Get 40% off with the Now or Never sale. Hurry! Ends soon!
Get 40% off with the Now or Never sale. Hurry! Ends soon!
KoreanClass101.com Blog
Learn Korean with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

14 Confusing Korean Verbs that Sound Similar

Thumbnail

Things could get awkward if you replaced “to wish” with “to lose color” in a sentence. 

That’s why today we’re going to introduce fourteen confusing verbs for Korean learners. Often, confusing words are similar in pronunciation, but usually have completely different meanings (e.g. 반듯이 [bandeusi] and 반드시 [bandeusi]). Words like this are also the root of many common Korean spelling mistakes!

Even native Koreans make mistakes regarding these confusing words, and mistakes in foreign languages happen all the time. So even if you can’t distinguish between these words, don’t be discouraged. 

But we do hope our guide helps you out by showing you common Korean mistakes of English speakers and other language learners. Let’s get started with our list of Korean words that are easily mistaken!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean

1. 낳다 (nata) vs. 낫다 (nata)

1- Translation:

  • 낳다 (nata) means “to give birth to.”
  • 낫다 (natda) means “to recover from sickness.”

When words look as similar as these two do, mistakes when speaking Korean are inevitable. Indeed, these are a couple of the most confusing words in Korean.

As mentioned above, 낳다 (natda) means “to give birth to a baby” and it’s a verb. 낫다 (natda) has two meanings: Firstly, when it’s used as a verb, it means “to recover from injuries.” Secondly, it can also be used as an adjective that means “prefer” and “better,” as in “This one is better,” (after comparing two items). 

2- Common Mistakes:

“Please get well soon.” 

  • 빨리 낳으세요. (ppalli naeuseyo.) (X = incorrect)
  • 빨리 나으세요. (ppalli naeuseyo.) (O = correct)

3- Examples:

  • 그녀는 며칠 전에 아기를 낳았다. 

Geunyeoneun myeochil jeone agireul naatda.

“She gave birth to a baby a few days ago.”

  • 응, 몸이 괜찮아졌어. 이제 다 나았어. 

Eung, momi gwaenchanajyeosseo. ije da naasseo.

“Yes, I feel a lot better.”

  • A: 이 옷 진짜 이쁘다! 이걸로 할까 저걸로 할까?

A: I ot jinjja ippeuda! igeollo halkka jeogeollo halkka?

A: “This clothing looks great! Should I go for this or that?” 

B: 음, 저게 더 낫다.

B: Eum, jeoge deo natda.

B: “Hmm, that looks better.”

2. 붙이다 (buchida) vs. 부치다 (buchida)

1- Translation:

  • 붙이다 (buchida) means “to stick to.”
  • 부치다 (buchida) means “to send a parcel.”

Confusing these words is one of the most common mistakes when speaking Korean language, but these are easy to distinguish between if you know the meaning for each word. 붙이다 (buchida) is used a lot more in daily life, so once you understand the meaning of this word, you’ll be able to tell the difference between it and 부치다 (buchida).

2- Common Mistakes:

“Attach some stickers.” 

  • 스티커를 부치다. (Seutikeoreul buchida.) (X)
  • 스티커를 붙이다. (Seutikeoreul buchida.) (O)

3- Examples:

  • 미국에 있는친구에게 소포를 부쳤다. 

Miguge inneunchinguege soporeul buchyeotda.

“I sent a parcel to my friend in America.”

  • 플라스틱 박스에 라벨을 붙였다.

Peullaseutik bakseue rabereul butyeotda.

“I attached a label onto a plastic box.”

3. 맞추다 (matchuda) vs. 맞히다 (machida)

1- Translation:

  • 맞추다 (matchuda) means “to set” or “to adjust something.”
  • 맞히다 (machida) means “to guess something correctly.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“If you guess the problem correctly, I will give you some candies.”

  • 문제 맞추면 사탕 줄게. (Munje matchumyeon satang julge.)  (X)
  • 문제 맞히면 사탕 줄게. (Munje machimyeon satang julge.)  (O)

3- Examples:

  • 좋은 사진을 찍기 위해 카메라의 초점을 맞췄다.

Joeun sajineul jjikgi wihae kameraui chojeomeul matchwotda.

