Sunday, November 13, 2005

What is wrong with 나는 싸웠다?

"나는 싸웠다" is considered an awkward sentence in Korean because the speaker does not say who he or she fought with. Koreans would normally say something like 나는 그와 싸웠다, which means "I fought with him." In English,"I had a fight" may sound all right, but Korean normally requires that you mention with whom you had the fight.

It takes two to tango, it takes two to fight, and it takes two to do many other things, as well. There are certain Korean verbs that require a partner or an opponent to perform the action, and among these verbs, some require that if you mention one partner or opponent, you mention the other. Often you mention that partner or opponent by using one of the "and" conjunctions, that is, 와, 과, or 하고. Here is a list of some of those "two-to-tango" verbs:


  1. Can you use "uri" with those verbs, as in "uri-ga saweotta"?

  2. Yes, you can use 우리 with 싸우다 because it means more than one person. As long as you mention or imply that two or more people did the fighting, then you are all right.

    By the way, consider these questions:

    1) 싸웠지?
    2) 누구랑 싸웠지?
    3) 너 누구랑 싸웠지?
    4) 너 싸웠지?

    According to the rule, all of the above questions would be correct, except number 4, since it only mentions one of the participants. Actually, I am not sure about questions, but I assume the rule would still apply.

  3. Click on 경쟁하다 and check out the nationalistic sentence models. My 1997 Dong-a K-E and E-K dictionaries have a few gems like these, too. My favorite is in the entry for "mobang" (imitation): "It is generally thought that the Japanese are a nation of imitators and lack originality."

    BTW, Sogang University's Korean language website has one of the most realistic dialogs I've ever come across in Korean language materials. It is Lesson 3 in the first level of intermediate. A blond woman is phoning a Korean man to ask about items for sale. The conversation is in Korean, but at the end the Korean man switches briefly into English, "Okay, the total is 300,000 won." Whoever wrote that dialog is sharp. A Korean cannot have a conversation with a foreigner without slipping in a little English. In fact, it seems Koreans can't have a conversation with each other without slipping in a little English.


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