Lesson 88: Many meanings of ~다가

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Vocabulary
Introduction

To do something after something: ~다가
While: ~다가
To add to: ~에다가

 

 

Vocabulary

Nouns:
해변 = beach
천재 = genius
박쥐 = bat (the animal)
유리 = glass
침실 = bedroom
형태 = the shape of something
회장 = boss, chairman
눈길 = a snowy road
해물 = seafood
해산물 = seafood
재시험 = retest
임산부 = pregnant woman

Verbs:
섞다 = to mix
지급하다 = to give somebody money, to pay
폭발하다 = to explode

Passive Verbs:
섞이다 = to be mixed

Adjectives:
보수적이다 = to be conservative

Adverbs and Other Words
도 = temperature, degrees
살짝 = slightly
영하 = below zero (temperature)
영상 = above zero (temperature)
한가운데 = in the very middle

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

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn about the various usages of ~다가, which is often placed between two clauses. There are many meanings that ~다가 can have, and it is often confused with other grammatical principles that have similar meanings. Because of this confusion, this grammatical principle has plagued learners of Korean for years. Let’s get started.

 

For one action to halt, and for another action to begin: ~다가

If you have come across ~다가 in some form before this lesson (I’m sure you have if you are on lesson 88!) then you probably had some trouble trying to understand exactly when this principle should be used. The difficulty lies not only in its seemingly identical usages to other grammatical principles but also in the different meanings ~다가 can create.

Understanding how and when ~다가 is used was probably the first time that I understood a grammatical principle from deciphering its usage in conversation/books rather than reading descriptions from dictionaries or having people tell me what it means. The good thing about ~다가 is that it is usually fairly easy to understand when heard/seen, which allows for learners to grasp its meaning before starting to use it on their own. After enough exposure, it is much easier to understand how it can be used – at least that is the way it was for me. Because of this, instead of trying to use ~다가 in sentences right away, I suggest listening for it in your Korean conversations and looking for it in your Korean readings before immediately trying to make your own sentences.

Nonetheless, I never had good explanations of the specific meaning(s) of ~다가 when I was studying. Therefore, in order to help every other learner of Korean, I am going to do my absolute best to explain the meanings in this lesson.

~다가 is used to expresses that one action occurs after another. On the surface, this sounds like many other grammatical principles (for example: ~고, ~아/어서 or ~는데). However, let me start distinguishing ~다가 from other grammatical principles by showing you two simple examples:

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요
= The student studied hard and then fell asleep

요리를 하다가 주방에서 불이 나서 급하게 가스레인지를 껐어요
= I was cooking, and then a fire started in the kitchen so I urgently turned off the stove

When the verb before ~다가 is in the present tense (as in the above two examples), the sentence implies that this action was halted (or cut short) – and the subject performs the following clause. For example, if we look at those two sentences again:

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요
Here, the student was studying. However, this studying was halted/cut short because he fell asleep

요리를 하다가 주방에서 불이 나서 급하게 가스레인지를 껐어요
Here, I was cooking. However, this cooking was halted/cut short because a fire started in the kitchen and I turned off the stove.

The examples above show ~다가 being attached to verbs, but it can also be attached to adjectives as well. For example:

날씨가 춥다가 갑자기 더워졌어요
= The weather was cold, and then suddenly became hot

When the first clause in conjugated in the present tense (as in the above examples), the first action is halted, and therefore didn’t finish. Therefore, the result of completing that action is often not stated in the upcoming clause. Rather, the action that caused the first action to halt is often stated in the upcoming clause.

A common English translation for these types of sentences is “while.” Note that “while” can have many meanings in English, one of them indicating that two actions progress along together (as is the meaning of ~(으)면서 from Lesson 62). When using ~다가, “while” one action is occurring, something else happens which causes the first action to halt. Let’s look at many more examples:

침실에서 자다가 갑자기 돌아가셨어요
= While sleeping in the bedroom, he suddenly passed away
돌아가시다 is a formal way to say somebody dies. It is similar to passed away in English.

