Monday, September 21, 2009

Should Koreans say 세겹살 instead of 삼겹살?

삼겹살 are cuts of pork from around the ribs, which is an area that includes layers of fat (비계). When cut into strips, the strips show what generally look to be three layers of fat and meat, which is why Koreans call it 삼겹살. The name 삼겹살 literally means "three layers of meat." It looks like bacon except that it is usually cut into thicker strips and is not cured or smoked.

Actually, the name 삼겹살 violates Korean language rules, which say that Sino-Korean numbers should not be used with pure Korean words. 삼(三) is the Sino-Korean number for "three," and 겹살 is a pure Korean word meaning "layers of meat"; therefore, the correct name should be 세겹살 since 세 is the pure Korean number for "three." In fact, up until the early eighties, Koreans commonly referred to it as 세겹살. (See this Korean ARTICLE.)

Korean dictionaries still list 세겹살 as a synonym for 삼겹살, so if you are a purist and want to mess with the minds of Korean restaurant employees, order 세겹살 the next time you visit a Korean meat restaurant.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why do many people say 맞다?

In Korea, when people are discussing an issue and one of them says something that hits the nail on the head, so to speak, you will often hear people respond to the comment by saying "맞다." However, 맞다 is the wrong response because it is an uninflected form.

맞다 is a verb meaning "to be right" or "to be correct," among other things, so when you use it in a sentence, you must use inflection because Korean verbs are inflected in speech. In other words, you cannot use the word straight out of the dictionary. You must say 맞는다 or 맞아 when talking with friends, or 맞습니다 or 맞아요 when talking with others. By not using inflection with 맞다, people are treating it as if it were an adjective, which it is not. In Korea, adjectives can be used in their blunt forms without inflection. For example, if you want to comment with an uninflected word, then you could use the adjective 옳다, which means "right" or "correct." Consider the following examples:
A: 문제는 그가 허락없이 한 거야.
B: 맞아 (맞는다).

A: The problem is that he did it without permission.
B: That's right.

A: 문제는 그가 허락없이 한 거야.
B: 네 말이 옳다.

A: The problem is that he did it without permission.
B: What you say is correct.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Was a male slave or female slave more expensive?

According to THIS WEB SITE, the poster below was in North Korea's Koryo Museum. The poster says that a female slave between fifteen and fifty years old once cost 120 pil (120필) while a male slave of the same age cost only 100 pil. Female slaves under fifteen and over fifty cost sixty pil while males slaves in the same age brackets cost only fifty pil. If you had the money, you could have gotten a cow for 400 pil.

Matt also has a link to a better picture on HIS SITE.

Is it really correct to say 몇 학년이냐?

몇 essentially means "how many," "how much," or "how long," so if you say, 몇 학년이냐, you are really asking "how many grades." If you want to ask someone "which grade" they are in, it would make more sense to say, "어느 학년," rather than "몇 학년." Consider the following examples:
  1. 너는 어느 학년이냐?
    Which grade are you in?
  2. 이 학교는 몇 학년 있어요?
    How many grades are there in this school?
  3. 그 학교에서 몇 학년 다녔어요?
    How many grades did you attend at that school?

Nevertheless, Koreans probably say 몇 학년이냐 more than they say 어느 학년이냐. I also say 몇 학년, but I may start using 어느 학년.

Why use (으)로서, (으)로써, & (으)로 이하여?

The markers (으)로서, (으)로써, and (으)로 이하여 can all be replaced with (으)로 without any difference in meaning, so why not just use (으)로?

(으)로서 is an adverb marker used to establish status or authority:
  • 학생으로서 = 학생으로
    As a student....
  • 자식으로서 할 일= 자식으로 할 일
    Something one does as a child
  • 학자로서 = 학자로
    As a scholar....

(으)로써 is an adverb marker used to show the purpose, method, or tool used for doing something:

  • 으로써 낫게 할 수 없는 병 = 약으로....
    A disease that cannot be cured with medicine
  • 생각만으로써 되는 일이 아니다 = 생각만으로....
    This is not something that can be solved by just thinking about it.
  • 석유로써 재산을 모으다 = 석유로....
    make one's fortune in oil

(으)로 인하여 is used to show cause or reason:

  • 불결로 인하여 병이 생기는 경우도 있다 = 불결로....
    Some diseases are attributable to lack of cleanliness.
  • 그 사건으로 인해서 우리 회사가 유명해졌다. = 그 사건으로
    Our company because famous from that incident.
  • 올해 지진으로 인한 피해가 컸다. = 올해 지진으로 생긴....
    The damage from this years earthquake was enormous.

