-게 되다 – “X ended up happening”

How to attach it:

Very simple. Just attach it to the root of the verb. Remember, all verbs end in 다. Remove 다 and you have the root.

This principle can be used in the past and the present tense. It also does work in the future tense, but because of its meaning, it seldom is used in the future tense.

In the past tense, the verb that you attach it to does not get conjugated to the past tense. The particle still just gets added to the root, and then 되다 gets conjugated.

Example:

가다 = to go

Present tense: 가게 돼 = “[I] end up going.”

Past tense: 가게 됐어 = “[I] ended up going.”

This grammatical principle should not be used with adjectives.


What it means:

This grammatical principle changes the meaning from “X happened” to “X ended up happening”. Its meaning is that you didn’t set out with the goal of doing X, but X is how it ended up playing out. It can be because of circumstances outside your control, or it can be that you were staunchly against doing X but ended up caving and just doing it, or it can be because someone else really wanted you to do X, so you did it even though it wasn’t the way you yourself would have done it.

Before I get into multiple lyric examples below, I’m going to pull apart one single instance. Last year a reader emailed me asking for an explanation of the first line of DNA and I had so much fun explaining it to her I’ll include it here so you can see just how much nuance gets lost in song translation and how rich the Korean language is.

In my translation on this site, I have translated the first few lines of DNA as:

I recognized you at first sight
as if we had been calling to one another.
The DNA in my blood vessels tells me
that it’s you I’ve been wandering in search of.

However, the first line in Korean is 첫눈에 널 알아보게 됐어. You can see that it ends in the grammatical principle we’re studying in this lesson. It is attached to the verb 알아보다, which means “to recognize by sight”.

If -게 되다 wasn’t used, and the sentence was just “첫눈에 널 알아봤어.” then it would simply mean “I recognized you at first sight”. However, because -게 되다 is used, the meaning changes to, “I ended up recognizing you at first sight.” That sounds odd, but when you consider it in the context of the complete 4 lines I’ve included above, it creates the meaning that even though I’ve been wandering in search of someone, I didn’t meet you with the intention of seeing if you were the person I’d been searching for. And yet, when I saw you, I recognized instantly that it was you I’d been searching for.”

Isn’t that amazing? The actual meaning is so much more nuanced than what I’ve been able to convey in a single condensed English line. I heart the Korean language.


Examples:

Some of these translations are a little different from how I’ve translated them within the song translation, just so you can see the full meaning for the purpose of this lesson.

Filter
넌 오직 나만을 원하게 돼. – “You end up wanting only me.”
Original verb: 원하다 = to want

Epiphany
그럴수록 내 맘속의 폭풍을 감당할 수 없게 돼. – “But as things go on I end up not being able to bear the storm inside my heart.”
Original verb: 감당하다 = to bear, to manage

이불킥 (Embarrassed)
난 또 니 앞에서 이상한 짓만 골라 하게 돼. – “Again I end up doing nothing but weird stuff in front of you.”
Original verb: 하다 = to do

Airplane by j-hope
신경 안 써 그저 웃게 돼. – “I don’t care. I just end up laughing/smiling.”
Original verb: 웃다 = to laugh/smile

Fake Love
나도 내가 누구였는지도 잘 모르게 됐어. – “Even I ended up being unsure who I was.”
Original verb: 모르다 = to not know

Let Me Know
꿈꾸는 것처럼 우린 불꽃처럼 탔다가 재만 남게 됐잖아 – “As if in a dream, we burned like a flame and ended up becoming nothing but ash.”
Original verb: 남다 – to be left/remaining

A Brand New Day
내 안의 목소리를 듣게 됐어 – “I ended up hearing the voice inside me.”
Original verb: 듣다 = to hear/to listen to


-게 되다 grammar