열심히 운동하다가 갑자기 쓰러졌어요
= While exercising hard, suddenly I collapsed

제가 집을 청소하다가 잃어버린 열쇠를 찾았어요
= While I was cleaning the house, I found the key that I lost

과학 천재가 실험을 하다가 실수로 집을 폭발시켰어요
= While the science genius was doing an experiment, he accidently blew up his house

재시험을 준비하다가 몸이 안 좋아져서 시험을 포기했어요
= While studying for the retest, my body/health became bad so I gave up (studying for) the exam

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 친구가 놀러 와서 친구랑 수다를 떨었어요
= While the student was studying hard, his friend came (to play) so (he stopped studying and) they started chatting

회장이 직원들을 월급을 지급하다가 시스템이 고장이 나서 다 못 했어요
= While the chairman was paying the employees, the system broke so he couldn’t do it all

사무실에서 일하다가 회장님이 들어와서 모든 직원들이 인사하려고 일어났어요
= While working at the office, the chairman/boss came in so all of the workers (stopped working and) got up to greet him

It is possible to add ~았/었 to the word that is attached to ~다가. When this is done, the action before ~았/었다가 completed before the action in the next clause started. In these sentences, the end result of completing that action is often stated in the upcoming clause. Let’s look at four actions that we saw in sentences above with ~다가 and see how we can make sentences using ~았/었다가 with those same actions:

학생이 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요
= The student studied hard and then fell asleep
Here, the student was studying. However, this studying was halted/cut short because he fell asleep

학생이 열심히 공부했다가 친구를 잘 못 만나서 나쁜 학생이 되었어요
= The student studied hard, and then met bad friends and then became a bad student
Here, the student completed studying before the next action of “becoming a bad student” takes place. The act of the student studying hard was completed and him becoming a bad student is the end result of this action completing.

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요리를 하다가 주방에서 불이 나서 급하게 가스레인지를 껐어요
= I was cooking, and then a fire started in the kitchen, so I urgently turned off the stove
Here, I was cooking. However, this cooking was halted/cut short because a fire started in the kitchen and I turned off the stove.

요리를 했다가 먹을 사람이 없어서 다 버렸어요
= I cooked, and because there was nobody to eat the food, I threw it all away
Here, I completed cooking before the next action of “throwing it away” takes place. The act of cooking was completed and me throwing away the food is the end result of this action completing.

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침실에서 자다가 갑자기 돌아가셨어요
= Suddenly, while sleeping in the bedroom, he passed away
Here, he was sleeping. However, the sleeping was halted/cut short because he passed away.

그 침실에서 잤다가 그 다음 날에 아팠어요
= I slept in that bedroom, and then the next day I was sore
Here, I completed sleeping before the next action of “being sore” takes place. The act of sleeping was completed and me being sore is the end result of this action completing.

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열심히 운동하다가 갑자기 쓰러졌어요
= While exercising hard, suddenly I collapsed
Here, I was exercising. However, the exercising was halted/cut short because I collapsed.

열심히 운동했다가 운동을 그만둬서 살이 다시 쪘어요
Here, I completed exercising before the next action of “gaining weight” takes place. The act of exercising was completed and me gaining weight is the end result of this action completing.

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Below are more examples:

해물을 먹었다가 토했어요
= I ate seafood and then threw up

박쥐가 날아갔다가 또 나타났어요
= The bat flew away and then came back (showed up) again

저는 공무원 시험을 준비했다가 포기했어요
= I prepared to write the exam to become a government worker, and/but then I gave up

저는 그녀한테 데이트를 하자고 했다가 거절당했어요
= I asked her if she wanted to go on a date, and then I was rejected

임산부가 전철을 탔다가 자리가 없어서 전철에서 내렸어요
= The pregnant woman got on the subway, and because there was no seat, she got off

날씨가 영하 10도까지 떨어졌다가 다시 영상으로 올랐어요
= The weather fell to 10 degrees below zero, and then went back up above zero again

장모님이 한때 보수적이었다가 나이가 들면서 성격이 변했어요
= At one time my mother in law was very conservative, but as she got older, her personality changed

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Let’s look at how ~다가 and ~았/었다가 can be different by studying their usages with 가다 and 오다. Look at the following two sentences:

1) 저는 학교에 가다가 친구 집에 갔어요
2) 저는 학교에 갔다가 친구 집에 갔어요

In only one of the sentences above did I go to school.

1) In the first sentence, the action of “going to school” did not finish. Here, while I was going to school, the action was interrupted/halted/cut short and I went to a friend’s house.

2) In the second sentence, the action of “going to school” finished. Here, I went to school, and then after that went to my friend’s house.

