Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"좋다"와 "좋아하다"의 차이

Teacher taught me to write "I like drama" as "나는 드라마를 좋아해요" but my Korean friend corrected and rewrote it as "나는 드라마가 좋아요". This sort of situation caused some confusion, especially when I was a beginner struggling to learn Korean as a foreign language.

But it is no big deal even if such 'confusion' is not resolved, so long as you can accept both sentences are of the same meaning. Koreans can understand what you mean when you say "드라마를 좋아해요", although they may find it awkward.

Such trivial omission will not be a stumbling block later and I know it because I never quite find the answer to my query before moving on to higher level learning. My query was, "How can action verb (좋아하다, means to like) and adjective (좋다, means good or fine) be the same?"

I think I have finally found my answer after many years.


Among the adjectives, there are some adjectives that are always directly link to the inner feeling and thinking of the people who use them. Adjective like 좋다, 싫다, 기쁘다, 슬프다 and 무섭다 describes the "me" in I. They can be called the "psychological adjectives" (심리형용사, 心理形容詞). For example,

나는 슬프다 (I am sad)
나는 기쁘다 (I am happy)

Such "psychological adjectives" must always take the first person perspective because it describes the speaker's personal feeling. For example,

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"I am very happy about Billy's promotion." - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the first person perspective, so it is correct.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"You are very happy about Billy's promotion." - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the second person perspective and it is wrong.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기쁘다.
"He is very happy about Billy's promotion". - This sentence uses 기쁘다 from the third person perspective, so it is also wrong.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Was I happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is wrong as it does not make sense since 기쁘다 is used to express my (the first person) feeling and not to question my own feeling.

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Were you happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is correct because you are asking someone directly about his feeling. When the person responds, he is very likely to use 기쁘다 from the first person perspective as in "네, 나는 매우 기뻤어요." (Yes, I was very happy)

는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
"Was he happy about Billy's promotion?" - This sentence is wrong because it is not asking for a first person's response.


In the situation when psychological adjective is changed to verb by adding "아/어 하다", it also 'loses' its "psychological" aspect. What this means is verb 기뻐하다, which is formed from adjective 기쁘다, is no longer restricted to the first person perspective; it is applicable to all perspectives. For example, the following six sentences are all grammatically correct.

는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했다.
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?
는 빌리의 승진을 매우 기뻐했니?

At this point, I finally understood why my teacher would only teach me to use "좋아하다" and not "좋다", "싫어하다" and not "싫다", to express my likes and dislikes. I cannot be wrong in any circumstances if I use "좋아하다" but I can be wrong in some circumstances if I use "좋다". This is perhaps one of the many compromises that has to be introduced in order to make the Korean language easier to understand for foreigners.

11 comments:

  1. Wow, this certainly enlightened me. I've been wondering for ages, the difference between using 좋다 and 좋아하다, because I've noticed that they can be of the same meaning. My teacher has always corrected me every time I use _____ 좋아요 to ____ 좋아해요.

    Thank you for this little tip! =)

    Lastly, 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

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  2. this question has been bugging me for very long too >< I kept thinking that 기쁘다 is used for all 1st person perspectives.. didn't know that it is incorrect for sentences like 나는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?
    thanks alot for the explanation~! ^^

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  3. @ chrisramblings, happy new year ^^

    @ shanna, 아니예요. 조금이라도 도움이 되면 좋겠어요.

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  4. The way my teacher explained this with 싶다 vs. 싶어 하다 and 좋다 vs. 좋아하다 was that 싶다 and 좋다 were more subjective since they expressed (strongly held?) personal opinions while the other forms were more objective and could never be used in for the first person perspective.

    It's funny, it never occurred to me that other adjectives like 기쁘다 would work the same way. Your explanation makes it more clear. I have a quick question, though. How would you explain it when Korean parents playfully ask their kids 엄마가 좋아? 아빠가 좋아? (Are they asking for an opinion or are they just offering a description?)

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  5. They are asking for the inner feeling or the subjective opinion of their kids. What they mean is, "Do you like mum or do you like dad?" and not " Is mum good or is dad good?"

    "엄마가 좋아? 아빠가 좋아?" is similar to "너는 빌리의 승진이 매우 기뻤니?".

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  6. I realize that they were asking for an opinion, but I wasn't sure if it broke some kind of rule. I guess I was really wondering was if adjectives like 좋다 could only be used in the first person. Though, it seems like they also work for second person interrogative sentences.

    Anyway, here's a link to a comic that got me thinking about that question: http://comic.naver.com/webtoon/detail.nhn?titleId=26216&no=88&weekday=

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  7. This helped me a lot, thank you. :) However, in one of my books, there's a section comparing the differences between 좋다 and 좋아하다.

    It says there's a difference between the two even though both means "to like X". X가 좋아요 can be based on temporary feelings but X를 좋아해요 always makes a general statement about something.

    날씨가 좋아요 is an acceptable way to say "I like the weather" as one looks out at the sky but 날씨를 좋아해요 is not. But, 비오는 날씨를 좋아해요 is fine because it's based on general experience, not a one-time feeling.

    When walking into a store and finding a nice bag, one can say 이 가방이 좋아요 or 이런 가방을 좋아해요 but cannot say 이 가방을 좋아해요.

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  8. Hi Carmen, thanks for the additional notes. Now the difference is much clearer.

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  9. Thanks for the excellent explanation. I was a victim of 기뻐요 before. I first learned it when a friend told me "(난) 너무 기뻐요". Not wanting to use 행복하다, I resorted using 기쁘다 in describing a 3rd person's feelings. My 선생님 corrected it, but didn't explain why I was wrong. My mistake was not asking her why though. But not it cleared my confusion. Thanks a lot! ^^

    I've also read what Carmen said about 좋아요 vs 좋아해요 in Using Korean. And I always have to remember the bags whenever I get confused with the 2. :)

    I'm just wondering, on that example. Let's say there's a particular bag that you really like and been wanting to buy for quite sometime already. You go with your friend to a store and you want to tell your friend that 'This is the bag that I like', can you then say 이 가방을 좋아해요?

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  10. To say '좋아요' is to make a personal statement, i.e. to say "I just like it and there's no why."

    To say '좋아해요' is to make a general and objective statement of liking something.

    If you want to show your indescribable liking for the bag, then you can say 이 가방이 좋아요.

    If someone ask you "이 가방이 어때요?, you can say 이 가방을 좋아해요.

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