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Lesson 112: ~는 편이다 – Adding the soft “fairly” to sentences

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편 as a Regular Noun
편 as a Grammatical Principle





복 = blessing
급여 = wage, salary
천사 = angel
면역 = immunity
어휘 = vocabulary
악몽 = nightmare
압력 = pressure
비옷 = rain clothes
십대 = teenage years, teenage
열흘 = ten days
공짜 = free
면접 = interview
면접관 = interviewer
직장인 = office worker
의지력 = willpower
배낭여행 = backpacking
소개팅 = blind date
추상적 = abstract

빌다 = to beg
떠들다 = to chat
할퀴다 = to scratch, to claw at

서늘하다 = to be cool, chilly
속상하다 = to feel upset, sad




In this lesson, you will learn how to use 편, both as a noun and as a grammatical principle to make your sentences softer and more humble. Let’s get started.




편 as a Regular Noun

편 can be used as a regular noun, which refers to a “side.” In this sense, it is most commonly combined with a word that refers to a direction to point to that side. For example:

뒤편 = the back side
왼편 = the left side
오른편 = the right side
반대편 = the opposite side (or the opposite direction)
건너편 = the opposite/other side (usually of a street or something that you can cross)

These constructions can go into sentences where applicable. For example:

여기가 비옷을 파는 가게인가요?
= Is this a store that sells rain clothes?

면접하는 곳이 건물 뒤편에 있어요
= The place for the interview is behind the building

편 can also be used on its own. When used like this, it refers to being on the “side” of a person in terms of support. For example:

친구가 내 편으로 오라고 빌었어
= My friend begged me to come to his side

아빠가 내 편이 아니라고 해서 속상해
= It’s sad/unfortunate that dad says he is not on my side

네가 의지력이 강해서 네 편을 하고 싶어
= You have a lot of willpower so I want to be on your side

선생님이 내 편이라는 것은 복 받은 거야
= I’m so lucky that the teacher says he is on my side

무슨 일이 생기든지 나는 항상 너의 편이야
= Whatever happens, I am always on your side

우리 딸은 천사라서 항상 좋은 사람의 편에 설 거야
= Our daughter is an angel, so she will always be on the side of good people



편 as a Grammatical Principle

편 can also act as a noun that is being described by an adjective or a verb connected to ~는 것. The adjective/verb + 편 combination has a meaning that is very similar to that of just the adjective/verb on its own. The only difference is that 편 makes the meaning slightly softer. For example, I could say:

그 사람이 돈이 많아요
= That person has a lot of money

If I say this sentence, it might have a negative effect because maybe – for example – people will treat that person differently if they find out he/she has a lot of money.

However, if I say:

그 사람이 돈이 많은 편이에요

The meaning is softer than was expressed without the use of 편. Instead of straight out saying “yes, he/she has a lot of money,” you are more humbly saying “Yeah, that person has a fair amount of money.”

우리 아이는 똑똑해요 = Our son is smart
우리 아이는 똑똑한 편이에요 = Our son is fairly smart

Because of the use of the word 편, a common translation for these types of constructions is “on the … side.” For example:

우리 아이는 똑똑한 편이에요 = Our son is on the smart side

Other examples:

저의 남자친구가 잘생긴 편이에요 = My boyfriend is on the handsome side (fairly handsome)
제가 벌고 있는 급여가 높은 편이에요 = The salary I earn is fairly high (on the high side)
이 배낭여행용 가방이 비싼 편이었어요 = This backpacker backpack was fairly expensive
어제 소개팅한 사람이 잘생긴 편이었어요 = The person I went on a blind date with yesterday is daily handsome

In each of the examples so far, the speaker would be downplaying something that is very good. In effect, this is a way to speak in a humble way in Korean. The opposite can be done with words that have a negative connotation to them. That is, when you use this type of construction with a negative word, you are expressing that – even though something is bad – it’s not that bad. For example:

저는 키가 작은 편이에요 = My height is on the small side (I’m quite short)
바퀴의 압력이 높은 편이에요 = The pressure in this tire is on the high side
저의 남자친구는 못생긴 편이에요 = My boyfriend is on the ugly side
어제 꾼 악몽이 무서운 편이었어요 = The nightmare I had last night was on the scary side
고양이가 할퀸 상처가 꽤 심한 편이에요 = The wound from the cat scratching me is quite serious

The situation doesn’t need to be inherently negative or positive in order to use this ~는/은/ㄴ construction. All it does is it softens the word being used and turns the severity of its meaning down a little bit. For example:

그 그림이 추상적인 편이에요
= That painting is quite abstract

한국말을 할 수 있는 외국인이 드문 편이에요
= Foreigners who speak Korean are on the rare side

제가 내일 해야 할 면접은 중요한 편이에요
= The interview I have to do tomorrow is quite important

한국어 어휘를 외우는 것은 어려운 편이에요
= Memorizing Korean vocabulary is quite difficult

어른들은 면역이 아이들에 비해 강한 편이에요
= The immunity of adults is quite a bit stronger than that of kids

봄에는 아침에는 서늘하고 낮에는 따뜻한 편이에요
= In the spring, the mornings are cold but the days are quite warm

열흘 동안 여행을 가는 것은 직장인한테는 꽤 긴 편이에요
= Traveling for ten days, for an office worker, is quite a long time

십대 남자 아이들에게 수업을 가르치는 것은 힘든 편이에요
= It is quite difficult teaching classes to teenage boys

Just by the nature of the sentences ~는/은/ㄴ 편 is used in, it is quite easy and common to use this grammatical principle with adjectives. However, it can be used with verbs as well. For example:

제가 운동을 자주 하는 편이에요 = I exercise fairly often

When used with verbs, you’ll notice that the sentence often has an adverb in it as well. If you imagine the sentence above without the use of the adverb 자주, you get:

제가 운동을 하는 편이에요 = I exercise… fairly? I fairly exercise…?

You need something else in there in order for it to make sense. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the adverb 자주. For example:

제가 운동을 잘 하는 편이에요 = I exercise fairly well
제가 운동을 열심히 하는 편이에요 = I exercise fairly hard

When used with verbs, a common translation that goes in these sentences is “tend(s) to…” For example:

제가 운동을 잘 하는 편이에요
= I tend to exercise well (the English translation doesn’t really work in this situation)

제가 운동을 열심히 하는 편이에요
= I tend to exercise hard

Below are many more examples:

저는 수영을 잘하는 편이에요
= I swim fairly well

제가 매일 늦게 자는 편이에요
= I tend to go to bed fairly late

제가 달리기를 빨리 하고 있는 편이에요
= I am running fairly quickly

그 여자 아이들이 수업 시간에 많이 떠드는 편이에요
= That girl chats quite a bit during class

잘 모르는 사람들이 공짜로 주는 음식을 먹는 것을 싫어하는 편이에요
= I don’t really like eating food that was given to me for free by people I don’t know

That’s it for this lesson!

Click here for a Workbook to go along with this lesson.

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