Also, do not use the -으로해서 and -므로해서 makers.

Simplify your life by just using (으)로. Why make Korean more difficult than it already is?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Are you ready for the future--장래 or 장차?

장래 (將來) is a noun that means "the future," and 장차 (將次) is an adverb that means "in the future." Here are some examples of how they are used:

장래 (the future)
  • 밝은 장래....................a bright future; bright prospects
  • 어두운 장래.................a dark future; gloomy prospects
  • 가까운 장래에 the near future
  • 먼 장래에 the distance future
  • 장래의 계획을 세우다...make a plan for the future
  • 장래를 점치다..............predict the future

장차 (in the future)

  • 장차 어떤 일이 일어날지 아무도 모른다.
    No one can tell what will happen in the future.
  • 너는 장차 무엇이 되고 싶니?
    What do you want to be in the future?
  • 그렇게 돈을 함부로 쓰면 장차 무일푼이 된다.
    If you spend money so freely, you'll wind up penniless.
  • 장차 사용할 수 있도록 이것을 간수해 두어라.
    Keep this for future use.

If you place an -에- after 장래 (i.e. 장래에), it will have the same meaning as 장차, which means "in the future." Never place an 에 after 장차 because it is not needed.

미래 (未來) is a noun that also means "the future," but, according to Mr. Nam Yeong-sin (남영신), there are some slight differences between 미래 and 장래. Mr. Nam says, for example, that 장래 is used to talk about your own future and the future that affects you, but 미래 is used to talk about a more distant future. The future (미래) is infinite, but your future (장래) ends when you die. Accordingly, there is more emotion attached to 장래 than to 미래. Therefore, maybe it would be better to say 먼 미래 rather than 먼 장래, and 장래의 계획 rather than 미래의 계획.

By the way, the American movie "Back to the Future" was translated into Korean as "백 투 더 퓨쳐," which is just a transliteration of the English title. However, if you were to translate it into Korean, I think it should be 장래로 돌아가다. I used 장래 in my translation because it was the future of one person rather than a distance future.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do you understand "알았어, 알겠어"?

Today, I came across the Korean pop song "알았어, 알겠어," which means, "I understand, I will understand." One of the meanings of 알다 is "to understand." I am posting the lyrics to the song at the bottom of this post because the songwriter seemed to understand the difference between 알았어 and 알겠어. I just hope other Koreans will finally understand it, too.

Even though 알다 has several meanings, including "to know," "to understand," and "to remember," when it is used in the past tense, Koreans usually mean, "I understand." However, when 알다 is used with the future tense (-겠-), the meaning is not as clear, so you have to consider the context in which it is used. Consider the following examples:
  1. (보면) 알겠습니다.
    (When I see it,) I will know it.
  2. (앞으로 당신 마음을,) 알겠습니다.
    I will understand (your feelings in the future).
  3. (하신 말씀을) 알겠습니다.
    I will remember (what you said).
It would be easier to distinguish the meanings of 알다 if Koreans used only 기억하다 for "to remember" and 이해하다 for "to understand," but 기억하다 and 이해하다 are Sino-Korean words that most likely do not have the same traditions and warm feelings as 알다, which is a pure Korean word that has probably been spoken by Koreans for as long as there have been Koreans, so I do not think the meanings of 기억하다 and 이해하다 will completely disappear from 알다 anytime soon. However, with 기억하다 and 이해하다 as options, Koreans, especially younger Koreans, seem to be forgetting about and confusing the different meanings of 알다, especially when it is used with the future tense form -겠.

When Koreans use -겠- with 알다, or any verb, they should try to avoid using it in situations that go against the dictionary definitions of -겠. Consider the following dialog:

A: 오늘 만나자.
B: 오늘 안 돼. 약속 있어.
A: (그래, 알았어.) or (그래, 알겠어.)

A: Let's meet today.
B: I can't today. I have an appointment.
A: (Ok, I understand.) or (Ok, I will understand.)

