Download Practice Quiz (-도 되다, -(으)면 되다/안되다) 📥

In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn how to express permission and prohibition in Korean.

The expressions you’re going to learn today:

  1. Verb + 아/어/여 + 도 돼요
  2. Verb + (으)면 돼요 
  3. Verb + (으)면 안돼요
  4. Verb+아/어/여 도 안돼요 
  1. Permission: Verb + // +  돼요

Before we start learning how to express permission in Korean, let’s break down the pattern first.

a) 도 comes from the sentence connector “그래도” which means “but still”.

Verb +아/어/여도 = even if Verb

Let’s take a look at the conjugations:

잘하다 (to be good at sth, to do sth well) > 잘하다 + 그래도 > 잘해도 

먹다 (to eat) > 먹다 + 그래도 > 먹어도

오다 (to come) > 오다 + 그래도 > 와도 

자다 (to sleep) > 자다 + 그래도 > 자도


지수는 많이 먹어도 살이 안 쪄요. – Even if Jisoo eats a lot, she doesn’t gain weight.

비가 와도 괜찮아요. – It’s okay even if it rains.

저는 매일 일찍 자도 늦게 일어나요. – Even if I go to bed early, I wake up late. 

저는 한국어를 잘해요그래도 열심히 공부해요. – I am good at Korean, but still I study hard.
=저는 한국어를 잘해도 열심히 공부해요. – Even if I’m good at Korean, I study hard.


b) “돼요” meaning

돼요 comes after the verb “되다”.

Let’s look at how “되다” is conjugated in different tenses.

Present: 돼요

Past: 됐어요

Future: 될 거예요

Let’s look how “되다” can be used in a sentence.


Noun 이/가 되다” has several different meanings.

Meaning #1: to become Noun

저는 선생님 되고 싶어요. – I want to become a teacher.

그 아이가 어른이 됐어요. – That child became an adult.

Meaning #2: for Noun to work

It’s different from the “일하다” verb.

휴대폰이 이제 돼요. – My phone works now.

제 컴퓨터가 안 돼요. – My computer doesn’t work.

노력해도 안 돼요. – Even if I try hard it doesn’t work.

Meaning #3: (for a situation or action) to be okay, fine

늦어도 돼. – It’s okay to be late. (Even if you’re late, it’s fine).

This meaning of “되다” is close to the meaning of the expression “Verb +아/어 + 도 되다”, which you’re going to learn later in the lesson.

(S) + (O) + Verb + 아/어/여 도 되다 can mean:

> to be okay even if (S) + (O) + Verb

> it’s okay to Verb (expressing permission)

늦어도 돼요. – It’s okay to be late.

공부를 많이 안 해도 돼요. – It’s okay not to study too much.

오늘 시간이 없으면 내일 와도 돼요. – If you don’t have time today, you can come tomorrow.

엄마, 오늘 좀 늦게 자도 돼요? – Mom, can I go to bed a little bit today?

Meaning #4: “that still works / that’s fine too” (conceding)

원래 수업 시간이 4 시인데, 오늘은 5시 에 해 돼요. – The initial class time is 4 o’clock, but we can do it at 5 (it still works).

저는 주로 아메리카노를 마시는데, 라떼를 주문해 돼요. – I usually drink Americano, but it will be okay to order Latte.

저는 강아지를 키우고 싶었는데, 대신 고양이를 키워 돼요. – I wanted to raise a puppy, but it’s okay to raise a cat instead.

Now, let’s move to the second expression.


  1. Verb ~() 돼요 / ~()  돼요

To understand the ~(으)면 돼요 expression better, let’s break it down:

~(으)면 = 그러면 (if/then)

The conjunction ~(으)면 comes from the sentence connector “그러면” which means “if/when”.

Sentence Connector > (S) + (O) + V. 그러면 (S) + (O) + V.

Conjunction > (S) + (O) + Verb Stem + (으)면 + (S) + (O) + V = If the first sentence happens, then the second sentence happens.

열심히 공부해요. 그러면 시험을 잘 볼 거예요. > 열심히 공부하면 시험을 잘 볼 거예요. – If you study hard, you will do well on the test.

성적이 좋으면 좋은 대학교에 갈 수 있어요. – If your grades are good, you can go to a good university.

많이 막으면 살이 쪄요. – If you eat a lot, you gain weight.

So, the meaning of the “Verb + (으)면 돼요” expression means “it works if (S) + (O) + V”.

