours were arguing loudly last night I barely slept.
아침에 밥을 먹는 둥 마는 둥 하고 서둘러 나갔어요.
This morning I only ate a few mouthfuls of breakfast before hurrying out of the house.
저에게 부모님이 잔소리를 할 때 말을 듣는 둥 마는 둥 해요.
I only partially pay attention when my parents nag me.
시험을 위해 공부하는 둥 마는 둥 하고 합격하든지 말지 상관이 없어요.
I didn't really put much effort into studying for the test, so I'm not really bothered whether I pass or not.

Indicating displeasure

상사가 이력서를 읽는 둥 마는 둥 하고 휴지통에 그냥 버렸어요.
The boss barely gave the application form a glance before throwing it in the bin.
가사를 잘 몰라서 노래를 부르는 둥 마는 둥 했어요.
I didn't know the lyrics well so I only sang parts of the song.


By integrating “는 둥 마는 둥 하다” into your Korean linguistic arsenal, you’re better equipped to express feelings of disappointment, incompletion, or half-hearted actions in various contexts.

This expression can prove to be invaluable when discussing situations that did not meet expectations.

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