In a dialog similar to the above, Koreans respond with both 알았어 and 알겠어, but 알겠어 does not make sense because it literally means "I will understand," not "I understand." When you ask the Koreans who respond with 알겠어 why they do it, they often say it sounds more polite, but such "polite" usage is not explained in the Korean dictionaries that I have, which suggests that it is just a misusage of the language.

It seems that 알겠어 has become a trendy, catch-all response for Koreans who do not want to be bothered with Korean grammar. However, since Koreans have a habit of reducing sentences down to just their verbs, I think it is important for them to pay more attention to the tenses used with those verbs and the context in which they are used.

Here is my translation of the lyrics to the Korean pop song "I understand, I will understand" (알았어, 알겠어), which can be heard HERE. Notice that the songwriter used 알겠어 and 이해하겠어 interchangebly:

"알았어 알겠어"
알았어 알겠어 이제야 너를 알겠어
수많은 꿈들은 너를 고민하게 했겠지
알았어 알겠어 너를 이해하겠어
수많은 꿈들이 나를 포기하게 했단 걸
사랑이란 언젠간 식어가는 거라고
젊은 날의 주체못할 열기일 뿐이라고
늘 넌 말해왔었지 하지만 바보 같은 난
그게 오늘이 될 줄은 몰랐던거야
알았어 알겠어 이제야 너를 알겠어
수많은 꿈들은 너를 고민하게 했겠지
알았어 알겠어 너를 이해하겠어
수많은 꿈들이 나를 포기하게 했단 걸
추억이란 잊어도 잊혀지지 않는 것
사랑은 떠나도 곪아버린 옛상처처럼
너는 나를 잊어도 추억은 잊지 못 할 걸
우리의 추억에 때론 잠도 못 이루겠지
알아 나도 너의 마음을 이해해
사랑과 꿈 사이 많이 망설였단 걸 알아
너에게도 사랑은 단순한 열기가 아닌
죽어서도 잊혀지지 않는 추억이었다는 걸
알았어 알겠어 이제야 너를 알겠어
수많은 꾸들은 너를 고민하게 했겠지
알았어 알겠어 너를 이해하겠어
수많은 꿈들이 나를 포기하게 했단 걸


"I understand, I will understand"

I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you.
Many dreams likely caused you to agonize.
I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you.
The many dreams that caused you to leave me.

Love dies over time, you always said,
It's just wild, youthful passion,
But like a fool
I never knew
Today it would really happen.

I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you.

Many dreams likely caused you to agonize.

I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you.

The many dreams that caused you to leave me.


It's said memories can be ignored, but not forgotten.

Though the love is gone, and I'm no longer on your mind,

like festering old wounds, memories cannot be forgotten.

Sometimes our memories may even keep us awake.


I know. Your heart I also understand.

Much you wavered between love and dreams.

Love to you, too, is more than simple passion,

A memory not forgotten, even after death.


I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you.

Many dreams likely caused you to agonize.

I understand, I will understand. Now, I will understand you

The many dreams that caused you to leave me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why do Koreans say 모르겠습니다?

When Koreans do not know the answer to a question, they often reply with 모르겠습니다, but why do they say 모르겠습니다 instead of 모릅니다?

Besides being used to refer to the future, -겠 can also be used to guess at something or to speculate. When the subject of a sentence is first person (I), the reply 모르겠습니다 (I guess I don't know) does not make sense because there is no reason to guess about your own lack of knowledge. You either know it or not, so instead of 모르겠습니다, it would be more logical to say 모릅니다 (I don't know) when referring to your own lack of knowledge.

However, you can speculate on someone else's lack of knowledge, so you could use 모르겠습니다 when the subject of a sentence is a third person. Consider the following dialog:
A: 그 사람 6시에 시작하는 걸 알아?
B: 그 사람은 (아마) 모르겠습니다. (그 사람은 모를 겁니다.)

A: Does he know it starts at 6?
B: He probably doesn't know.
In the above conversation, Koreans would normally say 모를 겁니다 when the subject is a third person, but 모르겠습니다 means the same thing and, therefore, should be able to substitute.

I think what has happened is that Koreans used to use 모르겠습니다 only with a third-person subject, but, over time, they started misusing it with the first person (나) until it has now become pretty much standard. However, I would still recommend using 모릅니다 instead of 모르겠습니다 when the subject is first person (I) since 모릅니다 is more logical and works just fine. In other words, when someone asks you a question to which you do not know the answer, it would be better if you said 모릅니다 instead of 모르겠습니다.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How fast do Korean telecasters speak?