“In order to take a great picture, I adjusted the camera focus.”

  • 어려운 수학 문제를 맞혔다.

Eoryeoun suhank munjereul machyeotda.

“He managed to solve a difficult math problem.”

A man studying under the dim light.

4.  바라다 (barada) vs. 바래다 (baraeda)

Making a mistake in Korean here could be tragic. Pay close attention, as here lies the possibility for common Korean words mistakes!

1- Translation:

  • 바라다 (barada) means “to wish.”
  • 바래다 (baraeda) means “to lose color.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I wish I could meet you again.” 

  • 다시 너를 만나길 바래. (X)

Dasi neoreul mannagil barae.

  • 다시 너를 만나길 바래. (O)

Dasi neoreul mannagil bara.

3- Examples:

  • 나는 너를 다시 만나기를 바라고 있어. 

Maneun neoreul dasi mannagireul barago isseo.

“I wish that I could see you again.”

  • 검정색 드레스가 색이 바래서 회색이 되었다. 

Geomjeongsaek deureseuga saegi baraeseo hoesaegi doeeotda.

“The black dress has faded into gray.”

5. 늘이다 (neurida) vs. 늘리다 (neullida)

1- Translation:

  • 늘이다 (neurida) means “to stretch.” 
  • 늘리다 (neullida) means “to increase.”

The meaning of 늘이다 (neurida) focuses on the width/length of something which becomes larger than the original size, such as what happens to a rubber band. On the other hand, the meaning of 늘리다 (neullida) has to do with increasing the number (of people), the time, the skill, and so on.

2- Common Mistakes:

“To increase the property”

  • 재산을 늘이다. (X)

Jaesaneul neullida.

  • 재산을 늘리다. (O)

Jaesaneul neullida.

3- Examples:

  • 치마 길이를 늘이다. 

Chima girireul neurida.

“To make the length of a skirt longer.”

  • 학생 수를 늘리다.

Haksaeng sureul neullida.

“They increased the number of students.”

6. 있다가 (itdaga) vs. 이따가 (ittaga)

1- Translation:

  • 있다가 (itdaga) means “afterwards.”
  • 이따가 (ittaga) means “after a while.”

These two words are tricky, and are the cause of many common Korean phrases mistake, so let’s take a look at many examples to see the different meanings. As mentioned above, 이따가 (ittaga) means “after a while” and “later.” Here are some examples:

  1. 이따가 보자

Ittaga boja

“Let’s meet later.”

  1. 이따가 단둘이 볼래?

Ittaga danduri bollae?

“Shall we meet later?”

  1. 이따가 다시 전화할게

Ittaga dasi jeonhwahalge

“I will give you a call later.”

있다가  (itdaga) means “afterwards,” “after a time,” and “later on.” Here are some examples:

  1. 제주에 며칠 더 있다가 서울로 올라갈 예정이다. 

Jejue myeochil deo itdaga seoullo ollagal yejeongida.

“I am going to stay in Jeju and go back to Seoul afterwards.”

  1. 미국에 조금 더 있다가 한국으로 갈 거야. 

Miguge jogeum deo itdaga hangugeuro gal geoya.

“I am going to be in America for awhile, then go back to Korea.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I will go after thirty minutes.” 

  • 30분 이따가 갈게 (X)

Samsipbun ittaga galge

  • 30분 있다가 갈게 (O)

Samsipbun itdaga galge

3- Examples:

  • 내가 지금 너무 바빠서 그러는데, 조금 이따가 다시 전화할게, 미안!

Naega jigeum neomu bappaseo geureoneunde, jogeum ittaga dasi jeonhwahalge, mian!

“I’m really busy right now, so I will give you a call later!”

  • 이따가 단둘이서 보자. 할말이 있어. 

Ittaga danduriseo boja. halmari isseo.

“Let’s talk only you and me later. I have something to say.”

Confused lady in a yellow shirt

Confused lady in a yellow shirt.

7. 가늘다 (ganeulda) vs. 얇다 (yalda)

1- Translation:

  • 가늘다 (ganeulda) menas “slender.”
  • 얇다 (yalda) means “thin.”

