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Lesson 150: 어쩐지 – One doesn’t know the reason and/or only now realizes

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Vocabulary
Introduction

어쩐지

 

 

Vocabulary

Nouns:
장터 = marketplace
뼛속 = used to describe something deep in bones
호감 = a good feeling
비호감 = a bad feeling
고소인 = plaintiff
눈동자 = pupil (in eye)
맞벌이 = dual income
성격상 = something related to one’s personality
손잡이 = handle
양손잡이 = an ambidextrous person
왼손잡이 = a left handed person
오른손잡이 = a right handed person

Verbs:
집다 = to pick up
붐비다 = to be crowded with
더듬다 = to stutter
더듬거리다= to stutter
집어삼키다 = to devour food

Adjectives:
묘하다 = to be strange
오싹하다 = to have a chill in one’s spine
개운하다 = to feel refreshed
가뿐하다 = to feel amazing, to feel light
허약하다 = to be weak
무기력하다 = to be lethargic, to have no energy
의기소침하다 = to feel dispirited

Adverbs:
어쩐지 = somehow, no wonder

 

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn another adverb that is hard to translate to English – 어쩐지. It is commonly used in two types of situations, but are those situations actually different? Or are our English minds deceiving us? Let’s get started.

 

 

어쩐지 – One doesn’t know the reason and/or only now realizes

어쩐지 is another peculiar adverb in Korean. It is used in a specific style of sentence and conveys a very specific nuance. We have learned many of these adverbs in earlier lessons, including 하필 in the previous lesson. I have always said that it is hard to perfectly translate these adverbs to English. To get a feel for how 어쩐지 could be used and translated, let’s look at two situations.

 

Situation 1:

Imagine your friend wants to go to a neighborhood near downtown late at night. It’s not the nicest area of town, and even though you’ve never been there at night, your gut is telling you that you probably shouldn’t go. There’s something about that place, especially at night. Even though you don’t have a specific reason as to why you feel uncomfortable going, your gut is telling you something. You might tell your friend:

거기에 밤에 가는 게 불안해요 = I don’t feel comfortable going to that place at night

That sentence is possible and natural, but in English and Korean it probably doesn’t fully convey the feeling that you have in this situation. Instead, you would probably say something like:

“There’s something about going to that place at night. I don’t know. Somehow, my gut is telling me that we shouldn’t go. I can’t explain it.”

You can express all of this extra feeling in Korean with 어쩐지. For example:

거기에 밤에 가는 게 어쩐지 불안해요
= There’s something about going to that place at night. I don’t know. Somehow, my gut is telling me that we shouldn’t go. I can’t explain it

어쩐지 is used in this type of sentence, where the speaker thinks or feels something but doesn’t know why those thoughts or feelings are being experienced.

 

Situation 2:

Imagine you see your friend during the day and he is acting much sadder than usual. You can’t understand why he is acting so strange, as he is normally very positive and happy. Later that night, you hear from somebody else that your friend’s cat had ran away in the morning. In this situation, you could say something like:

그래서 슬퍼 보였어요
= That’s why he looked sad

That sentence is possible and natural, but in English and Korean it probably doesn’t fully convey the feeling that you have in this situation. Instead, you would probably say something like:

“Oh, I didn’t know that! I was wondering why he looked so sad! That explains it!”

You can express all of this extra nuance in Korean with 어쩐지. For example:

어쩐지 슬퍼 보였어요
= Oh, I didn’t know that! I was wondering why he looked so sad! That explains it!

You could provide more context to the situation, but it’s not necessary:

고양이가 아침에 도망 나갔다고 들었어요! 그래서 그를 아침에 봤을 때 어쩐지 슬퍼 보였어요
= Oh! I just heard his cat ran away this morning! I was wondering why he looked so sad! That explains it!

어쩐지 is used in this type of sentence, where some newly discovered information allows the speaker to make sense of a situation that previously couldn’t be understood.

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These two meanings confused me as a learner many years ago. How could one word have two meanings that are seemingly opposites from each other? In one type of sentence, the speaker doesn’t know the reason for something. In the other type of sentence, the speaker does know the reason for something?

The answer is – the Korean definition of the word doesn’t distinguish between the two situations. 어쩐지 is used to indicate that one thinks or feels something but doesn’t know the reason why (as in situation 1). If the speaker later discovers the reason (as in situation 2), 어쩐지 is added for feeling to indicate that the reason was once unknown, but has now just been discovered.

