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절대 vs 결코/전혀/일절/꼭/무조건/아예 in Korean grammar

learning korean Apr 07, 2023
절대 in Korean means 'never', and 결코, 전혀, 일절, 꼭, 무조건, and 아예 are similar adverbs to 절대. Let's see the difference of them in Korean grammar.

- Question by: Deborah, United States
- Answered by: GJK Team

 A Korean learner asked this question.


절대 말 안 할 거예요.
I will never speak.

Why is this correct when there is a double negative? It looks like it should translate to “I will never not speak” since “말 안 할 거예요” translates to “I will not speak.”


 While 절대 can be translated to “never”, it also has the meanings of “absolute,” “completely,” “at all cost” or “no matter what.” Therefore, it can be used in both positive and negative contexts although it is more commonly used in negative sentences.


 So, when do we use 절대? You may notice that some sentences use 절대 and some others 절대로. Their meanings are actually identical and can be used interchangeably.


Usage #1 When expressing a strong sense of certainty or refusal to do something.

절대 안 돼!”

“Absolutely not” or “Never gonna happen.”


“저는 제 친구를 절대 배신하지 않을 거예요”

“I will never betray my friend.”

*배신하다: to betray


“이 사람은 절대 믿을 수 없어요.”

“I absolutely cannot trust this person.”

*믿다: to trust


Usage #2 Showing emphasis or intensity where it can be used to express strong convictions, beliefs or perseverance, or to emphasize the importance of something.

 “절대로 포기하지 마세요.”

 “You must never give up.”

 *포기하다: to give up


 “절대로 이 기회를 놓치지 마세요.”

 “Do not ever miss this opportunity.”

 *기회: opportunity *놓치다: to miss, to let go


 “이번 시험에서는 절대로 실패하지 않을 거예요.”

 “I will absolutely not fail this exam.”

 *시험: exam, test *실패하다: to fail


Usage #3 Implying a sense of permanence or immutability.

 “절대적인 권위”

 “Absolute authority”

 *절대적이다: to be absolute


 “이 노래는 절대 잊혀지지 않을 거예요.”

 “This song will never be forgotten.”

 *잊혀지다: to be forgotten


 “이 결정은 절대로 바뀌지 않을 거예요.”

 “This decision will never change.”

 *결정: decision *바뀌다: to be changed


 From the examples above, we can see that 절대 is an interesting term that can be used in various situations and contexts to convey a sense of conviction, certainty, or permanence.


 Other than 절대, there are several alternative words that have similar meanings that can be used in place of 절대 depending on the context and the intention of the sentence. Some of which are 결코,전혀, 일절, 꼭, 무조건, and 아예. Let’s take a quick look at the differences and how we can use each of these adverbs:


Similar Adverbs: 결코, 전혀, 일절, 꼭, 무조건, and 아예

- 결코

 결코 generally means “never” or “absolutely not” with a strong determination. It can be used in the same context as ‘절대’ in the negative sentence, but 결코 is more commonly used in writing or formal situations.


 This word is frequently used to emphasize that something will absolutely not occur, or that there is no possibility of it happening. It is also a strong and empathetic word to express a negative sentiment or to reject a possibility. Hence, 결코 can only be used in negative contexts**.**


 ”그 일은 결코 일어나지 않을 거예요.“

 “That will never happen.”

 *일어나다: to happen


 “저는 결코 그렇게 할 수 없어요.“

 ”I could never do that.”


 “결코 그렇지 않아요.”

 “It is absolutely not like that.”


 “그 일은 결코 쉽지 않을 거예요.”

 “The job will never be easy.”

 *쉽다: to be easy


 “저는 결코 그 사람을 용서하지 않을 거예요.“

 “I will never forgive that person.”

 *용서하다: to forgive


- 전혀

 전혀 has the meaning of “completely” or “totally” that can be used to emphasize the degree of something. This word can also be used in a negative context to express disbelief or disagreement. Similar to 결코, it can only be used in negative sentences.


 ”이번 시험에서는 전혀 좋은 성적을 받지 못했어요.“

 “I didn’t get any good grades at all on this exam.”

 *시험: exam *성적: grade *받다: to get


 ”그 영화는 전혀 지루하지 않았어요.“

 “That movie was not boring at all.”

