Category Archives: Grammar

안경 안 쓰니까…

After I cut my hair short some months ago (well, just below my collarbone at the time so it was short for me at least) I was prompted by a Korean friend to send a selca over Kakaotalk. That turned out to be one fateful picture since I wasn’t wearing my glasses (due to reflections). Had it not been for that tiny detail, I might never have gotten the occasion to remember the grammar point -(으)니까 quite as well as I do today. Having recently gotten contact lenses I got to relive the memory. This is what happended:

Her first reaction was to reply “우와, 완전 이쁘당!!!!” (At this point I have to admit to being quite proud of my new haircut). Immediately the following message arrived: “안경 안쓰니까 완전 예뻐요”.

Well that was unexpected… I was pretty sure that -(으)니까 was a grammar point used to mark causation and that all of a sudden we were no longer talking about my hair.

What “Korean – A Comprehensive Grammar” has to say about this grammar point:
“Looking at the usage of this form, just like -(아/어)서, -(으)니까 also has two distinct usages. In addition to ‘causation’, -(으)니까 can also be used to mark ‘discovery’.”

For a moment I wondered if that really just added insult to injury. So what she was saying was “since you’re not wearing glasses, I just realised you’re actually quite pretty”? I may not be turning heads whenever I leave the house, but surely that’s a bit harsh?

Reading on we get to this, though:
“Unlike -(아/어)서 which marks natural consequence, -(으)니까 is used to express a subjective reason that is dependent on the speaker’s own judgement or justification”.

Okay, so my friend has a personal preference for me not wearing glasses. I can live with that, and I can assure you all that I have (almost) recovered emotionally.

However, I doubt I will ever forget that sentence 안경 안 쓰니까…

Variations of a theme

For a while I’ve noted the similarity of some verbs, but – as usual – attention is key:

놀다: To play, hang out, be idle
놀라다: To be surprised, to be taken aback, to be stunned, frightened
놀래다: To give someone a fright, to scare
놀리다 (1): To leave something idle or make someone play (the 사동사-version of 놀다)
놀리다 (2): To tease, make fun of

Once I had mentally lined them up I just couldn’t unsee them, so I had to share them with you 🙂

Examples of contexts:
놀라다: anyone who has heard Gee by 소녀시대 should recognise it from the refrain. I know it’s catchy – I’m sorry if I’ve unleashed a monster by even bringing it up 😀
놀래다: those who watch 오 나의 귀신님 might have noticed that when 순애 frets over her father in hospital, she uses this verb to say something along the lines of “you gave me such a fright”.
놀리다: a Korean friend was longing for a long weekend and was grumbling a bit about it being Monday morning so I (naturally) sent a super enthusiastic reply to which she replied 나를 놀리고 있어 ㅠㅠ

Without being able to provide an exhaustive list of verbs to prove my claim, in general it seems that when there are two variations of a verb, the “-애 version” implies more action than the “-아 version”. Another example would be 끝나다 vs. 끝내다 where the latter seems to involve more action and willpower.

If anyone can prove me wrong, please let me know 🙂

간접화법 and how one of my grammar books was wrong

For two days I spent a disproportionate time on reading up on indirect quotations. Yes, I know, but for some reason I have had some sort of menal block about it.

 Just to make my life difficult, one of my grammar books stated that in written language, action verbs take 느 before 냐고 하다 and descriptive verbs take 으 before 냐고 하다 for quoted questions. However, it was inconsistent with my TOPIK grammar book, which did not include the part about 으 for descriptive verbs and it didn’t show in the examples. Let’s just say I was not impressed by the difference…

The mystery has been solved:  형영사 do not take 으 in written language but only 냐고 하다 as in spoke language. The first grammar book was wrong.

Well that explains a lot. 

Transferring the logic of Korean to other languages

My previous language partner was very keen on learning Danish, and he actually became really good in quite a short time! Good grammatical understanding, good vocabulary, and a brain soaking up Danish like a sponge in water. Working with hanja, I suddenly remembered when he transferred the logic of hanja to his Danish studies. We were going over a short story for his Danish class and some of the vocabulary he had wondered about.

First we discussed the word “over” which can both be a preposition (above) and used in combination with other words in the meaning of “a lot” or “too much”.

Larer we came across “rask” which means “recovered”.

Lastly we looked at the word “overrasket” and he naturally assumed that this would mean “fully recovered”, which made sense given the two words he had just learned and since the story was about a guy ending up in hospital after an accident. Oh, if only Danish were always that logical! It means “surprised” and it is not even considered a combination of the two words, but a single entity that is completely separate from the two individual words of “over” and “rask”.

Since then I have thought of “fully recovered” whenever seeing the word “overrasket”.

However, it’s also a good reminder for me that although a Koran syllable might sound like it stems from a hanja character that I know, it might not be related to it at all…

Grammar: Deferential speech level (formal polite)

So far I haven’t been writing in the deferential speech level so I decided to work more with it to put it all in place mentally. Here are my notes with sample sentences based on examples and corrected exercises from “Basic Korean Grammar”. I found it in my desk drawer when cleaning out – no need to shop for new books when I can go shopping in my own drawer!

