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Lesson 129: To cross over, to pass – 넘다

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The Uses of 넘다




부대 = army unit, platoon
용량 = space, capacity, volume
고난 = hardship, trouble, problem
고비 = hardship, crisis, problem
급류 = rapids
수요 = demand
공급 = supply
원소 = an element in chemistry
기체 = gas
액체 = liquid
고체 = solid
섭씨 = Celcius
온천 = hot-spring
우주 = space, outer-space
산길 = mountain path, mountain road
말대꾸 = talking back
외계인 = alien
막대기 = rod, stick, pole
높이뛰기 = high jump

맞다 = to meet, to greet
출제하다 = to make questions for an exam

엄청나다 = really big, a lot
주제넘다 = to go too far

Adverbs and Other Words:
홀로 = by oneself

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In this lesson, you will learn how to use the word 넘다 to describe that something happens past a particular point or threshold. 넘다 can be used at the end of a sentence, but it is also commonly used in the middle of sentences as 넘게 or 넘어서. Let’s get started.




The Uses of 넘다

First of all, it is common to use 넘다 at the end of a sentence or clause to indicate that something has gone over or “passed” or “went over” an object. For example:

내일 우리 부대가 그 산을 넘어야 돼요
= Tomorrow, our platoon (army group) has to cross/go over that mountain

강아지가 고양이를 찾아서 울타리를 넘었어요
= The puppy was looking for the cat and crossed/went over the fence

높이뛰기는 빨리 뛰어서 점프를 하고 높은 막대기를 넘는 거예요
= High jump is (a sport where you) running quickly and then jump over a high bar/pole

우리가 카누로 급류를 못 넘어서 카누에서 내려서 카누를 들고 산길로 걸어서 넘었어요
= We can’t cross the rapids in a canoe, so we had to get out of the canoe and carry it, and we crossed the rapids by walking through a “mountain path”

Often times the thing that is “passed” using 넘다 is not a something physical, but some sort of abstract threshold. For example:

이 수영장은 저의 키를 넘어요
= This swimming pool is too deep for me (goes over my height)

지금은 몇 시예요? 설마 10시가 안 넘었죠?
= What time is it now? Don’t tell me that it is past 10?

우리가 하루에 써도 되는 돈을 벌써 넘었어요
= We already went over the amount of money that we can spend in a day

어제 그 선수는 다른 선수의 최고 기록을 넘었어요
= Yesterday, that athlete passed/went over (broke) the best record of other athlete

그 양은 우리 회사가 공급할 수 있는 양을 넘었어요
= That amount is over the amount that our company can supply

저는 어제 등산을 열심히 해서 저의 한계를 넘었어요
= Yesterday, I was hiking and I went over my limits

우리가 벌써 6월에 쓸 수 있는 인터넷 용량 제한을 넘었어요
= We already went over the data/space limit (data cap) that we can use for June

그 원소는 상온에서는 고체인데 섭씨 온도 30도를 넘으면 액체가 되고 70도를 넘으면 기체가 돼요
= That element is a solid at room temperature, but if the temperature goes over 30 degrees Celsius, it becomes a liquid, and if it goes over 70 degrees, it becomes a gas

넘다 is commonly used to indicate that one overcomes some sort of hardship or problem. In these cases, it usually acts on the nouns 고난 or 고비. For example:

우리가 이제 어려운 고난을 넘었어요
= Now we have passed/overcame (finished) the difficult hardship

보니까 내가 이 어려운 고난을 홀로 넘어야 되겠다
= It looks like I’ll have to overcome this difficult hardship by myself

그 학생이 어렸을 때 아주 심한 고비를 넘었어요
= When that student was younger, he went through/overcame a serious hardship

There is also an adjective “주제넘다,” which has “넘다” contained within it. It is used to describe an action or subject “went too far.” For example:

그 학생은 주제넘게 선생님께 말대꾸를 했어요
= That student went too far and talked back to the teacher

어제 나는 부모님께 주제넘은 행동을 해서 많이 혼났다
= Yesterday, I went too far with my parents (did an action that was “too far”) and was scolded

It is often hard to come up with a translation for 넘다 in English. I have an image of what the verb looks like in my brain, but finding an English translation that can represent all of the examples above is difficult. I would like to share a story of when this word came up in one of my classes. I was talking about how many millions of people live in Korea, and I wrote down that “일억” (100 million) people live in Korea.