When you want to talk about any objects that are narrow in width or height, such as a waist or a pillar, then you use 가늘다 (ganeulda). On the other hand, when you want to describe the thickness of an object, such as a book, then it’s 얇다 (yalda).

2- Common Mistakes:

“Her waist is really slender.” 

  • 그녀의 허리는 정말 얇다. (X)

Geunyeoui heorineun jeongmal yalda

  • 그녀의 허리는 정말 가늘다. (O) 

Geunyeoui heorineun jeongmal ganeulda.

“This Bible is really thin.”

  • 이 성경책은 가늘다. (X)

I seonggyeongchaegeun ganeulda.

  • 이 성경책은 얇다. (O)

I seonggyeongchaegeun yalda.

3- Examples:

  • 나도 클라우디아 처럼 팔뚝이랑 허리가 가늘었으면 좋겠다.

Nado keullaudia cheoreom palttugirang heoriga ganeureosseumyeon joketda.

“I wish my arms and waist were as slender as Claudia’s.”

  • 최근에 읽기 시작한 책이 있는데 얇아서 들고 다니기가 편해. 

Choegeune ilgi sijakan chaegi inneunde yalbaseo deulgo danigiga pyeonhae.

“The book I recently started reading is really thin, so it’s easy to carry around.”

8. 쓸데없는 (sseuldeeomneun) vs. 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun)

1- Translation:

  • 쓸데없는(sseuldeeomneun) means “unnecessary,” “needless,” and “useless.”
  • 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun) means “no way to use” and “no value.”

When you want to say that something is useless, use 쓸데없는 (sseuldeeomneun), and it’s one word. If you want to talk about something that has no ways to be used, because it has no value to you, use 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun). 쓸 데 (sseul de) is “to spend,” and the dictionary form is 쓰다 (sseuda). 없는 (mneun) is to say that “there is nothing.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Unnecessary rumor(s)”

  • 쓸 데 없는 소문 (X)

sseul de eomneun somun

  • 쓸데없는 소문 (O)

sseuldeeomneun somun

3- Examples:

  • 돈 쓸 데 없다

Don sseul de eopda.

“There is no way to spend money.”

  • 쓸데없는 생각

Sseuldeeomneun saenggak

“Useless, irrational thinking”

9. 먹거리 (meokgeori) vs. 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori)

1- Translation:

  • 먹거리 (meokgeori) means “food.”
  • 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori) also means “food.”

Simply put, 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori) means “something that you can eat, or any edible food or product.” It refers to any type of food. 

On the other hand, 먹거리 (meokgeori) means “any food that you eat to survive.” It refers to ritualism. I know these two are very tricky, so try to memorize the correct sentences so that you can use the correct form for now. The National Institute of Korean Language offers free services about the Korean language, if you want to learn more about how to distinguish between 먹거리 (meokgeori) and 먹을거 (meogeulgeori).

2- Common Mistakes:

“The fridge is full of food.”

  • 냉장고에 먹거리가 가득하다. (X)

Naengjanggoe meokgeoriga gadeukada.

“There is a full of food inside the fridge.” 

  • 냉장고에 먹을거리가 가득하다. (O)

Naengjanggoe meogeulgeoriga gadeukada.

3- Examples:

  • 아이들에게 안심하고 먹일 수 있는 먹거리를 소개하는 프로그램을 봤다.

Aideurege ansimhago meogil su inneun meokgeorireul sogaehaneun peurogeuraemeul bwatda.

“I saw a program that introduces food that children can eat safely.”

  • 시장에 가서 먹을거리를 사왔다.

Sijange gaseo meogeulgeorireul sawatda.

“I went to a market and bought something to eat.”

  • 여름에는 싱싱한 먹을거리가 많다.

Yeoreumeneun singsinghan meogeulgeoriga manta.

“There is a lot of fresh food in summer.”

  • 부산에는 먹거리 골목이 수도 없이 많다.

Busaneneun meokgeori golmogi sudo eopsi manta.

“Busan has many food alleys.”

A guy using his phone to calculate something.

10. 반드시 (bandeusi) vs. 반듯이 (bandeusi)

1- Translation:

  • 반드시 (bandeusi) means “certainly” and “without fail.”
  • 반듯이 (bandeusi) means “straight” and “in a straight line.”

