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Exploring ‘because’ in Korean: 왜냐하면, -거든, -거든요, -기 때문에, -때문이에요.

learning korean Jul 08, 2023
Exploring ‘because’ in Korean: 왜냐하면, -거든, -거든요, -기 때문에, -때문이에요.

- Author: Good Job Korean team 
- Editor: Good Job Korean team 

👍Contents (Click to navigate instantly)
 왜냐하면 (because)  
 -거든 (because) 
 왜냐하면… + -거든(요) (because) 
 -(기) 때문에 (because) 
 왜냐하면… + 기 때문이에요 (because)


 The Korean language is known for its unique grammar and structure. One aspect that contributes to its expressive nature is the connector that establishes relationships between different parts of a sentence. These connectors help listeners or readers understand the ideas or intentions of a sentence.

We have previously explored the Korean conjunction of the English equivalent “but,” and in this post, we will study the varieties of “because” in Korean.


왜냐하면 (because)

 왜냐하면 is an adverb that corresponds to the English word “because” to provide a reason or an explanation for a particular situation, event, or action.


 The connector “왜냐하면” is formed by combining ‘왜’ which means ‘why,’ ‘-냐’ an interrogative suffix, and ‘하면’ which means ‘if you think’, making ‘왜냐하면’ an indirect quotation of a question which roughly translates to ‘if you ask why,’ or ‘if you wonder why.’


Example sentences:

  1. 저는 택시를 탔어요. 왜냐하면 제가 늦게 일어났어요.
    I took a taxi. (If you ask why / Because) I woke up late.

    *택시: taxi
    *타다: to ride, to take, to get on, to board
    *늦다: to be late
    *일어나다: to wake up, to get up

  2. 우리 나갈 수 없어요. 왜냐하면 비가 오고 있어요.
    We could not go out. (If you ask why / Because) it is raining.

    *나가다: to go out, to step out
    *비가 오다: to rain

  3. 저는 한국어를 좋아해요. 왜냐하면 재미있어요.
    I like Korean. (If you ask why / Because) it is fun.

    *한국어: Korean (language)
    *좋아하다: to like
    *재미있다: to be fun, to be interesting


 The above examples show that this adverb does not mean ‘because’ but more of ‘if you ask why.’ Therefore, 왜냐하면 is usually paired with 거든 or -기 때문에 to mean ‘because’ rather than just 왜냐하면 alone.


-거든 (because)

 The ending ‘-거든‘ is a sentence-final or connective ending to refer to a condition. The meaning of -거든 depends on the context of the sentence. For example, using -거든 indicates the speaker’s reasoning or basis for something said earlier. It also suggests that the explanation would continue later.


Example sentences:

  1. 저는 표를 사지 않았어요. 아직 시간이 있거든요.
    I have not bought the tickets. (Because) We still have time.

    *표: ticket
    *사다: to buy
    *아직: still, yet
    *시간: time
    *있다: to have

  2. 우리는 유령의 집을 가지 않았어요. 너무 무서웠거든요.
    We did not go to the haunted house. (Because) It was so scary.

    *유령의 집: haunted house
    *너무: very
    *무섭다: to be scary

  3. 무슨 일이 있었는지 모르겠어요. 지금 막 왔거든요.
    I don’t know what happened. (Because) I just got here.

    *무슨: what
    *모르다: to not know
    *막: just
    *지금: now


 Besides the above, you may sometimes hear people using 아니다 with -거든(요) when the speaker is thrusting a disagreement into the conversation.


For example:

Jin : 저는 가족 중에서 가장 똑똑해요.
I am the smartest in the family.

Kun: 아니거든!
No, you’re not!

*가족: family
*중: between, among
*가장: the most
*똑똑하다: to be clever, to be intelligent


왜냐하면… + -거든(요) (because)

 Since the literal meaning of "왜냐하면" is "if you ask why," it's often paired with "거든요" to convey the meaning of "If you ask why, it's because...". However, you can simply understand this pair as "because.”


Example sentences:

  1. 저는 매일 피아노를 연습해요. 왜냐하면 음악을 좋아하거든요.
    I practice the piano every day. If you ask why, it’s because I like music.

    *매일: every day
    *피아노: piano
    *연습하다: to practice
    *음악: music

  2. 에어컨을 껐어요. 왜냐하면 밖에 비가 오고 있거든요.
    I turned off the air conditioner. If you ask why, it’s because it is raining outside.

    *에어컨: air conditioner
    *끄다: to turn off
    *밖: outside

  3. 우리는 산책하러 갈 거예요. 왜냐하면 날씨가 좋거든요.
    We are going for a walk. If you ask why, it’s because the weather is nice.

    *산책: walk, stroll
    *산책하러 가다: to go for a walk
    *날씨: weather
    *좋다: to be good


-(기) 때문에 (because)

 -기 때문에 is commonly used to provide an explanation or a reason for the first part of the sentence.


 때문 roughly translates to “because of” or “due to.” When “때문” is placed after a noun, it creates the meaning of “because of (the noun).” The remaining clause of the sentence would then refer to the situation as a result of the noun.