According to THIS DOCUMENT, Korean telecasters speak between 330 and 350 syllables per minute (SPM) when reading the news, while THIS PDF DOCUMENT timed six American newscasters speaking at an average rate of 300 SPM. It also said that the normal rate of English speech was 265 SPM.

Also, according to THIS PDF DOCUMENT, people tend to speak faster the more informal the conversation, which might explain why Koreans seem to speak faster when talking with their friends.

Have you heard these homework excuses before?

These videos are fairly entertaining, especially the first one, but there are parts I do not understand. Maybe they are using some expressions I do not recognize, or maybe it is because they are speaking so fast, especially the guy who is dressed up like Superman. I wonder where Koreans rank on the international scale for fast talkers?

What is a problem with many people these days?

모르면서 아는 체하거나 알면서 모르는 체한다.
They pretend to know when they do not, or NOT to know when they do.
I think the above expression describes the source of many of the problems in societies today. I also think the Korean sounds better than the English.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are Japanese interested in learning Korean?

I found the following video on Matt's blog, Occidentalism. It appears to be a comedy skit of a Japanese man learning Korean. I could get some of the jokes by just listening to the Korean, such as, 코를 성형해주세요 (Please do plastic surgery on my nose), but most I could not understand. I wish I knew Japanese.

Is "너무 출출해서 밥을 먹는다" correct?

출출하다 means "to feel 'somewhat' hungry" (but not really hungry), so it would not make sense to use with it the adverb 너무, which means "excessively." If you want to use an adverb with 출출하다, you should use 좀 or 조금, which mean "a little." Therefore, you could say the following sentence:
좀 출출해서 밥을 먹는다.
I am eating because I was feeling a little hungry.

If you do a Google search on "너무 출출해서," you will get an idea of how common the mistake is.

Why do Koreans say 알겠습니다?

After being admonished by a parent, teacher, or boss, Koreans often respond to the admonishment by saying, 알겠습니다, which always seemed a little strange to me. Why would Koreans use the future tense (겠) with 알다 (to know)?

Well, today I looked up 알다 and found that it has many meanings, including the meaning of "to remember." Therefore, I am guessing that 알겠습니다 means, "I will remember" (what you said). Instead of 알겠습니다, you can also say, "명심하겠습니다," which means, "I will take (your words) to heart."

Mr. Lee Su-yeol (이수열) does not like 알겠습니다, but I do not see any problem with it, at least, not after learning that 알다 can mean "to remember."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mind if I get off topic?

I have just looked at a Web site entitled "Smartest Detective in the Room," which belongs to one of our commenters, Lance Sleuthe, and was quite impressed. The only problem is that he does not seem to write very often.


If you wrote the stuff on your blog, I think you should be writing much more of it because that is good stuff. Are you writing a book or have you already written one? If not, you should consider it. I am not literary, but it seems more than good enough to publish.

By the way, have you tried writing anything in Korean?

Who created "hangeul" (한글)?

In his book, Lee Su-yeol (이수열) wrote that the following sentence was incorrect:

한글을 창제하신 분은 세종대왕이시었습니다.
King Sejong was the person who created hangeul.

Mr. Lee said the sentence was incorrect because the portion I have shown in red should be changed to "이십니다." In other words, he was saying that the ~이었습니다 pattern should not be used in such situations. He explained that since the person who created hangeul could not have changed over time, the 었 in 이었습니다 should be dropped.

To give you an idea of what Mr. Lee was trying to say consider the following English sentences.
  1. Thomas Edison is the man who invented the light bulb.
  2. Thomas Edison was the man who invented the light bulb.
  3. Bill is the man who passed out at the party.
  4. Bill was the man who passed out at the party.

Mr. Lee was essentially saying that among examples 1 and 2, example 1 would be the more correct choice since the act of inventing the light bulb could only be applied to Thomas Edison. However, among examples 3 and 4, example 4 would be the correct choice since Bill would not be the only person capable of passing out at a party.

Does Korean need ~고 있다 and ~어 있다?