Think of it this way: 반드시 (bandeusi) is “to keep a promise no matter what,” and 반듯이 (bandeusi) is “to ensure that things are in a straight line.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I will successfully complete the project.” 

  • 반듯이 프로젝트에 성공하겠습니다. (X)

Bandeusi peurojekteue seonggonghagetseumnida.

  • 반드시 프로젝트에 성공하겠습니다. (O)

Bandeusi peurojekteue seonggonghagetseumnida.

“As she was cleaning the house, she also organized the cups in a straight line.” 

  • 그녀는 청소를 하면서 컵들을 반드시 정리했다. (X)

Geunyeoneun cheongsoreul hamyeonseo keopdeureul bandeusi jeongnihaetda.

  • 그녀는 청소를 하면서 컵들을 반듯이 정리했다. (O)

Geunyeoneun cheongsoreul hamyeonseo keopdeureul bandeusi jeongnihaetda.

3- Examples:

  • 네, 반드시 참석하겠습니다! 

Ne, bandeusi chamseokagetseumnida!

“Yes, I will attend without fail.”

  • 일요일까지 반드시 이 일을 끝내고야 말겠어. 

Illyoilkkaji bandeusi i ireul kkeunnaegoya malgesseo.

“I will get this job done by Sunday, no matter what.”

11. 로서 (roseo) vs. 로써 (rosseo)

1- Translation:

  • 로서 (roseo) means “as” and “in the character of.”
  • 로써 (rosseo) means “with” and “by means of.”

로서 (roseo) refers to your status (e.g. as a military person) and your role (e.g. as a parent, a teacher, etc.). For example: 의사로서 충고합니다만(uisaroseo chunggohamnidaman…), meaning “I advise you as a doctor but…”

로써 (rosseo) refers to any raw material or ingredients of an object, or any tools or methods used to do a task. For example: 그녀의 권력으로써 (geunyeoui gwollyeogeurosseo), meaning “with her power.”

There is a Wiktionary page dedicated to explaining the differences between these two words. 

2- Common Mistakes:

“I advise you as your parent.”

  • 부모로써 충고를 하는데. (X)

Bumorosseo chunggoreul haneunde.

  • 부모로서 충고를 하는데. (O)

Bumoroseo chunggoreul haneunde.

3- Examples:

  • 그는 엔지니어로서 양성되고 있다.

Geuneun enjinieoroseo yangseongdoego itda.

“He is training as an engineer.”

  • 그녀는 대통령으로서 뛰어나지 못하다.

Geunyeoneun daetongnyeongeuroseo ttwieonaji mothada.

“She doesn’t shine as a president.”

12. 틀리다 (teullida) vs. 다르다 (dareuda)

1- Translation:

  • 틀리다 (teullida) means “be wrong” and “be incorrect.”
  • 다르다 (dareuda) means “different” and “dissimilar.”

Let’s say that you have two candies. Each candy has two different colors and flavors, and one candy is slightly bigger than the other. In this case, you should say: 이 두 개의 사탕은 다른 점이 많다 (I du gaeui satangeun dareun jeomi manta), meaning “These two candies have many dissimilarities.”

Let’s say that you’re an exchange student at a Korean university in Seoul. You wrote a report in Korean and want to ask your friend if she can correct the mistakes. In this case, you should say 틀린 곳이 있으면 고쳐줘. (Teullin gosi isseumyeon gochyeojwo.), meaning “Please correct the mistakes.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Can you please correct if there are any mistakes in these math questions?”

  • 여기 수학 문제 다른 곳이 있으면 고쳐줄래? (X)

Yeogi suhak munje dareun gosi isseumyeon gochyeojullae? 

  • 여기 수학 문제 틀린 곳이 있으면 고쳐줄래? (O)

Yeogi suhak munje teullin gosi isseumyeon gochyeojullae? 

3- Examples:

  • 여기 있는 데이터의 계산이 틀린 것 같아.  

Yeogi inneun deiteoui gyesani teullin geot gata.

“There are some mistakes in the data.”

  • 영어 시험에서 5문제나 틀렸어. 