This expression is used when a speaker is explaining what works or what a listener is supposed to do in a specific situation.

For example:

A: 한국어를 잘하려면 어떻게 해야 돼요? – What should I do if I want to be good at Korean?

B: 매일 공부하면 돼요. – You can study every day. (That’s what works in this situation or this is what you’re supposed to do).

*notice that the translation of “can” in the sentence above is different from the expression “~ㄹ/을 수 있다” which expresses one’s ability to do something.

A: 컴퓨터 어떻게 꺼요? – How do I turn off the computer?

B: “종료” 버튼을 누르면 돼요. – You can just press the “shutdown” button.

내일 2시까지 오시면 돼요. – You can come by 2 tomorrow.

This expression can also be used when telling somebody what they supposed to do or politely asking them to do something.

A: 이거 누구한테 주면 돼요? – To whom should I give it?

B: 저한테 주시면 돼요. – You can give it to me. (politely telling a person what they are supposed to do).

Whereas, using “저한테 주셔도 돼요” expresses permission.

그 고객한테 내일까지 이메일을 보내시면 돼요. – You can send an email to that customer by tomorrow. (politely telling what to do)


  1. ~()  돼요

Now, let’s look at the negated expression “~()  돼요.

This expression has several different meanings depending on how it is used in a sentence. 


a) When “~(으)면 안 돼요” is a statement = it doesn’t work if~ (prohibition)

When used like this in a sentence the speaker expresses prohibition and tell another person what they shouldn’t do.


만지면 안 돼요. – You cannot / should not touch it.

늦게 오면 안 돼요. – You cannot / shouldn’t come late.

너무 많이 먹으면 안 돼요. – You cannot / shouldn’t eat too much.

*내일 비가 오면 안 돼요. – It shouldn’t rain tomorrow!

* It can also be used in situations that you can’t control but when you want to express that something should not happen.


b) When “~(으)면 안 돼요” is a question = asking for permission

지금 가면 안 돼요? – Can I go now?

숙제를 내일 하면 안 돼요? – Can I do the homework tomorrow?

오늘 피자 먹으면 안 돼요? – Can I/we eat pizza today?

A similar meaning of permission can be expressed with “~도 돼요?”.

The difference between “~(으)면 안 돼요?” and “~도 돼요?” is that when you use”~(으)면 안 돼요?” you’re expecting the other person to say yes and it sounds like a plead. It also sounds like a suggestion and usually used when the subject is “we”. 

Whereas “~도 돼요?” is used when the speaker is curious if something is permissible to the other person.

Let’s look at some examples:

올해 제주도로 여행 가면 안 돼요? – Can we go traveling to 제주 island? (here, the speaker is suggesting, almost pleading another person)

올해 제주도로 여행 가도 돼요? – Can we go traveling to 제주 island? (the speaker asking another person if it is permissible for them to do the action)


  1. Verb + // +   돼요 meanings    

a) it doesn’t work even if~

(아무리) 노력해도 안 돼요. – Even if I try, It doesn’t work.

* 아무리 + Verb / Adjective > no matter how much Verb / Adjective

이 컴퓨터는 (아무리) 고쳐도 안 돼요. – This computer won’t work even if I try to fix it. 

아무리 들어 이해가 안 돼요. – No matter how much I listen, I don’t understand.

b) even verb isn’t allowed either

저희 동네에서는 밤에 떠들면 안 돼요. 애완동물을 키워도 안 돼요. – In our neighborhood, it’s not allowed to be loud at night. Having pets isn’t allowed either.


[Quick Summary]:

Verb + // +  돼요 > permission (could be used in both statement and question)

Verb + ~() 돼요 > it works if (S) + (O) + V (one’s supposed to do something; or when politely asking the other person to do something)

Verb + ~()  돼요

Statement > it doesn’t work if~

Question > asking for permission (plead, suggestion)

Verb + // +   돼요

> it doesn’t work even if~

> even (verb) isn’t allowed

Related Grammar:

Verb +아/어 도 = even if Verb

> to be okay even if (S) + (O) + Verb

> it’s okay to Verb (expressing permission)

> that still works / that’s fine too (conceding)

Noun 이/가 되다

  1. to become Noun
  2. for Noun to work

그러면 > (S) + (O) + Verb + (으)면 + (S) + (O) + V = If the first sentence happens, the second sentence happens too.

아무리 + Verb / Adjective > no matter how much Verb / Adjective