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Difference between ‘좋아하다’ and ‘좋다’ in Korean grammar

learning korean Jan 27, 2023
좋다, 좋아하다, Korean grammar, Difference between ‘좋아하다’ and ‘좋다’

- Author: Paloma Harris (South Africa), Marilene Turam (France) 

- Editor: Good Job Korean team  


 You might have seen that “좋아해요” and “좋아요” both are translated as “I like it!”. Even if they both can be used with the same meaning, there are clear differences between ‘좋아하다’ and ‘좋다’ in Korean.


 ‘좋다’ is ‘to be likeable’, but ‘좋아하다’ is ‘to like’


 ‘좋다’ technically doesn’t mean ‘to like’, but ‘to be likeable’ or ‘to be good’, whereas ‘좋아하다’ literally means ‘to like’. Another difference is that 좋다’ is a descriptive verb and ‘좋아하다’ is an action verb.


 1) A descriptive verb ‘좋다’: to be good, to be likeable


 A descriptive verb is a verb that is describing things. It is translated as “to be + adjective”. For example, 예쁘다(to be beautiful), 행복하다 (to be happy), 작다 (to be small).

 Since ‘좋다’ is also a descriptive verb, the literal translation should be as below.


 이 커피 좋아요.

 This coffee is good.

 This coffee is likeable.

 *: this   *커피: coffee


 However, when using ‘좋다’ as the meaning of ‘to be likeable’ or ‘to be preferable’, it implies either ‘to be likeable for me’ or ‘to be likeable for you’. So it ends up being naturally translated as ‘I like it!” or “Do you like it?”.


 이 커피 좋아요.

 This coffee is likeable (for me). (I like this coffee.)


 이 커피 좋아요?

 Is this coffee is likable (for you)? (Do you like this coffee?)



 You CANNOT use ‘좋다’ to say ‘He/She likes coffee’, because it can only imply that it is likeable FOR YOU or FOR ME. It never implies that it is likeable for him/her/them etc. You have to use ‘좋아하다’ to say ‘He/she likes coffee’.


 2) An action verb ‘좋아하다’: to like something


 Action verb refers to almost all the verbs that are NOT descriptive verbs. So, ‘좋아하다’ simply and literally means ‘to like’.



 이 커피 좋아해요.

 (I or someone) like this coffee.


 With 좋아하다, you can say ‘He/she likes something’, unlike ‘좋다’ only can mean ‘I like it’ or ‘do you like it?’



 친구가 이 커피 좋아해요.(O)

 친구가 이 커피 좋아요 (X)

 My friend likes this coffee.



 Common mistake using ‘좋다 and ‘좋아하다


 Even if ‘좋다’ and ‘좋아하다’ both can be used when you want to say ‘I like something’, you need different particles for each. And tons of Korean learners easily get confused. Please just remember these 2 patterns.


 Pattern 1: NOUN+/가 좋다
 Pattern 2: NOUN + /를 좋아하다


 As ‘좋다’ should be said ‘something is likeable’, you need to put ‘something’ in a subject position by using ‘/, whereas ‘좋아하다’ goes with ‘/’ which is an object particle. Let’s see these examples.


 이 차 좋아요. (descriptive verb)

 This car is likeable for me (I like this car)

 *: car


 이 차 좋아해요. (action verb)

 (I or someone) like this car


 They both can be used in the same context, but apparently you CANNOT say ‘이 차를 좋아요’ or ‘이 차가 좋아해요’.


 Example sentences of ‘좋다’ and ‘좋아하다


 저는 김치를 좋아해요.

 I like kimchi.

 *: I(polite speech)   *김치: kimchi


 이 가수를 좋아해요.

 I like this singer.

 *: this   *가수: singer


 왜 이 가수가 좋아요?

 Why do you like this singer?

 *: why


 야채는 건강에 좋아요.

 Vegetable is good for health.

 *야채: vegetable   *건강: health


 저는 부모님이 좋아요.

 I like my parents.

 (=My parents are good for me)

 *부모님: parents


 여자친구가 파스타를 좋아해요.

 My girlfriend likes pasta.

 *여자친구: girlfriend   *파스타: pasta


 제 친구가 한국어 공부하는 것을 좋아해요.

 My friend likes studying Korean.

 *제: my(polite speech)   *친구: friend   *한국어: Korean (language)  *공부: study  
하는 것: doing something


- Author: Paloma Harris (South Africa), Marilene Turam (France) 

- Editor: Good Job Korean team