Yeongeo siheomeseo 5munjena teullyeosseo.

“I got five questions wrong on the English test.”

  • 아까 했던 약속이랑 다르잖아. 

Akka haetdeon yaksogirang dareujana. 

“That’s different from what you promised before.”

13. 가르키다  (gareukida) vs. 가르치다 (gareuchida)

1- Translation:

  • 가르키다 (gareukida) means “to indicate” and “to point to.”
  • 가르치다 (gareuchida) means “to teach” and “to instruct.”

For example, when you want to indicate where Busan is on the map, you could say:

지도에서 부산을 가르키다 (Jidoeseo busaneul gareukida), meaning literally “Pointed where the Busan is on the map.” 

When you want to say that the teacher is really good at teaching Korean, then you could say 선생님은 한국어를 정말 잘 가르치신다 (Seonsaengnimeun hangugeoreul jeongmal jal gareuchisinda), meaning “The teacher is really good at teaching Korean.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Teacher, please teach us Korean language.”

  • 선생님 한국말 가르켜 주세요. (X)

Seonsaengnim hangungmal gareukyeo juseyo.

  • 선생님 한국말 가르쳐 주세요. (O)

Seonsaengnim hangungmal gareuchyeo juseyo.

3- Examples:

  • 남자는 자신의 싸인을 가르키고 있다. 

Namjaneun jasinui ssaineul gareukigo itda. 

“The man is pointing to his own signature.”

  • 여동생에게 한글을 가르쳤다. 

Yeodongsaengege hangeureul gareuchyeotda.

“I taught my younger sister Korean.”

14. 들르다 (deulleuda) vs. 들리다 (deullida)

1- Translation:

  • 들르다 (deulleuda) means “to stop by” and “to come by.”
  • 들리다 (deullida) means “to listen” and “to overhear.”

들르다 (deulleuda) and 들리다 (deullida) look similar, but each word has a completely different meaning, so do be careful. Remember: To say “stop by,” it’s 들다 (deulleuda); to say “overhear,” it’s 들다 (deullida). Check out this news article from Hani to read more about the differences between these two words. 

2- Common Mistakes:

“I dropped by the supermarket and bought this.” 

  • 집에 가는 길에 슈퍼에 들렸다가 갈께요. (X)

Jibe ganeun gire syupeoe deullyeotdaga galkkeyo.

  • 집에 가는 길에 슈퍼에 들렀다가 갈께요. (O)

Jibe ganeun gire syupeoe deulleotdaga galkkeyo.

“I cannot hear you clearly. Can you speak up please?”

  • 목소리가 잘 안들러요. 조금 더 크게 말씀해주세요. (X)

Moksoriga jal andeulleoyo. jogeum deo keuge malsseumhaejuseyo.

  • 목소리가 잘 안들려요. 조금 더 크게 말씀해주세요. (O)

Moksoriga jal andeullyeoyo. jogeum deo keuge malsseumhaejuseyo.

3- Examples:

  • 저녁에 잠깐 들를게요. 

Jeonyeoge jamkkan deulleulgeyo.

“I will drop by in the evening.”

  • 그녀는 제주로 가는 도중에 부산에 들렀다. 

Geunyeoneun jejuro ganeun dojunge busane deulleotda.

“On the way to Jeju, she stopped off at Busan.”

  • 제 목소리 잘 들려요? 

Je moksori jal deullyeoyo?

“Can you hear my voice clearly?”

A Korean flag being held by someone

15. How KoreanClass101.com Can Help You with Korean

We hope you enjoyed learning how to distinguish between similar Korean verbs with us! Are there any that you’re still struggling with? Have any of these mistakes when learning Korean tripped you up before? Let us know in the comments!

Remember that mistakes in Korean language learning are going to happen—it’s just a part of learning! Hopefully our guide on mistakes to avoid for Korean learners gives you a better footing as you continue in your Korean studies.

In addition to what we’ve learned here, we also have a blog article explaining the difference between 어떻게 and 어떡해, so please check it out! KoreanClass101.com offers many free lessons and provides free vocabulary lists for you to improve your Korean language skills. So why not sign up for a lifelong account today and maximize your studies?

You’ll be speaking Korean like a pro before you know it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean