How To Show Regret In Korean (을 걸 그랬다)

The Korean grammar structure V + 을 걸 그랬다 is commonly used for self-reflection and is a way to express regret for not doing something one feels should have been done. This structure translates to ‘I regret not doing something I should have done’.

It’s important to note that 그랬다 can be omitted without altering the meaning.

Grammar Rule: Verb + 을 걸 그랬다

Examples of 을 걸 그랬다 in sentences

Let’s explore how this grammar is applied in various contexts:

이렇게 날씨가 나쁠 줄 알았으면 우산을 가져올 걸 그랬어요.
If I'd known the weather was this bad, I would have brought my umbrella (but I didn't).
더 일찍 한국어를 배울 걸.
I should have learned Korean earlier (but I didn't).
네가 오는 줄 알았으면 음식을 만들 걸.
If I'd known you were coming I would have prepared something to eat (but I didn't know, so I didn't prepare).

Expressing Regret for actions taken

By adding 지 마 before the main verb, the meaning shifts to express regret for an action taken:

질문을 하지 말 걸 그랬어요.
I shouldn't have asked (but I did).
지난 밤에 늦게까지 깨어있지 말 걸 그랬어요.
I shouldn't have stayed up late last night (but I did).
맥주를 마시지 말 걸 그랬어요.
I shouldn't have drunk so much beer (but I did).

Using it in question form

The question form of this structure, replacing 그랬다 with 그랬나?, is used for reflective inquiries:

여기에 더 일찍 올 걸 그랬나?
Should I have come here earlier? (Am I late?)
양복을 입을 걸 그랬나?
Should I have worn a suit? (Am I underdressed?)
그에게 말할 걸 그랬나?
Should I have spoken to him?


The 을 걸 그랬다 construction in Korean is a nuanced way to express regret about missed actions or mistaken actions.

Understanding this structure can enhance your ability to express complex emotions and reflections in Korean.

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