Saturday, July 25, 2009

The difference between 벗어지다 & 벗겨지다?

벗다 and 벗기다 can both mean "to take off" or "remove" articles of clothing, but the difference is that 벗다 is used to refer to taking off "one's own clothing" while 벗기다 is used to refer to taking off "another person's clothing." See the examples:
  • 여자가 외투을 벗었다.
    She took off her overcoat.

  • 남자가 그 여자 외투을 벗겼다.
    He helped her take off her overcoat.

벗기다 can also be used to refer to removing a covering from an object. See the examples:

  • 감자 껍질을 벗기다.
    Peel potatoes.

  • 오란지 껍질을 벗기다.
    Peel oranges.

  • 콩깍지를 벗기다.
    Shell beans.

  • 담요를 벗기다.
    Remove a blanket.

  • 녹을 벗기다.
    Remove rust.

  • 인디언들이 개척자 머리 껍질을 벗겼다.
    Indians scalped the settlers.

벗다 and 벗기다 were used as transitive verbs above since they referred to someone removing "an object." However, if you add the passive ending "~어지다" to 벗다 and 벗기다, they become the intransitive verbs 벗어지다 and 벗겨지다.

벗어지다 is used when objects fall off without outside force while 벗겨지다 is used when objects fall out with outside force. See the examples:

  • 치마가 느슨해서 자꾸 벗어진다.
    My skirt is loose, so it keeps slipping off.
  • 치마가 못에 걸려서 벗겨졌다.
    My skirt caught on a nail and was pulled off.
  • 이른 나이에 머리가 벗어졌다.
    I have gone bald prematurely.
  • 교통 사고로 머리 가죽이 벗겨졌다.
    His scalp was peeled off in the car accident.

Some Koreans mistakenly say 머리가 벗겨진다 to refer to balding, but the correct way to say it is 머리가 벗어진다 since balding refers to hair falling out without outside force. Maybe the reason that Koreans mistakenly say 머리가 벗겨진다 is that 벗기다 is also the passive of 벗다. Therefore, 머리가 벗긴다, without the ~어지다 ending, should also mean "to go bald," but my Google search could not find any examples of it.


  1. WOW! "머리가 벗어진다"가 옳은 거라구요? 지금까지 "머리가 벗겨진다"라고 아무런 의심없이 써왔는데..
    그러나 "머리가 벗긴다" 라는 표현은... 처음 들어봅니다. 한 번 쯤 생각해 봐야 할 문장이네요.
    내일 학교에 가서 고민해 봐야겠어요. :)

  2. 역시..확인을 해봤는데
    "머리를 벗긴다" 라는 표현은 사용하지 않는군요...문법적으로도 조사 사용법이 잘 못 되어있습니다. "머리를 벗긴다" 라고 하면 문법적으로는 말이 되지만 적절한 사용처가 없네요..

  3. Gerry, what is the reason for saying that "벗기다 is also the passive of 벗다"? Your initial description of 벗기다 as a transitive causative (or, if you like, outward-directed) verb is not consistent with a passive meaning. I don't see any dictionary definitions of 벗기다 with passive (and intransitive) meaning.

  4. Hi ARAM,

    Koreans may not say 머리를 벗긴다, but they do say 머리가죽을 벗긴다. See HERE.


    벗기다 can be used as a transitive, causitive verb and as an intransitive, passive verb.

    벗기다 as a transitive causitive

    * 옷을 벗기다 - undress someone

    벗기다 as a intransitive passive

    * 바람에 모자가 벗겼다 - The hat was removed by the wind.

    You might have to look at a Korean-Korean dictionary to see an example of the passive 벗기다. For example, here is the example from the Naver Dictionary:

    [동사] '벗다'의 피동사

    * 그는 옷이 벗긴 채 묶여 있었다.
    He was tired up with his clothes removed.

    피동사 is the Korean for "passive verb."

    Anyway, apparently many Koreans also do not realize that 벗기다 is the passive of 벗다 since they say 머리가 벗겨지다 for "to go bald." If they knew that 벗기다 was the passive of 벗다, then they would not have added ~어 지다 to the verb.

    ~어 지다 can be added to the transitive, causitive 벗기다, but not to the intransitive, passive 벗기다. See the following:

  5. 역시!
    "머리 가죽을 벗긴다." 의 의미였군요.
    그렇다면 말이 되지요.
    예문이 계속 "머리카락이 빠진다."라는 내용의 예문이여서 "머리를 벗긴다." 라는 지문을 이해하기 어려웠습니다.
    (그러나 조금 무서운 말이네요 ^^;)

  6. Thanks for the clarification. One thing that seems very difficult about Korean is the fact that many of the passive suffixes and many of the causative suffixes have exactly the same form, which means that sometimes there are homophonous passive and causative forms of the same verb (like 보이다).

  7. Lance,

    Yes, it is true that some Korean causatives and passives share the same form, but you can still tell them apart because the causative will usually be a transitive verb while the passive will be an intransitive. Therefore, just look for the object marker 을/를, which will tell you that the verb is being used with its causative meaning. If there is no object in the sentence, then you can assume it is the passive form.

    Causative Transitive

    * 모자를 벗겼다.
    (I) removed (his) hat.

    Passive Intransitive

    * 모자가 벗겼다.
    (My) hat was removed.


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