When to use the formal polite speech level:
Public and/or formal communication settings. E.g. broadcasting, public speech, business meetings, conference presentations and the like.

Declarative: VS + -습니다 / -ㅂ니다
먹다 => 점심을 먹습니다 = (I) eat lunch
느리다 => 기차를 느립니다 = the train is slow
배우다 => 영어를 배웁니다 = (I) learn English
뜨겁다 => 물이 뜨겁습니다 = the water is hot

Interrogative: VS + -습니까? / -ㅂ니까?
춥다 => 날씨가 춥습니까? = is it (the weather) cold?
쉽다 => 시험이 쉽습니까? = is the test easy?
좋다 => 기분이 좋습니까? = is your feeling good?
시끄럽다 => 집이 시끄럽습니까? = is the house noisy?

Imperative: VS + -(으)십시오
거너다 => 길을 건너십시오 = cross the street
던지다 => 공을 던지십시오 = throw the ball
두드리다 => 문을 두드리십시오 = knock on the door
입다 => 코트를 입으십시오 = wear the coat

Propositive: VS + -(으)십시다
빌리다 => 책을 빌립시다 = (let us) borrow the book
타다 => 버스를 탑시다 = (let us) take the bus
주다 => 기회를 줍시다 = (let’s) give (them) a chance

Nice to know:

VS + -겠- + -습니다: 1st or 2nd person ~ intention
먹다 => 잘 먹겠슴니다 = I will eat well
어디로 가시겠습니까? = where will (you) go?
열심히 공부하겠습니다 = (I) will study hard
신용 카드로 지불하시겠습니까? = will you pay by credit card?

VS + -겠- + -습니다: about 3rd person or other entity ~ assumption or idea
드라마가 재미있겠습니다 = I guess the drama will be interesting
내일은 춥겠습니다 = (I guess that) as for tomorrow, (it) will be cold

Remember also subject honorific suffix: VS + -(으)시-
가다 => 갑니다
가시다 => 가십니다

Both verbs mean “to go”, but their social meanings are different, 가시다 being more respectful. -(으)시- can be used both when speaking to someone that one respects and about someone that one respects.

Polite formal vs. polite speech level:
It is not uncommon to mix the deferential speech pattern with the polite level (-요). For instance by introducing oneself in deferential speech and then switching to polite for a less formal atmosphere.

Grammar: -거든

-거든 has two separate usages:

Usage #1: explanatory sentence ending “it’s because”, “you see”
-거든 is a one-shape ending that is preceded by the past tense marker or the future tense marker.

It can be used to add an explanation to a previous sentence or to explain where you have a specific bit of information from.

From episode 7 in 너의 목소리가 들려:
관우: (…) 얘가 혹시 어제 아는 동생이에요? 사고쳤다는 그?
혜성: 아.. 네. 혹시 이상한 오해하면 어떡하지? 내가 좀 쓸데없이 책임감이 있는 편이라 얘 보호자로 엮였거든요.

Usage #2: “if”
This usage is somewhat similar to -(으)면 but differs in that -거든 is usually followed by either a command, a proposition or a promise.

Example from Korean – A Comprehensive Grammar p. 316:
“If you don’t have enough money, tell me” would take -거든 because of the command “tell me” that follows.
돈이 모자라거든 나한테 말 해.

Beware of the certainty with which something will happen:
-(으)면 is carries less certainty than -거든. That is, when using -거든, something is considered quite likely to happen.

Example from Korean – A Comprehensive Grammar p. 316:
“If the children enter university, I guess we’ll move”
아이들이 대학교에 가거든 이사를 하겠어요.

Grammar point: -다가

Some notes from today’s language exchange. I thought it might help some people 🙂

Meaning: first… Then…
Usage: when one action interrupts another.

-다가 vs. -부터
-부터 can also be used to rank things time-wise. For instance, first you travel to Seoul then continue to Busan. However, the two are different in that when using -부터, the first point on your to-do list is completed before moving on to the next. That is not the case when using -다가.

That leads us to…

Interruption vs. Concurrent events
-을 때 is used for two actions that take place at the same time without interrupting each other. For instance you speak with someone while sharing a meal.
-다가 is used when one action stops because of the other. For instance, you leave the dinner table to answer the phone in another room.

Practicing giving directions and including the occasional -다가:
Giving directions is a time when -다가 can be used naturally in a conversation. At some point you will stop going straight to make a turn or change mode of transportation.

Giving directions is something that I have not been comfortable with so today we practiced.

편의점에 어떻게 가요?
쭉 가다가 왼쪽으로 꺾으면 오른쪽에 약국 옆에 있어요.

주차장에 어떻게 가요?
사거리 지나서 쭉 가다가 왼쪽에 우체국 다음에 있어요

백화점에 어떻게 가요?
쭉 가다가 사진관 지나서 오른쪽을 꺾으면 오른쪽에 은행 맞은편에 있어요

Useful words:
사거리 ~ intersection
지나다 ~ to pass
건너다 ~ to cross (intersection / bridge)
꺾다 ~ to make a turn
맞은편에 ~ across the street

Remembering 오른쪽 from 왼쪽:
My language partner shared a way to remember which is left and which is right: In English “right” has one more letter than “left”. The same goes for Korean where “right” has one more syllable than “left”.