We can do the same with 오다. Notice how the endings of the following sentences are different because of the context that 오다가 or 왔다가 creates:

그 사람들이 가게에 오다가 버스가 고장 나서 돌아갔어요
= While those people were coming to the store (while they were on their way), their bus broke down so they went back

그 사람들이 가게에 아침에 왔다가 급히 떠났어요
= Those people came to the store in the morning and left quickly

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~다가 is commonly attached to 있다. “있다가” is almost synonymous with “later,” as its construction literally implies “after we are here” or “after this.” It can be used by itself, or in sentences. 조금 is often used before 있다가 to indicate “just a little bit later.” For example:

Person 1: 언제 가고 싶어요? = When do you want to go?
Person 2: 있다가 = Later

저는 조금 있다가 해산물을 먹으러 갈 거예요

A time frame can also be put before “있다가” to indicate how much later. For example:

10분 있다가 = 10 minutes later
1년 있다가 = 1 year later

These constructions can be used in sentences. For example:

10분 있다가 나가자! = Let’s leave in 10 minutes!
우리는 아마 1년 있다가 결혼할 것 같아요 = We will probably get married in a year

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In order for you to get a better understanding of ~다가, let’s look at some ways that ~다가 is commonly used incorrectly.

When we saw ~다가 attached to a verb in the present tense, that action was halted (and not finished) because of some unanticipated event “coming up.” It would not be correct to use ~다가 if that action finishes as planned in the sentence. For example, the following would be incorrect:

재료를 다 섞다가 드세요
재료를 다 섞다가 10분 동안 비비세요

In these sentences, the speaker gives the command to do something after “the appropriate completion of mixing the ingredients.” In both examples, it would be more appropriate to use ~고 or ~아/어서. For example:

재료를 다 섞고 드세요
재료를 다 섞어서 드세요
재료를 다 섞고 10분 동안 비비세요
재료를 다 섞어서 10분 동안 비비세요

If we want to use the first clause “재료를 다 섞다가” in a correct sentence, we should insert some action that causes the first action to halt or be interrupted. For example:

재료를 다 섞다가 거품이 생겼어요
= While mixing all the ingredients, bubbles formed

재료를 다 섞다가 떡의 형태가 변했어요
= While mixing all the ingredients, the shape/form of the rice cakes changed

The two sentences above could be correct, but they would probably be used if somebody asked the speaker “why did you stop mixing the ingredients?” When you use ~다가, the final clause usually indicates what the subject does that interrupts the first action. In the two sentences above, it could be assumed from context that the speaker “halted” the mixing of the ingredients, but it doesn’t need to be specifically implied.

However, if I was just telling a story with no prior context, it would be better for me to indicate what the subject does that interrupts the first action. For example:

재료를 다 섞다가 거품이 생겨서 멈췄어요
= While mixing all the ingredients, bubbles formed so I stopped

재료를 다 섞다가 떡의 형태가 변하면 드시면 됩니다
= While mixing all the ingredients, if the shape/form of the rice cakes changes, you can eat it

Notice that the underlined actions are performed by the same person who is performing the action attached to ~다가. Again, usually sentences with ~다가 indicate what the subject does that interrupts the first action. In context, it is possible to not include this information, but without context, it is usually included.

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Wow, that can be confusing. Let’s move on to another usage of ~다가.

 

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The second action is caused by the first action: ~다가

This usage of ~다가 is very similar to grammatical principles that mean “because,” like ~아/어서, ~기 때문에 or ~(으)니까.

The difference between ~다가 and the other grammatical principles learned previously to mean “because” is that there often isn’t a direct connection as to why the first clause causes the second clause. Instead, it is usually implied that while one is doing the first action, something about that action caused the action in the second clause to occur.

For example:

제가 빨리 걷다가 발가락을 부딪혔어요
= I was walking fast and then (because I was walking fast) stubbed my toe

Notice the incredibly subtle difference between that sentence and the following:

제가 빨리 걸어서 발가락을 부딪혔어요
= Because I was walking fast I stubbed my toe

In the second example, you are indicating that the sole reason that you stubbed your toe was because you were walking too fast – and there is a direct connection between the two behaviors. However, in the first example, you are indicating that you were walking fast – and while you were walking fast, something about that action caused you to stub your toe. I’ll talk about this ambiguity below, but first let me show you some more examples:

눈길을 걷다가 넘어졌어요
= I was walking on a snowy road, and then – something about walking on a snowy road caused me to fall

