Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Does 빠지다 mean "to fall into a trap" or "to escape"?

It think it can mean both. Consider the following examples.
  • 함정에 빠지다.
    Fall into a trap.
  • 함정에서 빠지다.
    Escape from a trap.

Koreans may not actually say 함정에서 빠지다, but they do say 함정에서 빠져나오다 and 함정에서 빠져나가다, which suggests that 함정에서 빠지다 should also be possible. Besides, my dictionary says that 빠지다 also means "escape" (탈출하다). The only difference between "falling into a trap" and "escaping from a trap" would, therefore, be whether one uses the preposition 에 (in) for "falling into a trap" or the preposition 에서 (from) for "escaping from a trap."

I started thinking about this question after reading an explanation for the Korean expression 독 안에 들다.

'독'은 입구가 바닥보다 넓고 배가 볼록하며 양옆에 손잡이가 달린 오지그릇이나 질그릇을 말한다. 주로 장을 담그는 데 쓰인다. '독 안에 든 쥐'라는 말이 있다. 쥐가 실수로 독 안에 빠지면 그곳에서 빠져나올 수 없다. 이와 마찬가지로 '어떤 포위망이나 함정 따위에서 아무리 벗어나려 해도 벗어날 수 없는, 영락없이 붙잡히게 된 처지'를 일컬을 때 이 말을 한다.

As you can see in the above Korean explanation, 빠져나올 수 없다 was used with the meaning of being "unable to escape," which means 빠져나오다 was used with the meaning of "to escape." Moreover, notice that 벗어나다 was also used to mean "escape."

What is the difference between 빠져나오다 and 벗어나다? My guess is that 빠져나오다 is used when one has a "narrow escape" from a near capture while 벗어나다 is used when one escapes after having already been captured. Or is it the other way around or neither? I do not know, so I hope that some of the native Koreans that read this blog will give me their opinions.

빠지다 is a verb that deserves more explanation, but my 10-year-old son is bugging me to take him out to lunch, so I have to stop here.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you will find it tasteful to chew on a possible distinction being 벗어나다 involves escaping from a confined space, which in the case of the proverb you are talking about would be the kimchi jar


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