Lesson 84: As soon as (~자마자, ~는 대로, ~자)

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Vocabulary
Introduction

As soon as: ~자마자
As soon as: ~는 대로
Three meanings of ~자

 

 

Vocabulary

Nouns:
특허 = patent
신제품 = new product
폭탄 = bomb
폐기물 = waste materials
급행 = express (train)
붕대 = bandage, Band-Aid
연봉 = annual income, one’s yearly salary

Verbs:
기소하다 = to prosecute
강연하다 = to give a lecture
전달하다 = to convey, to deliver information
인쇄하다 = to print
제하다 = to subtract, to deduct
더하다 = to add
환호하다 = to cheer
기다 = to crawl
요구하다 = to demand
쓰러뜨리다 = to knock down
연장하다 = to extend, to renew
처리하다 = to handle, to dispose of, to process
폐기하다 = to destroy

Passive Verbs:
쓰러지다 = to collapse, to be knocked down

Adjectives:
푸짐하다 = plentiful, abundant, generous
깔끔하다 = clean, neat and tidy
무리하다 = too much

Adverbs and Other Words:
한참 = a long time

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn about the grammatical principle ~자마자 and it’s less common counterpart, ~자. Both have similar meanings, but as always I will dissect each one so you can understand them more clearly by the end of this lesson. Let’s get started.

 

As soon as: ~자마자

This is actually one of the easiest grammatical principles to learn and understand, especially because you have had tons of practice with learning new grammar by now. By attaching ~자마자 to a verb at the end of a clause, the speaker indicates that an action occurs “as soon as” another action does. For example:

집에 도착하자마자 밥을 먹어야 돼요 = As soon as we arrive at home, I need to eat

Just like many other Korean grammatical principles, the clause before ~자마자 is not conjugated to the past or future tenses. Rather, ~자마자 is attached directly to the verb and the tense can be assumed from the conjugation of the second clause. Below are many examples:

버스가 출발하자마자 사람들은 움직였어요
= As soon as the bus moved, people started moving

경찰관들은 범죄자를 찾자마자 기소할 거예요
= As soon as the police find the criminal, they will prosecute him/her

제가 가르치기 시작하자마자 학생들이 조용해졌어요
= As soon as I started teaching, the students got quiet

비행기 바퀴가 땅에 닿자마자 승객들이 자리에서 일어났어요
= As soon as the plane’s wheels hit the ground, the passengers got out of their seats

선생님이 조용히 하라고 하자마자 애들이 웃음을 멈추었어요
= As soon as the teacher said “be quiet,” the students stopped laughing

내가 친구들한테 쇼핑을 하자고 하자마자 친구들이 다 바쁘다고 했어
= As soon as I asked my friends if they want to go shopping, they all said that they are busy

급행 열차가 도착하자마자 사람들이 무리하게 탔어요
= As soon as the express train arrived, people got on excessively

선수들이 나오자마자 저는 소리를 질러 환호할 거예요
= As soon as the athletes/players come out, I am going to scream and cheer

이 신제품이 나오자마자 우리가 특허를 신청해야 돼요
= As soon as this new product comes out, we have to apply for a patent

이 붕대를 풀자마자 애기가 기어 다니기 시작해도 돼요
= As soon as you unravel this bandage, the baby can start crawling around

공항에서 폭탄을 찾자마자 경찰관들은 그 폭탄을 처리해야 돼요
= As soon as the police find the bomb at the airport, they need to deal with it right away

인쇄가 다 되자마자 종이에 무엇이 쓰여 있는지 내용을 전달해 주세요
= As soon as the printing is all done, please tell me the contents that are written on the paper

이 정보를 이용하자마자 개인정보 보호를 위해 바로 폐기해야 돼요
= As soon as you use this information, in order to protect your personal information, you should discard it right away

부장님을 만나자마자 제가 저의 계약을 어떻게 연장할 수 있냐고 물어볼 거예요
= As soon as I meet the boss, I will ask how I can renew/extend my contract

지금 버는 돈이 많지 않아서 내일 회사에 도착하자마자 연봉 인상을 요구할 거예요
= The money I make isn’t a lot, so as soon as I arrive at the office, I am going to request/demand a raise in my salary

This grammatical principle is pretty straightforward, but there are ways we can create a similar meaning using other grammatical principles. I would like to discuss these in the next sections.

