커녕

N은/는커녕 ~ | V기는커녕

한국어 문법은커녕 영어 문법도 제대로 모른다!
I can’t even get English grammar, let alone Korean grammar!

This pesky little grammar pattern is one which hasn’t particularly liked to stick in my memory. I attribute this to the following reasons:

  1. The word itself just looks & sounds a little different (to me)

And

2. The whole grammar pattern itself is completely backwards from what we would say in English.

I’ll color code an example from my favorite grammar dictionary (외국인을 위한 한국어 문법2) just to give a visual of just how backwards this is.

If I had to come up with a third reason why this doesn’t stick, I think it’s because it can be a little tough to pick out aurally. Speakers tend to breeze past the “커녕” bit and go straight to “Ν도 없다 / N도 못 하다.”

I did, however, find a good news clip in which the announcer clearly annunciates 커녕, right within the first 10 seconds of the clip. Listen for it here:

You may also notice that the announcer says, “보너스는커녕 월급조차 받지 못하는 노동자…”
조차 sometimes replaces 도. This translates roughly to even. It functions the same as 도, but it’s a bit more emphatic. Thus, the first segment of the clip (roughly) translates as follows:

With the New Year ahead of us, you may have gotten a bit of a bonus. If so, you are one very lucky person. Since the end of last year, about 29 million workers haven’t even received their salaries, let alone a bonus.

One final note on usage: this is used for negative situations. 
Thus, you can’t say something like the following: 요리는커녕 피아노도 잘 칩니다.
But you can say: 나는 김치찌개는커녕 라면도 제대로 못 끓여!

In reality, this isn’t a difficult grammar pattern… But I’ve found myself racking my brain to remember it time and time again. Hey, maybe it will actually stick this time!

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