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Most Common Mistakes by Korean Natives – Part 2 Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Grammar

Since we talked about common mistakes made by Koreans in January, we are going to look at more frequent mistakes. Pay close attention to each word I am going to use as examples below since they are mistakes made in written Korean rather than in spoke Korean. I did my best to explain, but I admit that below examples are confusing to understand at first because some of them even deliver the same message without letting listeners know mistakes made by speakers. However, they should be spelled correctly since they may carry different nuances in written Korean. If you are a grammar geek, this post might sound intriguing. If you are not, hang in there. We only have three mistakes to look at this time. You might be surprised by what you learn today.

Image by Pixabay


  1. 이따 있다

From our January post, you might remember that I once had to take a Korean grammar test for a job. This was one of the questions I got wrong from the test. As a native Korean, I believed in the standard rule of Korean spelling, which doesn’t usually follow a phonetic system. What I mean by that is you simply don’t write Korean words as they sound. As an example, most Koreans, including me, would think the correct spelling of ‘이따’ as below:


여보, 5 있다 깨워 . (yeo-boh, oh-bun-it-dah-kkae-war-jo: Honey, wake me up after 5 minutes.)


However, I was very wrong on the test. The correct spelling should be written as:


여보, 5분 이따 깨워 줘. (yeo-boh, oh-bun-ee-ttah-kkae-war-jo: Honey, wake me up after 5 minutes.)



‘이따’ means later or after a while. On the other hand, ‘있다’ is a verb indicating ‘be’. When I chose an answer for this question, I thought 이따 sounded wrong because it was written as it sounded. However, 이따 was the correct word for this sentence. Let me give you another common phrase to help you understand this better.


이따 전화할게 (ee-ttah-jeon-hwa-hal-kkae: I will call you later.) is correct.


Instead of saying,


있다 전화할게. (it-dah–jeon-hwa-hal-kkae: I will call you later.) is wrong because the spelling of  “있다” is



To be honest, no one would know if you mean to say 있다 전화할게, instead of이따 전화할게 in spoken Korean because they sound exactly same. Thus, either of them delivers the same meaning to the listeners. Just be careful when you write the sentence using the correct spelling, especially in formal writing.



  1. 어떻게 vs 어떡해

You probably noticed that Koreans say these two words interchangeably, since they sound very similar. They even indicate the same meaning whether you say correctly or nor in spoken Korean. However, they should be spelled differently since they are technically different words. In fact, 어떻게 is a single word, which is an adverb indicating ‘how’ or ‘what’.

For instance, you can say:

김밥을 어떻게 만들지? (kim-bob-eul-ugh-ttuk-hae-man-dul-ji?: how do I make Kim-bob?)


On the other hand, 어떡해 is a phrase, which is short for “어떻게 해”. Therefore, 어떡해 can’t be used as a descriptive word.

나 어떡해? (nah-ugh-ttuk-hae?: What am I supposed to do?)

Or you can say,

나 어떻게  해? (nah-ugh-ttuk-gae-hae?: How am I supposed to do?)


However, it is wrong to spell as below because it is not a complete sentence.


나 어떻해 (nah-ugh-ttuk-hae?)


Image by Pixabay


  1. 가르치다 vs 가리키다

These two words sound different and they mean different. Although this is a frequent mistake that most Koreans make daily basis. I believe many Koreans may be aware that they are using them incorrectly because the difference between these two words have been taught in Korean classes throughout school years.


가르치다 means to teach, to instruct. For instance,

친구는 국어를 가르치는 선생님이다. (nae- chin-goo-nun-kook-uh-rul-gah-rue-chi-nun-sun-sang-nim-ee-dah: my friend is a teacher, who teaches Korean.)


Typically, people say:

치다(wrong), instead 가치다 (correct)


가리키다 means to indicate, to point out. For instance,

나는 손으로 건물을 가리켰다. (nah-nun-son-eui-ro-gun-mool-eul-gah-ree-ket-dah: I pointed out the building with my hand)


Typically, people say:

키다(wrong) instead of 가키다 (correct)


Congratulation! You are still with me and you reviewed all three examples today. I know your brain worked hard to digest all, but don’t get stressed over these examples. Just be aware that there are such mistakes exist out there. Be prepared to make a lot of mistakes until you can engrave them in your head. A language is a tool to communicate, not to test your spelling skills. However, recognizing your mistakes will help you be a better language learner than those who don’t even aware of their mistakes.



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About the Author: FlyHighOyster

Hi everyone, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. HJ