 

 

As soon as: ~ 대로

In Lesson 79, you learned about the noun “대로” and how it can be used to indicate that one action is the same as some experience. For example:

예상한 대로 그 영화가 재미있었어요 = As I expected, that movie was funny

대로 can also be used to have a similar meaning as ~자마자. You can do this by describing 대로 with a verb in the present tense by using ~는 것. For example:

집에 도착하는 대로 밥을 먹어야 돼요
= As soon as we arrive at home, I need to eat

제가 가르치기 시작하는 대로 학생들이 조용해졌어요
= As soon as I started teaching, the students got quiet

비행기바퀴가 땅에 닿는 대로 승객들이 자리에서 일어났어요
= as soon as the plane’s wheels hit the ground, the passengers got out of their seats

Notice that only present tense conjugations are used in the first clauses here as well.

Using this grammatical principle to mean “as soon as” is perfectly acceptable, and Korean people say that the sentences with ~자마자 and 대로 have the same meaning. That being said, I feel that ~자마자 is much more common than ~는 대로 – and I would advise against using ~는 대로 in conversation. If you write a Korean test (TOPIK, for example), you might see some questions asking for a similar form of “~자마자,” where the answer will inevitably be “~는 대로.” But aside from that, I rarely see this form being used.

Also notice that this is another grammatical principle that could easily be confused with “~는데,” which you learned in Lesson 76 and Lesson 77.  Below are the different grammatical principles that could all be easily confused because they all have identical pronunciations. The only way to tell them apart is by context and understanding the situation of a sentence:

~는 데 – describing a place as “데” refers to a location
~는데 – setting up an upcoming clause while slightly negating the first one
~는 데 – indicating the amount of time or resources that were required to complete an action
~는 대로 – indicating that one action is the same as some experience
~는 대로 – indicating that one action happens as soon as another action happens

Now that you know about ~자마자 and ~는 대로, let me discuss how ~자 is used.

 

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Three meanings of ~

In Lesson 44, you learned how to use ~자 at the end of a sentence to suggest that a group of people do something together. When ~자 is used to connect two clauses, it can have various meanings – one of which overlaps with the meaning of ~자마자. I would like to separate these meanings into three usages:

To indicate that one action occurs “as soon as’ another action does
~자 can be used to create essentially the same meaning that ~자마자 creates. Again, the speaker indicates that an action occurs “as soon as” another action does.

When ~자마자 is used, it is possible that the actions have already happened, or it is possible that they haven’t happened yet. For example, look at these three sentences:

집에 도착하자마자 밥을 먹어야 돼요
= As soon as we arrive at home, I need to eat
In this sentence, “arriving home” hasn’t happened yet.

경찰관들은 범죄자를 찾자마자 기소할 거예요
= As soon as the police find the criminal, they will prosecute him/her
In this sentence “finding the criminal” hasn’t happened yet.

제가 가르치기 시작하자마자 학생들이 조용해졌어요
= As soon as I started teaching, the students got quiet
In this sentence, “starting teaching” has already happened.

~자 can replace ~자마자 to have a similar meaning when the actions have already happened. Therefore, some of the sentences we created earlier would work if ~자 were used instead of ~자마자. For example, all of these sentences would be acceptable:

버스가 출발하자 사람들은 움직였어요
제가 가르치기 시작하자 학생들이 조용해졌어요
비행기 바퀴가 땅에 닿자 승객들이 자리에서 일어났어요
선생님이 조용히 하라고 하자 애들이 웃음을 멈추었어요
내가 친구들한테 쇼핑을 하자고 하자 친구들이 바쁘다고 했어
급행 열차가 도착하자 사람들이 무리하게 탔어요

However, in sentences where the actions have not already occurred, ~자 cannot replace ~자마자. For example, these sentences that we made earlier would not be natural if ~자 replaced ~자마자:

