Category Archives: written vs. spoken Korean

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. 

“Already” or “yet”? and what type of resignation?

While watching 오만과 편견, I looked up a few words that puzzled me. I therefore asked my LP about the nuances of them, and thought I would share the answers with you. I admit that these are fairly specific words, but I guess it just shows the type of linguistic oddities I pick up while watching dramas.

이미 vs. 벌써 or 아직:
I have forgotten the specific context, but Chief 문희만 used the word 이미 one time and it for some reason caught my attention.
To complicate matters, my dictionary said “already; yet; (not) any longer; by now; by this time”. Great, now I had more questions than I had before looking it up.
How does it differ from 벌써 (already) and 아직 ((not)yet), which by the way are describing two very different situations?

It turns out that 이미 is closer related to 벌써 than 아직. However, 이미 implies a certain amount of planning compared to 벌써. In other words 벌써 is sudden and somewhat unexpected whereas if some event happens “이미” you’ve prepared for it. She gave the example that if a 9 month old baby is walking perfectly, the correct wording would be 벌써 rather than 이미 because it’s unexpected and unplanned for.

사표 (-를 제출하다) vs. 사임(하다):
Both mean “resignation”. However, they are not entirely the same.
Unlike 사임, 사표 is by definition a physical document. However, there is one more difference: 사표 is more colloquial than 사임, which is more business-like and has a formal air to it.

It makes sense in the context of the drama as well: When Prosecutor 이장원 looses his briefcase containing the case files in the nightclub (for those of you who don’t watch the drama – yes, that mistake is as stupid as it sounds), he’s told by 유광미 that he better prepare a 사표. However, when Prosecutor 구동치 is told by Chief 문희만 that he will effectively be told to resign, Chief uses 사임.

Now it makes a lot more sense 🙂

어… 안습

안습 => 안습이야 or just “어… 안습~”

This is the colloquial version of 안구에 습기차다: literally “one’s eyes are moisturised”.
In regular speech, though, you never say the full version.

Meaning: your eyes get moist because of sympathy for someone.

In English the equivalent would be “oooh such a shame”.

If your friend’s flight gets cancelled this would be an appropriate response.

그치 / 그렇지 / 그렇구나 ? When to use them?

In my text messages/kakaotalk conversations I recently happened to need these expressions and while I understood them correctly, there was just this nagging feeling that I didn’t understand the exact difference between them. Today I asked my language partner about the specific differences:

그치 / 그쵸 vs. 그렇지/ 그렇죠
그치 is a shorter version of 그렇지. Due to losing the middle syllable, ㅊ is used instead of ㅈ to make the sound stronger to compensate for the ㅎ that is left out.

그치/그쵸 is mostly used in spoken language, but not often in writing because it looks a tad more awkward than 그렇지 when written down. Both can be used both as a question (“right?” and as an answer (the affirmative “right”).

Formality diffences:
그치/ 그쵸 is slightly less formal than 그렇지 / 그렇죠.

Used as an affirmative response. Roughly translates into “I see”.

Small words of great significance

Another day with language exchange. We somehow came to discuss small words that are useful in colloqual Korean.

These are some of my favorite words. They can be used in so many situations, and their meaning can change quite a bit based on the situation.

You probably already know them, but let’s go over them one more time:

헐 ~ an expression of surprise. You might add “no way!” in English.

대박 ~ comes from the Chinese character 大 for “big” or “great” and 박. Together they mean something big. However, with a change in intonation it can also be used to show sympathy in the case of situations that are not “great”. This can also be done by combining with 헐: 헐 대박…

진짜?? ~ really?? Another expression of surprise.

글쎄 ~ a lovely word with so many meanings. Want to say “hmmm, let me think” in a genuinely thoughtful way? 글쎄 is the word. Want to say “I couldn’t care less…”? 글쎄 is the word! It’s all in the intonation and facial expressions.

Evil tongues say that guys who have overly talkative girlfriends basically just need three words to keep her happily talking with minimum interaction: 헐, 대박, and 진짜? They can even be combined into a single sentence: 헐 대박 진짜??

If not even Koreans can read Korean when using romanisation…

The other day was 한글날 in Korea, and TTMIK published a video on what it would be like to read Korean if 한글 did not exist.

They asked some Seoulites to read some sentences for them in Korean – based on the romanised versions and then afterwards they were allowed to see the proper Korean sentences.

It’s quite funny to see since it becomes clear that not even Korean people can pronounce Korean easily when seeing the words in romanisation. That would explain why my brain also shuts down when I see it written like that.

Another great incentive to use romanisations only as a guideline while learning the 한글 alphabet and then abandon the concept altoghether when expanding vocabulary and learning grammar.

-는 것 vs. -는 거

Attaching the -는 것 or -는 거 ending to the verb stem is the most common way to transform a verb into a noun.

먹다 (to eat) -> 먹는 것 ~ eating, the act of eating
케이크 먹는 것을 좋아해요 ~ I like eating cake

마시다 (to drink) -> 마시는 것 ~ drinking, the act of drinking.
가다 (to go) -> 가는 것 ~ going, the act of going

In the above I have written -는 것, as this is the form it takes in writing.
When pronouncing the examples, however, the final ㅅ mostly disappears => -는 거 (unless it is followed by a particle such as 은 or 을 like above which would bring out the ㅅ sound).

Written language: -는 것
Spoken language: -는 거