Popular catchphrase expressions: (verb stem)+기 있기 없기?

Here’s a question from reader L. Coimbra:

Hi, 안녕하세요? ^^
Thank you for the great job you’ve being doing spreading the Korean Language/Culture worldwide via internet. Could you explain to me what is the role of 있기 없기 in this grammatic structure: “verb stem+기 있기/없기”? I can understand the “verb stem+기” portion.

The is a popular phrase that comes from a comedic skit on the Korean TV show Gag Concert that airs on KBS2 on Sunday nights. The show has been running since 1999.

This expression is used prior to revealing something surprising, shocking, or secret. The phrase is not standard Korean and is only used by young girls (not men) to be funny or sound cute. If an adult uses this expression it must be used in a joking manner else the speaker will look childish.

Example 1 [Revealing a secret]: 말하다 to speak
Standard form 말하지 마세요. “Don’t say it.”
TV show form 말하기 있기 없기? “If I tell you (something), will you tell someone else or will you not tell someone else?”

Example 2 [Preventing anger]: 화내다 to be angry
Standard form 화내지 마세요. “Don’t be angry.”
TV show form 화내기 있긔 없기? “If I say it to you, will you be angry or not angry?”

Note: The Korean language doesn’t explicitly require the word ‘or’ and so putting 있기 없기 together is like asking, “which one (있기 or 없기) (I will or I won’t)?”

If the person’s answer is 없기 (I won’t …), you can procede to tell them the shocking information.

This expression is supposed to be fun and take some of the shock away from what you’re about to reveal.

Expect an article on this!


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