[Korean grammar] 못 V-아/어요 (V-지 못해요) Negative Expression

저는 수영을 못해요.
(= 저는 수영하지 못해요.)
I can’t swim.

오늘은 술을 못 마셔요.
(= 오늘은 술을 마시지 못해요.)
I can’t drink today.

저는 노래를 못 불러요.
(= 저는 노래를 부르지 못해요.)
I can’t sing.

Grammar Focus:
This pattern expresses the subject’s lack of ability to do something or the fact that something does not go according to one’s wish or hope due to some external factor. It corresponds to the English ‘cannot’ and is formed by adding 못 in front of a verb or -지 못해요 to the end of a verb stem.
(See also V-(으)ㄹ 수 있다/없다- Ability and Possibility here)

A: 운전해요? Do you drive?
B: 아니요, 운전 못해요. 운전을 안 배웠어요.
No, I can’t drive. I never learned how.

A: 왜 밥을 안 먹어요? Why aren’t you eating?
B: 이가 아파요. 그래서 먹지 못해요.
My teeth hurt, so I can’t eat.


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