The way that 어쩐지 is translated, then, depends on if the reason to a situation is known or unknown. For example, “어쩐지 슬퍼 보였어요” could translate to:

= He looked sad for some reason. I don’t know. Somehow, my gut is telling me that he looked off.
In the situation that you are looking at your friend and see him looking sad, but you don’t know why

= Oh, I didn’t know that! I was wondering why he looked so sad! That explains it!
In the situation that you just found out why your friend is sad

I always struggle with translating these types of words to English. It is very difficult to describe the nuance they contain if you just translate it using one (or two) words. In a pinch, however, the following translations usually work:

어쩐지 슬퍼 보였어요
= Somehow, he looks sad (in the situation where the speaker doesn’t know the reason he is sad), or
= No wonder he looked sad (in the situation where the speaker just found out the reason why he is sad)

Let’s look at many example sentences. I’ve separated them into two sections – one where we can assume the speaker doesn’t know the reason, and one where we can assume the speaker has just found out the reason. I’m doing this purely so we can get a feel for how it would be used depending on the context and how we can translate it. In real life, you will have to rely on the context to understand which type of situation you are dealing with.

Examples like Situation 1: The speaker does not know the reason for something.

어쩐지 이 음식을 먹으면 몸이 가뿐해요
= When I eat this food, somehow I feel amazing

어쩐지 is often used at the beginning of a sentence, but it doesn’t have to be used there. Just like most adverbs in Korean, its location is very flexible. The following would all also be acceptable. I’ve placed them in the order in which I would most likely say them, to least likely:

  • 이 음식을 먹으면 몸이 어쩐지 가뿐해요
  • 이 음식을 먹으면 어쩐지 몸이 가뿐해요
  • 이 음식을 어쩐지 먹으면 몸이 가뿐해요

저는 그 사람에게 어쩐지 호감이 가요
= Somehow I get a good feeling from that person

그 사람이 무엇을 하든지 어쩐지 비호감이에요
= Whatever that person does, somehow I get a bad feeling (about him)

그 집에 들어가면 어쩐지 뼛속까지 오싹해졌어요
= When I went into that house, somehow I got a cold feeling deep in my bones

그 사람의 눈동자를 보고 어쩐지 묘한 기분이 들었어요
= When I looked at that person’s pupils, somehow I got a strange feeling

추운 날에는 커피를 마시면 어쩐지 개운한 기분이 들어요
= When I drink coffee on a cold day, somehow I feel refreshed

고소인이 어쩐지 사건에 대해 진술하는 것을 무서워하는 것 같아요
= The plaintiff somehow seems scared to give a statement about that matter

넓고 아주 멋지게 꾸며진 친구 집에 들어가자 어쩐지 의기소침해졌어요
= As I went into the big, fabulously decorated house of my friends, somehow I felt dispirited

아무도 모르게 집에 들어가려고 했는데 어쩐지 현관문을 열고 싶지 않았어요
= I was about to go into the house without anybody knowing, but somehow I didn’t want to open the front door

 

Examples like Situation 2: The speaker just found out the reason for something

When used like this, sentences are often short and simply indicate what the recent discovery has made them realize. That is, the reason or context is often omitted, and just the result is given. You will see that I have provided two sentences for each example below. The first being the more common sentences without any reason or context given. The second being the same sentences, but with reason or context given. They are both natural sentences, but the first ones being a more common way to use 어쩐지.

어쩐지 돈이 많아요
= No wonder they have so much money

맞벌이 부부라서 어쩐지 돈이 많아요
= They are a dual-income earning couple, so no wonder they have so much money

 

어쩐지 침대가 불편했어요
= No wonder the bed was so uncomfortable

침대 스프링이 망가져서 어쩐지 침대가 불편했어요
= The bed spring was broke, so no wonder the bed was so uncomfortable

 

어쩐지 장터가 사람들로 붐볐어요
= No wonder the marketplace was bustling with people

어쩐지 오늘이 휴일이라서 장터가 사람들로 붐볐어요
= Today is a holiday, so no wonder the marketplace was bustling with people

 

어쩐지 말을 더듬거렸어요
= No wonder he was stuttering

그 사람이 술을 많이 마시고 취해서 그런지 어쩐지 말을 더듬거렸어요
= That person drank so much and was drunk, so no wonder he was stuttering

 

어쩐지 저번 주에 그 여자가 허약하고 무기력해 보였어요
= No wonder that woman looked so weak and lethargic last week

일주일 전에 그 여자가 출산했다고 들었는데 어쩐지 저번 주에 그 여자가 허약하고 무기력해 보였어요
= I heard that woman gave birth a week ago, so no wonder she looked so weak and lethargic last week

 

어쩐지 그 아이가 음식만 보면 바로 집어삼켰어요
= No wonder that baby devoured his food at the very sight of it

어쩐지 그 아이가 음식만 보면 바로 집어삼켜서 무슨 성격상 문제가 있는 줄 알았어요
= No wonder that baby devoured his food at the very sight of it, I thought there was something wrong with his personality

 

어쩐지 그 사람이 야구를 하는 게 어색해 보였어요
= No wonder that person looks strange playing baseball

어쩐지 그 사람이 왼손잡이를 위해 만들어진 글러브를 끼고 야구를 하는 게 어색해 보였어요
= That person wore gloves made for a left-handed person, so no wonder he looked so strange playing baseball

That’s it for this lesson!