Korean verbs inherently have a continuous aspect about them, so the ~고 있다 and ~어 있다 patterns do not seem to be needed. Consider the following examples:
  • 아이가 울고 있다 = 아이가 운다
    The baby is crying.
  • 학생들이 공부하고 있다 = 학생들이 공부한다
    The students are studying.
  • 비가 오고 있다 = 비가 온다
    It is raining.
  • 내 아들은 학교에 가있다 = 내 아들은 학교에 갔다.
    My son is at school.
  • 교실에 난로를 설치해 있다 = 교실에 난로을 설치했다.
    A heater is installed in the classroom.

As you can see from the above examples, the ~고 있다 and ~어 있다 patterns seem to be unnecessary.

Another interesting thing about the Korean language is that adverbs play an important role. For example, a simple adverb can change a sentence from present continuous to simple present tense. Consider the following examples:

  • 아이가 운다.......................The baby is crying.
    아이가 자주 운다................The baby frequently cries.
  • 학생들이 공부한다..............The students are studying.
    학생들이 매일 공부한다.......The students study daily.
  • 비가 온다...........................It is raining.
    비가 자주 온다....................It frequently rains.

Can anyone think of a situation where ~고 있다 or ~어 있다 is necessary? Couldn't 산다 even replace a phrase like 살아 있다 (to be alive)?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Which is correct: 결혼식 때 입던 옷 or 결혼식 때 입은 옷?

I think one could say either 결혼식 때 입던 옷 or 결혼식 때 입은 옷, depending on the circumstances.

In regard to clothes, we wear them, take them off, and then wear them again later, so 어제 입던 옷 (the clothes I wore yesterday) seems more appropriate than 어제 입은 옷 since 입던 would imply a interruption in wearing the clothes, in other words, a change of clothes. Then, what would 어제 입은 옷 imply? It might imply one wore the clothes yesterday, but no longer has the clothes to wear again today.

In regard to a wedding gown, many women in the West wear them just once, but still keep them for sentimental reasons, and some mothers may even allow their daughters to wear their old wedding gowns when they get married, so, in the West, I think a wedding gown could be treated like any other piece of clothing by saying 결혼식 때 입던 옷.

In Korea, however, Koreans normally do not buy their wedding gowns, but rent them, so in Korea, it might be more appropriate to say 결혼식 때 입은 옷 since Koreans would no longer have the wedding gowns to wear again.

Koreans also seem to use 입던 옷 to refer to clothes they no longer wear because they are either out of style or because they no longer fit. Therefore, 입던 옷 seems to refer not only to clothes that we wear on a regular basis, but also to clothes we no longer wear but still have. The common denominator seems to be that one still has the clothes, whether they are worn or not.

The above is just a theory. I do not know for sure if 입은 옷 really implies one no longer has the clothes.

Any opinions?

Monday, September 07, 2009

What looks like a dog house and is called 방활사?

The explanation I had given below for 방활사 was completely wrong. The same reader who first asked me about the word has sent me another email saying that he found that the Chinese characters for 방활사 were 防滑沙, which literally mean "Prevent (防) Slipperiness (滑) Sand (沙)." In other words, it is sand that is spread on slippery roads in the winter to give vehicles traction.
However, the word 방활사 (防滑沙) is a non-standard word and does not appear in any dictionary that I have. The word has confused not only me, but others, as well. In a Korean article HERE, the word was used as an example of how Korean government officials and others are creating new words from Chinese characters that that few can figure out without also seeing the Chinese characters. The article asks what good are government information and warning signs when people cannot understand what they mean.
By the way, Korean government officials are not the only ones who invent language. When I was in the US navy, I was exposed to a bewildering set of acronyms and initialisms that seemed to grow day by day. The US navy loved acronyms, but I hated them and finally gave up trying to learn them all. However, many of my fellow sailors loved using them because, I suspect, it showed that they had special knowledge that many others did not have. Maybe that is why Korean officials also like using them.
I agree with the Korean article I linked to above: What good is a public sign if the general public cannot understand what it says?
Below is my original post.

A reader sent me the following photos of what looks like a dog house and asked me what they were. He said he saw them spaced at different intervals along a road in Gangwon Province.