 *지루하다: to be boring


 “제 딸은 이 문제에 대해 전혀 이해하지 못할 거예요“

 “My daughter won’t understand anything about this problem.”

 *문제: problem *-에 대해: about


 “저는 그 사람이 누구인지 전혀 모르겠어요.”

 “I have no idea at all who that person is.”

 *모르다: to not know *사람: person


 “자동차에 기름이 전혀 없어요.”

 “There’s no gas in the car.”

 *자동차: car *기름: gas


- 일절

 일절 is a word that means “not at all” or “entirely” and can be used to emphasize a complete absence or lack of something, or irrelevant to a particular situation. It can also be used in negative sentences to express a strong denial or rejection of something.


 ”저는 요즘 운동을 일절 안 하고 있어요.“

 “I have not been exercising at all these days.”

 *요즘: these days *운동하다: to exercise


 ”저는 이번 여행에서 일절 돈을 쓰지 않을 거에요.“

 “I will not spend any money at all on this trip.”

 *여행: travel, trip, journey *돈: money


 “저는 일절 관심이 없어요.“

 “I have no interest at all.”

 *관심: interest, attention, concern


 “문제가 있어도 일절 책임질 필요 없습니다.”

 “You don’t have to take responsibility for any problem”

 *문제: problem *책임: responsibility

 *필요: need, necessity


 “수업 시간에 핸드폰 사용을 일절 금지합니다”Cell phone use is strictly prohibited during class.”

 *금지하다: to ban, prohibit 


- 꼭

 꼭 has the meaning of “definitely” or “absolutely” usually used to express a strong conviction or certainty about something. It is also frequently used to indicate strong and empathetic requirements or obligations. Besides that, 꼭 can be used to express a strong desire or preference for something.


 ”저는 성공할 거예요.“

 “I will definitely succeed.”

 *성공하다: to succeed


 ”그 책을 읽으세요.“

 “Make sure you read that book.”

 *책: book *읽다: to read


 “약속은 지킬게요.”

 “I will definitely keep my promise.”

 *약속(을) 지키다: to keep a promise


 “ 와주세요.“

 ”Please make sure to come.”

 *오다: to come 


 " 갈 거예요.“

 “I will definitely go.”

 *가다: to go


- 무조건

무조건 means “unconditionally” or “without exception” and can be used to express a strict rule, obligation, or requirement that must be met without exceptions. It can also be used to express a strong conviction or determination.


 “무조건 제 시간에 도착해야 해요.”

 “You must arrive on time (without exception).”

 *제 시간: in time, a scheduled time


 “무조건 저하고 같이 가세요.”

 “You have to come with me (no matter what).”

 *같이: together (with), along (with)


 “한국에 가면 무조건 그 식당을 가봐야 돼요.”

 “If I go to Korea, I have to try that restaurant (no matter what).”

 *가보다: to try (visiting)


 “이 일은 무조건 해야 해요.“

 ”You must do this work (there is no exception).

 *일하다: to do work


 “우리는 무조건 이길 거예요.”

 “We will win no matter what”

 *이기다: to win


- 아예

아예 is an adverb with the meaning of “completely,” “entirely,” or “totally.” It is used to indicate something is done decisively or without compromise. It can also be used to express rejection or avoidance of something altogether. This adverb can be used in both positive and negative contexts.


 “쿤 씨는 노래방에서 노래를 아예 하지 않았어요.”

 “Kun did not sing at karaoke at all.”

 *노래방: karaoke room *노래하다: to sing


 “진 씨는 이번 주말에 아예 집에서 쉬기로 했어요.”

 “Jin decided to completely relax at home this weekend.”

 *쉬다: to rest, to relax *기로 하다: to decide to do, to promise to do


 “거짓말은 아예 하지 마세요.”

 “Don’t even think about lying.”

 *거짓말: lie


 “핸드폰이 아예 안 켜져요”

 ”My cell phone won’t turn on at all.”

 *켜지다: to be turned on


 ”저는 이 일을 아예 끝낼 거예요.“

 “I will finish this task entirely.”

 *끝내다: to end, to complete


 In conclusion, despite these adverbs having similar meanings, they differ in their levels of emphasis and strength. The choice of which to use depends on the context and the degree of emphasis.