친구만 믿다가 결국 가족을 잃었어요
= I only trusted my friend, and then – something about only trusting my friend caused me to eventually lose my family

해물만 먹다가 식중독에 걸려서 병원에 갔어요
= I only ate seafood, and then – something about only eating seafood caused me to get food poisoning and go to the hospital

우리가 계속 얘기하다가 선생님의 말씀을 못 들었어요
= We were talking, and then – something about us continually talking caused us to not hear what the teacher said

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Here is my take on ~다가 and the trickiness of understanding its meaning. Notice that it can be difficult to understand what meaning is being expressed. For example, in the example we saw at the beginning of the lesson:

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요

This could actually have two meanings. The two meanings you have learned would be:

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요
= The student studied hard and then – something about him studying hard caused him to fall asleep

Or

학생은 열심히 공부하다가 잠이 들었어요
= While the student was studying hard, he fell asleep

How can we distinguish between the two? Well… look at both of the sentences (in English). Despite there being a slightly different translation – is the meaning that is being expressed all that different? In the first sentence; the student studies hard, and then after that falls asleep. In the second sentence; the student studies hard… and then while studying, he falls asleep…

So… ask yourself… Are they really that different? Korean learners try to distinguish these types of things, but really, they don’t need to be distinguished. You are hearing this more and more in your Korean studies these days. The meaning a sentence is heavily dependent on the context. As always, use the context of a sentence to help you clarify the meaning. I hope this has been an enlightening experience for you.

 

 

Adding ~다가 to ~

In addition to the two meanings described above, you will often hear “~다가” attached to “~에” when referring to a place. For example:

밥을 냉장고에 넣어 = Put the rice in the fridge
밥을 냉장고에다가 넣어 = Put the rice in the fridge

유리에 붙여 주세요 = Please stick it on the glass
유리에다가 붙여 주세요 = Please stick it on the glass

재료를 그릇에 섞어 = Mix the ingredients in the bowl
재료를 그릇에다가 섞어 = Mix the ingredients in the bowl

돈을 탁자에 놓았어요 = I put the money on the table
돈을 탁자에다가 놓았어요 = I put the money on the table

펜을 어디에 두었어요? = Where did you put/leave the pen?
펜을 어디에다가 두었어요? = Where did you put/leave the pen?

이불을 다 침실에 넣었어요 = I put the blankets in the bedroom
이불을 다 침실에다가 넣었어요 = I put the blankets in the bedroom

팔에 로션을 살짝 발랐어요 = I applied a little bit of lotion (slightly) to my arm
팔에다가 로션을 살짝 발랐어요 = I applied a little bit of lotion (slightly) to my arm

의자를 방 한가운데에 두고 와요 = Put the chair in the middle of the room and come (back)
의자를 방 한가운데에다가 두고 와요 = Put the chair in the middle of the room and come (back)

Korean people would say that the sentences above with ~에 and ~에다가 sound identical and have identical meanings.

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As ~에 is often omitted in words like “여기,” “저기,” 거기,” and “어디”, ~다가 is often added directly to those words. Here we can see these constructions in sentences:

밥을 여기다가 넣어 = Put the rice here
거기다가 붙여 주세요 = Please stick it there
이불을 다 저기다가 넣었어요 = I put the blankets there
펜을 어디다가 두었어요? = Where did you put/leave the pen?

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~에다가 isn’t used when somebody goes to a place, for example:

While “나는 집에 갔어요” would be natural, “나는 집에다가 갔어요” would be unnatural.

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Although I expressed that ~에 and ~에다가 can have the same meaning, ~에다가 is more likely to be used when one thing is being added to something else. For example:

저는 샌드위치에다가 김치를 넣었어요 = I put kimchi in the sandwich
(~에다가 implies here that there is already some other stuff in the sandwich, and you are adding even more stuff to it)

커피에다가 설탕을 넣었어요 = I put sugar in my coffee
(~에다가 implies that there was already something there [essentially, the coffee was already there], and that you are putting more stuff [the sugar] into what is already there.)

An example that I used today actually, was when I was getting my lunch at my school’s cafeteria. I had my tray out, and an 아주머니 always puts the fruit on our tray for us. By the time I got to her, my tray was full, so I asked her if she should put the fruit next to my rice (where there was a small place left over). So, I said:

여기에다가 두세요 = Please, put it here
(implying that she is putting the fruit in a place where there is already something there)

That’s it for this lesson!

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