Archive for August 2010

공짜 vs 무료

Got an easy one today. Always like it when the difference is either microscopic or exact mirrors like in 요새 vs 요즘. Let's see what we have today:


*무료 (無料)
free, no cost

*Be careful to to confuse this with 무료하다 (無聊) which means to be boring or dull. It most certainly does not mean to "to be free".

공짜 is natively Korean and is used almost exclusively in casual settings. 무료 is hanja-based and can be used in both casual and also formal settings. Otherwise, they're virtually identical. Free is free. Wasn't that easy?

Kudos to the Korean Wiki Project who among countless things has a page dedicated to similar words and nuances. If you're learning Korean and you want to contribute a word or two to help out the greater good, consider editing for them once and awhile.

order up. If you met a friend at a restaurant and wanted to ask if he or she already ordered food yet, what verb would you use? "시켰어?" or "주문했어?" Don't they mean the same thing? Let's take a look:

주문하다 (注文)
order, request

order, command

명령하다 (命令)
order, command, instruct

As you can see, the first two examples both mean virtually the same thing. However, the social position of the speaker and listener must be considered. 시키다 does sound a bit more harsh and carries a more authoritative tone to it than 주문하다 which is just plain jane "to order" as in food. 시키다 has more meaning outside of simply ordering food; it carries the nuance of "to order someone to do something" (명령). 주문하다 does not. Of course, when talking about food, it makes little difference when speaking about yourself:

감자탕을 주문했어요.
감자탕을 시켰어요.
I ordered pork-on-the-bone soup

Furthermore, it might be more common for a socially higher person to use 시키다 to a socially lower person. In the same vein, a socially lower person would prefer to use 주문하다 to a socially higher person. There is a small exception to that, though. When a customer tells a server that they are ready to order, despite possibly being "higher" than the server/waiter, they will almost certainly say 주문할게요 or 주문하겠습니다 and not 시킬게요. Just one of those things.

More examples:

고객님, 주문하신 상품이 도착했습니다.
Sir, the things you ordered have arrived.

오늘 점심을 배달주문할게요.
I'll order in for lunch today.

제가 주문한 음식이 아닌 것 같습니다.
This doesn't seem like what I ordered.

나 대신 점심 좀 시켜줄래?
Can you order lunch for me?

그 애에게 말을 시켜 보세요.
Try to get this kid to talk.

와이프가 나한테 집안일을 시켰어요.
My wife told me to do some housework.

To choose something. As it turns out, two different verbs exist in Korean. The question is which one do you choose when you want to choose? Let's see if we can make a more accurate choice.

It might be enough to point out that 선택하다 is used more formally and in situations where there's a set number of choices whereas 고르다 is more casual, broad and without limitations.

선택 (選擇)
to choose (limited*, formal*)

to choose, select, pick (unlimited*, casual*)

*I think what might help to explain these two is to set up some situations. If you went shopping, using 고르다 is more natural as in:

언니! 어떤 치마가 더 이쁜지 골라봐!
Hey! Pick out the prettiest skirt!

여보, 나 대신 와이셔츠 하나 골라줘.
Honey, can you pick out a dress shirt for me?

Using 선택하다 here would sound awkward here. The reason being is that you're choosing out of the entire store. It's your choice and is more limitless. Another example might involve an interview process:

A: 면접은 어땠어? 결과가 나왔어?
A: How did your interview go? Did you get the results yet?

B: X회사랑 Y회사랑 둘다 합격했어. 어디를 가야할지 고민이야..
B: Company X and Company Y both accepted me. I'm worried about which one I should go to...

A: 나라면 X회사를 선택하겠어..
A: If it were me, I'd go with Company X...

Or in this case, you could use both. Take a look at the slightly different nuance each speaker has:

A: 이 가방 둘 다 마음에 드는데 어떤 걸 골라야 할까...
I like both bags... it's just hard to choose one...

B: 가야겠다. 빨리 선택해봐!
I need to get going. Just choose one already!

In this situation, person B can only choose between Company X and Company Y so there's really only two choices. Very limited. In this situation, 선택하다 is more natural. If you were person A and you said "나라면 X회사를 고르겠어.." people would understand you but it would be kind of awkward.

Another funny situation would be a very dramatic girl who presents the indecisive guy with an ultimatum: 그 여자야, 나야? 선택해. "Her or me. Pick one". Although cheesy, this is grammatically fine. However, if it were 그 여자야, 나야? 골라봐 it would be just grammatically strange on top of being emotionally over the top.

If you can think of more examples or comparisons, let me know ^^

물 (物)

Take a look at the photo below and tell me what your gut reaction is to the sign on the truck. What do you think it means? "Dangerous Water", right?
   위험 = danger, caution
   물 = water
Put them together and you have something wet that you want to avoid. Right? Not really. This is a different 물 altogether. It's not 물 수 (水). Don't freak out though because it's a common 물 and I know you've seen it before. This 물 is actually 물건 물 (物) which means "thing" as in:

선물 (膳物)
a present, gift

건물 (建物)
building, structure

식물 (植物)
a plant

동물 (動物)

인물 (人物)
a person, character

물질 (物質)
a material, substance, matter

화학 물질 (化學物質)
chemical substances

발암물질 (發癌物質)
a cancer-causing agent, carcinogen

위험물 (危險物)
dangerous materials, hazardous things

An easy one today, guys. This should be on everyone's mental hanja radar at all times. 물 수 (水) is easily one of the most common hanja based words in Korean. Careful though, because 수 is also a number of other non-water things such as number (數) and protect (守). Although practically limitless, let's take a look at a few water-based 수 words out there. If you can think of any other common ones, feel free to leave them in a comment ^^

수영 (水泳)

호수 (湖水)

홍수 (洪水)

산수 (山水)
landscape, scenery (think: water and mountains)

수요일 (水曜日)
Wednesday (lit. water day)

성수 (聖水)
holy water

식수 (食水)
drinking water*

*not to be confused with 식수하다 (植樹) which means "to plant trees"


I don't usually write much on here but I'd like to share something today.