When I said “일억,” I could hear the students laughing to each other. They all just said “넘었어요.” An accurate translation for this would be something like “that is too many.” However, they all knew that the accurate population of Korea is 50 million, and by saying “100 million,” I “passed” that threshold.

When used like this at the end of a sentence, 넘다 typically simply represents that something crossed a particular line, but the crossing of that line isn’t really connected with anything else. For example:

우리는 땅에 그려져 있는 선을 넘었어요
= We crossed the line drawn in the ground

Here, there is no indication that anything was done after crossing the line. All that is stated is that you crossed the line. It’s possible that something happened on the other side of the line, or it is possible that you crossed the line, and then returned immediately. The context would make it clear, but just stating this sentence wouldn’t make it clear what happened after crossing the line.

However, when used with ~아/어서 (Lesson 70), 넘다 is often used to indicate that some line or threshold was crossed and then the next action happened after the crossing. For example:

우리는 강을 넘어서 한강 공원에서 놀았어요
= We crossed the river and then played in the Han River Park

More examples:

그 언덕 넘어서 계속 가다 보면 온천에 도착해요
= If you go over the hill and keep going, you will arrive at the hot-spring

어제가 시험 문제 출제 마감일이라서 다 하고 12시 넘어서 잤어요
= Yesterday was the deadline for creating exam questions, so I did them all and slept after 12

외계인을 찾으려면 인간은 엄청난 우주를 넘어서 지구와 비슷한 행성을 찾아야 돼요
= In order to find aliens, humans need to cross a very large space and find a planet similar to Earth

It is common to use 넘다 combined with ~게 (Lesson 56) as an adverb. 넘게 is often used when some sort of countable thing is acted on more than the stated amount. For example:

In these sentences, ~을/를 could be added to the object before 넘다. However, it usually sounds more natural to omit the particle.

우리는 두 시간 넘게 기다렸어요
= We waited for more than two hours

저는 일본에 스무 번 넘게 가 봤어요
= I’ve been to Japan more than twenty times

90점 넘게 받으면 엄마가 선물을 사 준대요
= If I get a score over 90, mom said that she’ll buy a present (for me)

이 과자가 너무 맛있어서 열 개 넘게 샀어요
= This candy/cookie is so delicious so I bought more than ten of them

백 년 넘게 이 식당이 한국 사람들이 제일 좋아하는 식당이에요
= For over 100 years, this restaurant has been the favorite restaurant of Korean people


It is often confusing when dealing with time. If you want to say that you did an action for more than a countable time period, you should use the format above. For example:

어제 숙제를 하고 12시간 넘게 잤어요
= Yesterday I did my homework and then slept for more than 12 hours

Notice in the above sentence that (like the examples immediately previous to it) the speaker is indicating that something is done more than the countable amount indicated. In the sentence above, we are counting hours. 시간 is the counter for hours, and therefore 넘게 is used. However, if you want to indicate that an action is done past a time, you should use “넘어서” as discussed previously. Notice that we are not counting hours, but rather indicating “line” that was crossed. For example:

어제 숙제를 하고 12시 넘어서 잤어요
= I did my homework yesterday and slept after/past 12:00


It is also possible to use 넘게 with things that create a negative meaning (like 안, 못, or  ~지 않다) to indicate that something does not cross a threshold. This is commonly used with “조금” or “좀” to indicate that “just a little bit less” than a threshold was used. For example:

통장에 돈이 천만 원 안 넘게 있어요
= There is less than 10 million won in my bank account

저는 하루에 100 달러 조금 못 넘게 벌어요
= I make a little less than 100 dollars per day

이 요리에 크림을 두 컵 조금 안 넘게 넣었어요
= I put a little bit less than two cups of cream

That’s it for this lesson!

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