Category Archives: Words with several meanings

Different word, same sound

Today in language exchange we spent some time talking about verbs that sound similar either when conjugated or in their dictionary form. For instance:

낫다 (to recover from illness): 나아요
낳다 (to give birth): 낳아요
나다 (to be born, to hail from a specific place): 나요, “서울에서 나아요”

잃다 (to lose, to drop)
일다 (to rise)

It ended up in a discussion about conjugations and correct spelling vs. pronunciation, and my two language partners had to trawl through Naver and I found my iRiver dictionary before we finally reached a conclusion for some of the questions.

It’s a learning experience for all of us and it’s funny how you become so much more aware of the oddities of your own language when teaching it to others.

걷다 vs. 걷다 vs. 걷다

These are three different verbs that share dictionary form. Beware that they are conjugated differently due to their different meanings.

Dictionary form – polite present tense – English infinitive

걷다 – 걸어요 – To walk

걷다 – 걷어요 – To roll up (e.g. your sleeves)

걷다 – 걷어요 – To take down clothes from a drying line (yes, this is a very specific usage of 걷다)

성 and 성

성 ~ castle
우와! 이 성은 정말 예뻐요! 여기에 왕과 여왕이 살아요? ~ wow! this castle is really beautiful! Is this where the king and queen lives?

성 ~ surname
When filling in a form requiring your personal details (e.g. application to the TOPIK) you will be asked to fill in “성+이름” ~ surname + given name

살 and 살

살 ~ counter for age
몇 살이에요? ~ how old are you?
스물세 살이에요 ~ I’m 23 years old

살 ~ flesh, fat
살이 찌다 ~ to gain weight
저 사람은 찔까요? ~ didn’t she gain weight?

My own mnemonic:
What do most women not want? To be considered old or fat – and especially not both at the same time. The Koreans have just been kind enough to provide us with one word that can be used to express both…

반 and 반

반 ~ class (반 has also been word of the day)

반 ~ half

왜 반말하세요?! ~ why do you speak banmal to me? (literally “why do you speak to me in half language?” because the polite endings are missing)

여덟 시 반이에요 ~ it’s 8.30/it is half past eight

배 and 배

배 ~ pear

배 ~ ship

배 ~ stomach

배를 너무 많이 먹어서 배가 불러요 ~ I ate too much pear so now I’m full (literally “I have a full stomach”)

배가 흔들려서 배가 아파요 ~ the ship is rolling so I have a stomach ache (literally “my stomach hurts”)

흔들리다: to shake, to roll