I'm in the midst of wrapping up a full year of living in Korea and I must say that I've learned far more than I expected. Using the language daily at work and home has really helped more than I can put into words. Of course, like all things, motivation is the key. It's surely possible to live in Korea and speak no more than a few phrases due to the sharp increase of English services that were totally unthinkably 40 years ago. However, for those who do work hard and try to immerse themselves in Korean language environments, there's plenty of chances out here. One of those includes reading material.

In these last few weeks before going back to the states, I had everything all packed up and sent ahead of me in order to travel light. In my haste, I sent most of my unread history books and all of my language study books. Serendipitously forced to find other means of language practice, I turned to my school's library. I've been checking out children's books and reading them out-loud before hitting the hay. I must have checked out over 20 or so in the last two months. I must say that it's humbling to not be able to fluidly read out-loud a children's book. Through this total lack of pride and self-respect, my wife tries to hold back her giggles as I struggle to read out such Korean children's literary classics. It really puts it into perspective, this whole "well-rounded" thing I'm shooting for.

I decided to move on, close my mouth and silently read a bit. Problem is I could've find anything in an elementary school library worthy of more than a five minute attention span. As luck would have it, there's a local 만화방 a stone's throw from my apartment. After a ten dollar refundable deposit, each book can be borrowed for about 30 cents a day. Not a bad way to spend some loose pocket change.

At first, I struggled to find something something I could relate to. I picked up a Japanese-made Korean-translated story of two high school kids caught in a time wrap that sent them to Three Kingdom period China. Sounds okay but the vocabulary was a bit over my head. After two books about fighting (짱, 타나토스) I learned more than a dozen different ways to swear but was still a bit frustrated by the occasional too high a level of vocabulary. I then swallowed whatever pride left and scooted over to the romance section (순정만화) and picked out some books that were most likely designed to be read by a female junior high school student. Be it as it may, the ones I picked up were really quite fun to read. The best out of the bunch was 바보.

The author first wrote 순정만화 which might also be known by its misleading English movie title "Hello Schoolgirl" though the book isn't as polished as 바보. I watched the film a while back and liked it. His next book's art direction and story was much more developed, though. 바보 really is a great read with lots to follow. Above all, it's got lovable characters. If one is looking to start reading in Korean without it feeling like homework, I suggest to start at 바보. Check it out online to see if it looks like something you might like.

Those thinking they might have heard of this book before are thinking of the movie adaption which for whatever reason in English is called "The Miracle of the Giving Fool". While not nearly as entertaining as the book itself, the movie isn't half-bad. I suggest reading the book first then watching the film second.

Any other helpful reading tips to share?

UPDATE: The comments in this AAK post also has some links worth reading including this blog called the Manhwa Bookshelf.

복 (服)

Got a strange one for you today. 服 (옷 복)

Yesterday was the last day of the three hottest days of the year; affectionately known in English as the dog days of summer. These three days are known by many names in Korean one of which is 삼복 (三伏). That got me thinking of swimming in a pool which requires a swim suit, or 수영복 which uses a whole different 복 character. The dog days of summer 복 is 엎드리다 which is "to lie down" while the swimsuit 복 is the "clothing" 복. Still with me? Hope so. The hanja character is arguably not as important as knowing the uses of it in hangul. Loosely, it can be interpreted as either "clothing" or "uniform" (제복) such as:

수영복 (水泳服)
swimming suit

군복 (軍服)
army uniform

양복 (洋服)
Western suit

교복 (校服)
school uniform

경찰복 (警察服)
police officer's uniform

소방관 (消防官服)
firefighter's uniform

nurse's uniform

임부복 (妊婦服)
maternity clothes

hunting clothes

신사복 (紳士服)
menswear, a man's suit

숙녀복 (淑女服)
womenswear, a lady' suit

*정장 (正裝)
*nice clothes, gender neutral term for a suit

Something seems to be like something. When you feel the urge to be less than specific about what you're talking about, seems like you should use this guy. However, the grammatical rules for affixing him at the end of the verb aren't especially difficult but are a bit long. Keep in mind that the tense of the sentence will be expressed at the end and that 것 is also commonly spelled (and pronounced) like 거. Also, the 아 often sounds like 애 in common speech. So, in effect, you might spell "it seems like it will rain" any number of different ways:

비가 올 것 같아요 (grammatically correct and most common spelling)
비가 올 거 같아요 (also common)
비가 올 것 같애요 (maybe only used as a text message)
비가 올 거 같애요 (least common spelling but most commonly pronounced)

More rules:

은/ㄴ 것 같다 = descriptive verb ending in a vowel or consonant
는 것 같다 = action verb
을/ㄹ 것 같다 = future tense

More Examples:

좋을 것 같아요
Seems he'll like it.

버스가 늦게 올 것 같아.
The bus seems to be running late.

직원들이 바쁜 것 같아.
The employees seem busy.

그가 실수로 그런 것 같아요.
I guess he did it by mistake.

경기가 곧 끝날 것 같아요.
It seems the game will end soon.

할 수 있을 것 같아요.
I think I can do it.

토 할 것 같애.
I think I'm gunna barf.