경찰관들은 범죄자를 찾자마자 기소할 거예요
선수들이 나오자마자 저는 소리를 질러 환호할 거예요
이 신제품이 나오자마자 우리가 특허를 신청해야 돼요
이 붕대를 풀자마자 애기가 기어 다니기 시작해도 돼요
공항에서 폭탄을 찾자마자 경찰관들은 그 폭탄을 처리해야 돼요
인쇄가 다 되자마자 종이에 무엇이 쓰여 있는지 내용을 전달해 주세요
이 정보를 이용하자마자 개인정보 보호를 위해 바로 폐기해야 돼요
부장님을 만나자마자 제가 저의 계약을 어떻게 연장할 수 있냐고 물어볼 거예요
지금 버는 돈이 많지 않아서 내일 회사에 도착하자마자 연봉 인상을 요구할 거예요

To show a cause-and-effect
It is also possible that ~자 could be used to show a cause-and-effect relationship between the two clauses. For example:

바람이 불자 그 집이 쓰러질 것 같아요
= The house might fall down because of the wind blowing

엄마가 소리를 지르자 아기가 깜작 놀랐어요
= The baby was surprised because the mother raised her voice

물가가 비싸지자 사람들이 그 도시에 안 가요
= People don’t go to that city because the price of goods is getting expensive

~자 is not as common as other ways to show cause-and-effect that you have already learned. For example, in Lesson 37 and 38 you learned how to use ~아/어서 and 때문에 to create this type of meaning. The sentences above would more likely be said as:

물가가 비싸져서 사람들이 그 도시에 안 가요
물가가 비싸지기 때문에 사람들이 그 도시에 안 가요

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Let me just step in to provide my personal insight on this ambiguous situation.

This is one of the reasons why learning a language can be so difficult. There are always many, many ways that you can state the same thing.  Not only that, but one thing can be used to have many meanings. For example, any of the following could be ways to translate “because” into Korean:

~아/어서
~기 때문에
~(으)니
~(으)니까
~자
(and others…)

Not only that, but each of those could have different translations/usages than “because.” For example, ~자 could be used to create any of the following meanings:

– As soon as..
– Because…
– Let’s…
– And…
(and others…)

This is not related to the explanation of this lesson, but instead related to the study of Korean (or any language) in general. I am including this here to attempt to describe the ambiguity of languages. As a beginner of Korean (or maybe any language), learners try to get definite, black-and-white answers for what something means. They want to hear that “A means B, and C means D.” However, languages don’t work like that. Instead, “A means B, but it could also mean X and Y. And C means D, but it can also mean X and Y.”

As you progress into more difficult (and real) Korean, the key to understanding any sentence is context. When we see ~자 being used, it might be very ambiguous if it is used to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship or to indicate “as soon as.” For example:

엄마가 소리를 지르자 아기가 깜작 놀랐어요

What is the meaning of the sentence? Could it be:
1) The baby was surprised because the mother raised her voice, or
2) As soon as the mother raised her voice, the baby was surprised

I discussed a similar problem in my discussion with ~(으)니 (Lesson 81) and the ambiguously similar meanings it can have. Is the Korean sentence above best translated to the first English translation, or the second? The answer isn’t as important as you would think. In both situations, the end result is the same. If you heard that Korean sentence in a real conversation, you wouldn’t stop the speaker and say “Hold on a minute – did the baby wake up because the mother raised her voice? Or as soon as she raised her voice?” In most situations, you wouldn’t need the clarification, and if you did, the context would probably make it clear.

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To indicate that one thing is inherently two things
When ~자 is attached to 이다, the speaker can indicate that one noun is inherently two nouns. For example, if somebody is a teacher and also a student as well, they could say:

저는 선생님이자 학생이에요 = I am a teacher and a student

Here are more examples:

이 식사는 우리 점심이자 저녁이에요 = This meal is our lunch and dinner
요즘 핸드폰은 전화기이자 컴퓨터예요 = Cell phones these days are phones and computers
저의 남편은 저의 제일 친한 친구이자 제가 제일 사랑하는 사람이에요 = My husband is my best friend and the person who I love the most

One common way that ~자 is used with 이다 like this is when the speaker indicates that this is the “first and last” of something. For example:

이것은 처음이자 마지막 기회예요 = This is the first and last chance
그 사람은 우리 나라의 처음이자 마지막 왕이었어요 = That person was our country’s first and last king

That’s it for this lesson!

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