[Korean grammar] -(으)ㄹ까 봐 Expressing Reasons

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가: 눈이 오는데 등산 가려고요?
Are you planning to go mountain climbing while it’s snowing?
나: 아니요, 눈 때문에 길이 미끄러울까 봐 등산화를 신고 나가려고요.
No, I put on my mountain climbing boots to go out because I was afraid the ground would be slippery.

가: 마크 씨, 시험 잘봤어요?
Mark, did you do well on your exam?
나: 아니요, 너무 못 봤어요. 시험에 떨어질까 봐 걱정이에요.
No, I didn’t do well at all. I am so worried that I failed it.

This expression indicates that the speaker did, or is doing, the action in the following clause out of worry or fear that the situation or action in the preceding clause has occurred or will occur. The 보다 of -(으)ㄹ까 봐 means to guess or think something. This expression can also be used in the form -(으)ㄹ까 봐서.

가: 어제 주영 씨가준 옷을 입어 봤는데 아주 잘 맞아요.
Yesterday, I tried on the clothes you (Juyeong) gave me, and they fit really well.
나: 옷이 좀 작을까 봐 걱정했는데 잘 맞는다니 다행이네요.
I was worried they’d be a little small, so it’s great that they fit well.

가: 커피를 많이 드시네요.
You sure do drink a lot of coffee.
나: 네, 이따 회의 시간에 졸까 봐 마시는 거예요. 졸면 안 되잖아요.
Yeah, I’m drinking it now lest I get drowsy during the meeting later today. I can’t get drowsy (as you know as well).

가: 여보세요? 엄마, 대구에 가는 기차를 잘 탔어요.
Hello? Mom, I (successfully) boarded the train to Daegu.
나: 그래? 다행이다. 길이 막혀서 네가 기차를 놓쳤을까 봐서 걱정했거든.
Really? That’s good to hear. I was worried you’d miss the train because of the traffic.

See also  [Korean grammar] -고 보니 Expressing Discoveries and Results

Because -(으)ㄹ까 봐 refers to the speaker’s worry about what is stated in the preceding clause, the following clause must state the action that is, or will be taken by the speaker. A clause in the future tense about a plan of action yet to be taken cannot be used.
• 시험이 어 려울까 봐 열심히 공부할 거예요. (X )
-> 시험이 어려울까 봐 열심히 공부했어요. (O)
-> 시험이 어려울까 봐 열심히 공부하고 있어요. (O)

>> You can click on the title of each grammar below to learn the other grammars which also express ‘Reasons’:
01. -거든요
02. -잖아요
03. -느라고
04. -는 바람에
05. -(으)ㄴ/는 탓에
06. -고 해서 
07. -(으)ㄹ까 봐

>> Full of Intermediate grammar: Click here

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