For examples:

  1. Good Job Korean 때문에 한국어를 배우는 것은 재밌어요.
    Learning Korean is fun because of Good Job Korean.

    *배우다: to learn

  2. 저는 제 동생 때문에 아팠어요.
    I was sick because of my younger brother/sister.

    *동생: younger sibling (younger brother or younger sister)
    *아프다: to be sick

  3. 일 때문에 만날 수 없었어요.
    I could not meet you because of work.

    *일: work
    *만나다: to meet

 As the clause before 때문 has to be in the form of a noun, -기 is added to the verb stem to change the adjectives, verbs, and 이다 forms into nouns.

For examples:

  1. 저는 지금 공부하고 있기 때문에 놀 수 없어요.
    I cannot play because I am studying now.

    *공부하다: to study
    *놀다: to play

  2. 는 노래 부르는 것을 좋아하기 때문에 노래방에 많이 갑니다.
    I go to karaoke a lot because I like to sing.

    *노래 부르다: to sing
    *노래방: karaoke
    *많다: to be a lot

  3. 저는 외국인이기 때문에 한국어를 잘 못해요.
    Because I am a foreigner, I can’t speak Korean well.

    *외국인: foreigner
    *잘 못하다: to be not good, to be bad


 Contrary to -아/어서, the verb stem directly before 때문에 can be conjugated into the past tense, as such: -았/었/했기 때문에.


Example sentences:

  1. 지갑을 잃어버렸기 때문에 저녁을 먹지 않았어요.
    Because I lost my wallet, I did not have dinner.

    *지갑: wallet
    *잃어버리다: to lose (something)
    *저녁: dinner
    *먹다: to eat

  2. 좋은 선생님께 배웠기 때문에 한국어 실력이 많이 늘었습니다.
    Because I learned from a good teacher, my Korean has improved better.

    *좋다: to be good
    *선생님: teacher
    *실력: skill, ability, competence
    *늘다: to improve

  3. 저는 호텔에서 일했기 때문에 여러 언어를 할 수 있어요.
    Because I worked at a hotel, I can speak many languages.

    *호텔: hotel
    *일하다: to work
    *여러: many
    *언어: language


 How about future tense? Can -기 때문에 be attached to future tenses? Well, yes! Simply connect -ㄹ/을 것이 right before -기 때문에 ie. -ㄹ/을 것이기 때문에 or -ㄹ/을 거기 때문에 (것 can be shortened to 거, and in this case 이 is merged with “거”).


Example sentences:

  1. 저는 다음 주에 엄마 집에 방문할 것이기 때문에 지금 짐을 싸고 있어요.
    Because I will be visiting my mother's house next week, I am packing now.

    *다음 주: next week
    *엄마: Mother, mom
    *방문하다: to visit
    *지금: now
    *짐: luggage, baggage
    *싸다: to pack up

  2. 아버지가 내일 수술을 받을 것이기 때문에 저는 휴가를 신청하고 있어요.
    Because my father will have surgery tomorrow, I am applying for leave from work.

    *아버지: father
    *내일: tomorrow
    *수술: surgery
    *받다: to receive
    *휴가: leave, break
    *신청하다: to apply, to request

  3. 오늘 밤에 친구를 공항에 데려다 줄 거기 때문에 저는 차를 빌렸어요.
    Because I am sending my friend to the airport tonight, I am renting a car.

    *오늘 밤: Tonight
    *공항: airport
    *데려다 주다: to send (someone), to take (someone) to (somewhere)
    *보내다: to send
    *차: car
    *빌리다: to rent



왜냐하면… + 기 때문이에요 (because)

 ‘기 때문이에요’ means 'it's because,' so '왜냐하면… + 기 때문이에요' is also a common pair used to convey the meaning of 'If you ask why, it's because...'. However, similar to '왜냐하면.. + 거든요,' you can simply understand it as 'because.’


Example sentences:

  1. 저 아이가 배 고파해요. 왜냐하면 그 아이는 아침을 먹지 않았기 때문이에요.
    That child is hungry. Because he did not eat breakfast.

    *저: that
    *아이: child
    *배고프다: to be hungry
    *그: that
    *아침: breakfast
    *먹다: to eat

  2. 팔이 부러졌어요. 왜냐하면 저는 교통사고를 당했기 때문이에요.
    I broke my arm. Because I had a car accident.

    *팔: arm
    *부러지다: to break, to fracture
    *교통사고: car accident
    *당하다: to encounter

  3. 계산서는 비쌌어요. 왜냐하면 우리는 소주를 많이 마셨기 때문이에요.
    The bill was expensive. Because we drank a lot of soju.

    *계산서: bill
    *비싸다: to be expensive
    *소주: soju
    *마시다: to drink

  4. 저는 클럽에 안 가고 싶어요. 왜냐하면 술을 안 마시기 때문이에요.
    I don’t want to go to a club. Because I don’t drink.

    *술: Alcohol


 In conclusion, these different ways to say “because” helps to convey messages more effectively. Using the above conjunctions to reason or explain a situation or action and establish a cause-and-effect relationship in sentences makes the conversation easier to understand and more cohesive.


- Author: Good Job Korean team 
- Editor: Good Job Korean team