Confusing Korean Words
Words that are similar in sound and meaning
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In every country, there are some confusing pairs of words with analogous pronunciations and meanings, even though the words are clearly different. The Korean language is not an exception, and there are quite a few pairs of words that even Koreans sometimes get mixed up. This week’s article in News H is to help foreign learners of Korean to be aware of the differences of those words, and use them properly in correct situations.
Words that have either similar meanings or sounds
Natda (낫다, 낮다) Nata (낳다) are three separate words that sound almost the same but have anything to do with each other. 낫다 is used in situations where somebody recovers from an illness or pain, or when something is superior than the other. 낮다, on the other hand, simply means ‘low’. 낳다 means to ‘give birth’ or ‘bring about a certain result’.
Deokbun(덕분), ttaemun (때문), and tat (탓) are words that have similar meanings but used in different contexts. If a certain outcome occurs because of some matter, 때문 is used. However, 덕분 can be used if, and only if, a positive result occurs due to a certain cause. On the contrary, 탓 only works with causes that trigger undesirable situations. The three words come right after the cause, and the result follows after these words.
Dareuda (다르다) and teullida (틀리다) are misused very often even by Koreans, most notable by senior citizens. The former means ‘two things that are being compared are different’ or ‘something stands out more than others’. The latter means ‘something, such as a fact or an answer to a question, is wrong’ or ‘to be hopeless’. Due to the fact that many people get mixed up with the two words, there is a well-known expression, “다른거지 틀린게 아니다” which means ‘something is different, not wrong’.
Words with both similar sounds and meanings
Gareuchida (가르치다) and garikida (가리키다) are commonly confused Korean words not only because of their smiliar pronunciations but their due to their definitions as well. 가르치다 means 'to teach somebody a skill or a knowledge' and 가리키다 means 'to point at somebody or something'. The reason for the confusion comes from the idea that the definitions of both words are related, in the way that teaching and pointing are actions that are both directing something.
The mistake of misusing machida (맞히다) and matchuda (맞추다) is frequent due to their complicated usages and similar pronunciations. In cases where an answer to a question is correct, 맞히다 is used. When comparing something with another, 맞추다 is used. Therefore, 맞추다 is used when comparing an examination paper with a separate answer sheet. Another definition of 맞히다 and 맞추다 is ‘to aim or hit’ and ‘to set, adjust, or assemble’, respectively. Thus, when a person tries to hit a bird with a bow, 맞히다 is used. In addition, when a person gets his suit made, 맞추다 is used.
Itda (잊다) and ilta (잃다) are words that have analogous sounds and definitions, such as in the case of 맞히다 and 맞추다 mentioned above. The former means ‘to forget’, and the latter means ‘to lose’. People get mixed up because the two words means to lose something. In the case of 잊어버리다, it means to lose what one had remembered.
Familiarizing yourself with the aforementioned words would help greatly, especially when writing in Korean. To be a knowledgeable user of the Korean language, it is a necessity to be mindful of these words instead of continually misusing them. To find more confusing words or commonly misspelled or misused words, visit the website of theNational Institute of Korean Language, an institute that researches and organizes the rules of the Korean language, including its confusing vocabulary.
Jang Soo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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