The sign on the second photo reads 방활사, which is meant to mean "sand for preventing fires," so the structures are for storing sand to be used for smothering fires that may occur along the highway. The ㄹ at the end of 화 is a future tense marker that can be translated here as "for."
"Fire prevention sand" is written as 방화사, so 방활사 is a misspelling. If they had intended it to be read as the phrase, "Sand for Preventing Fires," then they should have written it as "방화할 사" or "방화할 모래." It looks like Inje County (인제군) officials need to not only work on their spelling, but also need to refill their sandboxes.

By the way, that is a pretty nice road.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Is 서로가 서로를 좋아했다 a good sentence?

My English-Korean dictionary defines 서로 as "mutually," "reciprocally," "with each other," and "with one another," which implies that it considers 서로 to be an adverb. However, my Korean-Korean dictionary describes 서로 as being both a noun and an adverb and gives the following sentence as an example of it being used as a noun.

서로가 서로를 좋아했다
They (each other) liked each other.

Notice that the Korean literally says "Each other liked each other," which reads and sounds pretty silly and suggests that 서로 was probably not meant to be used as a noun. A better sentence would be the following:
그들이 서로 좋아했다.
They liked each other.
In the above Korean sentence, 서로 is being used as an adverb and sounds more natural than when it was used as a noun, but the English translation of the sentence confuses things because "each other" is considered a pronoun in English, which is probably why some Koreans feel inclined to write 서로 as 서로를.

In his book "우리가 정말 알아야 할 우리말 바로 쓰기," the author 이수열 argues that 서로 was only meant to be used as an adverb and says that using it as a noun or pronoun is a distortion of Korean grammar. He makes a good argument and gives several real-world examples of how sentences using 서로 as a noun can be corrected by simply using it as an adverb. Here are some of the examples.
  1. 한, 일 요트 경기를 벌여 서로 상호간의 친선을 과시했습니다.
    * Replace the phrase in red with just 서로 or 상호.
  2. 우리는 서로가 서로를 위하고 도와야 한다.
    * Replace the phrase in red with just 서로.
  3. 친구와 가족은 이미 상대자를 잘 알고 있으므로, 서로의 관계가 우호적일 뿐 아니라.
    * Replace the phrase in red with 관계가 서로.
  4. 학습 활동을 중심으로 서로의 의견을 주고 받는 것이 좋은 방법이다.
    * Replace the phrase in red with 의견을 서로.

Notice that the Korean in Examples 1 and 2 was made more complicated than it needed to be, and that in Examples 3 and 4, the nouns were placed after 서로 instead of before it.

In Korean, there is no need to use 서로 as a noun or pronoun, so why do some Koreans use it as a noun? I think it is because they have been influenced by the English translation "each other," which is a pronoun.

In Korean, the meaning of "each other" is achieved by using the adverb 서로 in combination with a noun that precedes it. Even the English pronoun "each other" is not a normal pronoun because it is dependent on a noun being in the same sentence. For example, you cannot say, "Each other liked." Therefore, I think using 서로 as a noun is unnecessary and is just another example of Korean being polluted by the English language.

By the way, I have written about 서로 before: "How should we use 서로?"

Does 빈정거리다 confuse you, too?

빈정거리다 is one of those words that I have looked up a hundred times, yet still have trouble remembering. So, I have decided to write something about it with the hope that it may help me remember the word in the future.

빈정거리다 can mean "to poke fun at," "to ridicule," or "to make sarcastic remarks." I think one reason I always forget the meaning is that 빈정 and 거리다 do not seem a good match for each other. If the word were just 빈정하다, then maybe I could remember it, but the 거리다 suffix confuses me.

The "-거리다" suffix is added to words to give them a sense of repetitiveness. For example, 중얼거리다 means "to murmur," which is "to make a low, continuous, indistinct sound." 두근거리다 means "to pulsate," which is "to expand and contract rhythmically." 비틀거리다 means "to stagger," which is "to move or stand unsteadily." There is repeated sound or movement clearly inherent in the meanings of such words, which makes them good "-거리다" words. However, the repetitiveness in the meaning of 빈정거리다 is not as clear to me.

You can "ridicule" someone repeatedly, or you can do it just one time. You can make two "sacastic remarks," or you can make just one. 비꼬다 is a synonym for 빈정거리다, yet it does not have any 거리다 attached to it. Why? Even if the word "ridicule" has some kind of implied repetitiveness in it, it is not as clear "to me" as it is in many other 거리다 verbs, which may be why it is harder for me to accept and remember it.

