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Episode 37: Trying things out with ~보다!

안녕하세요 여러분~!!

The start of school year at my university has mad my life a total mess! Am I the only one who needs a ton of effort to adjust to a new schedule? Hopefully university will not interfere with my uploads *fingers crossed*

As for what we'll be discussing today: remember the end of Episode 36? I gave you guys a sentence example with a special ending, which some of you may not have yet encountered in your Korean learning.

This was the example I gave:

그렇게 하지 말고 내 말을 들어 봐- Don't do it this way and listen to what I'm saying

The confusion may arise from the ending verb '봐' and the reason for putting it there. That's why this week we'll delve into the use of the verb 보다 in regular and imperative sentences!

~ 어/아 보다

The original meaning of 보다 is 'to see,' however when we add it to the stem of another verb in a sentence we create a meaning close to "to attempt," "to try out".

This is where I hope more advanced learners don't get confused because there are other ways to express an attempt at something, for example using (으)려고 노력하다. Even though literal translation to English may be the same, but the general meaning and context is very different. For example:

나는 약을 마시려고 노력했어요- I tried to drink medicine

나는 약을 마셔 봤어요- I tried to drink medicine

Even though both of these sentences describe your attempt at drinking medicine, the first sentence emphasises the effort that went into that attempt. You could say it in a situation where it was hard for you to drink the medicine because it tasted bad but you still did. A more literal translation would sound something like "I put effort into trying to drink the medicine."

The second sentence simply states the fact that you tried to drink medicine. You could have been just giving it a try for prevention purposes or it may be a new type of medicine you've never heard of and are about to try for the first time.

Now that we got this confusing difference out of the way, let's look at the way we actually form sentences using 보다. Even in English when we talk about trying to do something we usually speak in past or future tense. We rarely announce to the world (or whoever we are talking to) what we're trying to do at this exact moment. Therefore let's look at how to form past and future tense sentences first.

Let's say we have a sentence like this: 나는 약을 마셔요, which translates to "I drink medicine."

Now all we've got to do to turn this sentence into "I tried to drink medicine" is take the stem of the verb 마시다, add 어/아 보다, and then conjugate 보다 in past tense just like any other verb.

We end up with: 나는 약을 마시 봤어요, which translates to "I tried to drink medicine"

Here are more examples:

한국 음식을 먹어 봤어요?- Have you ever tried Korean cuisine?

그 한복을 입어 봤어요- I tried on the Hanbok

노래방에 가 봤어요- I tried going to karaoke

When it comes to using 보다 in future tense, all we have to do is conjugate it, making it 볼 거예요.

다음 주에 스케이트 보드를 타 볼 거예요- I will try to skateboard next week

한국 신문을 읽어 볼 거예요- I will try to read Korean newspaper

To be completely honest with you guys, there are going to be times when native Korean speakers will use this type of sentence to simply express what they've done or are planning to do. There is a chance that they do not mean to say that they 'tried' doing something. A fuller understanding of the use of this type of sentence will come with time and practice so don't worry too much about translating everything literally and understanding every single sentence completely.

Imperative Mood with ~어/아 보다

Even though earlier I said that people don't really use this type of sentence in present tense, I was only partly correct. It is true that people wouldn't usually use 보다 in an affirmative, regular sentence, which simply describes their or someone else's actions. However, they do use it when telling somebody to do something.

This is where our knowledge of how to make commands in Korean kicks in and we can use multiple levels of politeness together with 보다.

The least polite commands:

그것을 확인해 봐!- Check that! (Try to check that!)

이 것을 입어 봐!- Wear this! (Try to wear this!)

여기 와 봐!- Come here! (Try to come here!)

지금 읽어 봐!- Read now! (Try to read now!)

문을 열어 봐!- Open the door (Try to open the door!)

이거를 봐 봐!- Look at this! (Try to look at this!)

Regularly polite commands:

그것을 확인해 봐요!- Check that! (Try to check that!)

이 것을 입어 봐요!- Wear this! (Try to wear this!)

여기 와 봐요!- Come here! (Try to come here!)

지금 읽어 봐요!- Read now! (Try to read now!)

문을 열어 봐요!- Open the door (Try to open the door!)

이거를 봐 봐요!- Look at this! (Try to look at this!)

Super polite commands:

그것을 확인해 보세요!- Please check that (Please try to check that)

여기 와 보세요!- Please come here (Please try to come here)

지금 읽어 보세요!- Please sit down now (Please try to sit down now)

문을 열어 보세요!- Open the door (Try to open the door!)

이거를 봐 보세요!- Look at this! (Try to look at this!)

Those of you who noticed that I took away one sentence from the super polite commands get browny points. Certain verbs in Korean have a less polite and more polite versions of them and we can't use a less polite verb together with 보세요, which is a very polite way to use 보다.

The verb 먹다 is a regular verb with a meaning of "to eat," however Korean has a more polite version of it which is 드시다,which is what we would use with 보세요.

이것을 드셔 보세요- Please eat this (Please try to eat this)

That is it for today! Hope it wasn't too difficult :)

Let me know if you have any questions!

Much love,


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