Another reason I may be having trouble with 빈정거리다 is that it can be used as both a transitive and an intransitive verb. See the following examples:
  • 그 남자가 나를 빈정거렸다. (transitive)
    He ridiculed me.
  • 그 남자가 빈정거렸다.
    He made sarcastic remarks.

According to the definition, the two sentences above should be correct, but they still seem strange to me, and I think it is because of the 거리다 ending.

Also, it seems like 빈정하다 should be an adjective, but there is no such word. However, there is a 빈정빈정하다, which is a verb that means the same thing as 빈정거리다.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Which is correct: "값이 내린다" or "값을 내린다"?

Both 값이 내린다 and 값을 내린다 are correct because 내리다 can function as both an intransitive and a transitive verb.
  • 값이 내린다 (intransitive)
    Prices are falling.
  • 그 가게에서 값을 내린다. (transitive)
    That store is lowering prices.

Notice that the intransitive 내리다 can be translated as "to fall," and the transitive 내리다 can be translated as "to lower." Since 내리다 can function as both an intransitive and a transitive verb, there is no real need for a passive form. For example, there is no need to say 값이 내려진다 (Prices are being lowered) since 값이 내린다 (Prices are falling) essentially conveys the same meaning. Besides, 값이 내린다 is more Koreanese.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Do we really need to use 했던?

My grammar book (외국인을 위한 한국어 문법2) defines 던 and 했던 the same way:
명사를 수식하게 하고 과거 상황을 회상하거나 그 상황이 완료되지 않고 중단되었음을 나타내는 표현.

It modifies nouns and is used in expressions to show reflection on the past or to show a situation that was uncompleted or discontinued in the past.

Since 던 and 했던 mean the same thing, there is no reason to use 했던. All the example sentences using 했던 in my grammar book can be written with 던. (The English is my translation.)
  1. 어릴 때 한 동네에서 살았던 민수를 어제 만났다.
    어릴 때 한 동네에서 살 민수를 어제 만났다.
    Yesterday, I met Min-su, who had lived in the same village as me when we were children.
  2. 작년에 읽었던 책은 어제 다시 읽었는데 여전히 재미있더라.
    작년에 읽 책은 어제 다시 읽었는데 여전히 재미있더라.
    Yesterday, I read a book I had started reading last year and found it still interesting.
  3. 내가 전에 근무했던 회사가 아주 많이 발전했더라.
    내가 전에 근무하 회사가 아주 많이 발전했더라.
    The company I used to work at has grown a great deal.
  4. 고등하교 때는 키가 작었던 영수가 지금은 몰라 볼 정도로 키가 컸더라.
    고등하교 때는 키가 작 영수가 지금은 몰라 볼 정도로 키가 컸더라.
    Yeong-su was short in high school, but he has now grown so much that I didn't recognize him.
  5. 어렸을 때 예뻤던 순이가 지금은 아줌마가 다 되었다.
    어렸을 때 예쁘 순이가 지금은 아줌마가 다 되었다.
    Sun-i, who was pretty when she was young, has now become an average-looking housewife.
  6. 10년 전 초등학생이었던 순이가 벌써 결혼을 한대.
    10년 전 초등학생이 순이가 벌써 결혼을 한대.
    Sun-i, who was an elementary school student ten years ago, says she is already getting married.

Notice that 던 replaced 었던 in the above sentences without any change in meaning; therefore, why bother learning the 었/았/였던 pattern?

As mentioned above, 던 can be used to show not only reflection on the past, but also to show that an action was uncompleted or interrupted in the past. In Example 2, 읽던 책 means the person started reading the book in the past, but did not finish it. It would be translated as "a book I had started reading (last year)." If he had wanted to say he had already completed reading the book (last year), he would have said 읽은 책, which translates as "a book I had read (last year)."

See the following examples:

  1. 어제 마시던 우유가 어디에 갔지?
    Where is the milk I was drinking yesterday?
  2. 어제 마신 우유가 무엇이었지?
    What was the milk I drank yesterday?

In Example 1, the person did not finish drinking all the milk yesterday and wanted to drink some more today. In Example 2, the person had drank all the milk yesterday and is curious what brand it was.

Another Reference: "Is 던 better than 한?"