Episode from the podcastTalk To Me In Korean

TTMIK Level 5 Lesson 25

Released Monday, 20th June 2011
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Level 5 Lesson 25 / Compared to, Relatively / -에 비해서 -ㄴ/은/는 편이다

There are many expressions in Korean that make a sentence less direct and less straightforward, and therefore a bit “softer”. What we are introducing today is also one of those expressions.

-ㄴ/은/는 편이다
[-n/eu/neun pyeo-ni-da]

Originally, the word 편 [pyeon] means “side” as found in words such as “opposite side (맞은편)” or “same side/team (같은 편)”. But you can use the word 편 in the structure “adjective + 편 + -이다 (to be)” to say that something or someone is “rather + adjective”, “somewhat + adjective”, “on the + adjective + side” or they “tend to be +adjective”.

Let’s look at some examples.

When you want to straightfowardly say that something is big, you can just say “커요.” [keo-yo.] using the verb 크다 [keu-da]. But if you use the same verb but use it in the -ㄴ/은/는 편이다 form, “큰 편이에요.”, the meaning changes to “It’s on the bigger side.” “It’s rather big.” “It’s somewhat big.” or even “It’s not small.” or “It tends to be small.

Descriptive verbs: Verb stems ending with a vowel + -ㄴ 편이다
                          Verb stems ending with a last consonant + -은 편이다
Action verbs: Present tense → Verb stem + -는 편이다
                   Past tense → Verb stem + -ㄴ/은 편이다

More examples:

작다 → 작아요 = It’s small.
       → 작은 편이에요. = It’s rather small. It’s on the smaller side. It’s not the biggest. It tends to be small.

비싸다 → 비싸요. = It’s expensive.
          → 비싼 편이에요. = It’s rather expensive. It’s not the cheapest. It’s a bit expensive.

피아노를 잘 치다 → 피아노를 잘 쳐요. = I play the piano well.
                         → 피아노를 잘 치는 편이에요. = I play the piano rather well.

-에 비해서 / -에 비하면
[-e bi-hae-seo / -e bi-ha-myeon]

Now you know how to describe something somewhat less straightforwardly. You can still use the -(으)ㄴ 편이다 structure when you want to compare two or more things or people with one another.

You already know how to say “than” in Korean. It’s -보다 [-bo-da]. So you can say things like “이것보다 큰 편이에요.”, “저보다 바쁜 편이에요.”, etc.

Another commonly used expression is -에 비해서 [-e bi-hae-seo].

The letter 비 comes from the word 비교, and both 비 and 비교 mean “comparison” (*Note that 비 is never used on its own to mean “comparison”). So -에 비해서 means “compared to (something)”.

지난 주에 비해서 바쁜 편이에요.
[ji-nan ju-e bi-hae-seo ba-ppeun pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= We are somewhat busier compared to last week.

(Similar: 지난 주보다 바쁜 편이에요.)

한국어에 비해서 일본어는 발음이 쉬운 편이에요.
[han-gu-geo-e bi-hae-seo il-bo-neo-neun ba-reu-mi swi-un pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= Compared to Korean, Japanese tends to have an easier pronunciation.

-에 비하면

- 에 비하면 is similar to -에 비해서, but since it has the ending -(으)면, it contains the meaning of “IF”. So whereas -에 비해서 means just “compared to (something)”, -에 비하면 means “if you compare it to (something).

Sample Sentences:

1. 저에 비하면 잘하는 편이에요.
[jeo-e bi-ha-myeon jal-ha-neun pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= If you compare to me, you are pretty good at it.

2. 저에 비해서 잘하는 편이에요.
[jeo-e bi-hae-seo jal-ha-neun pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= Compared to me, you are pretty good at it

3. 여기는 다른 곳에 비해서 조용한 편이에요.
[yeo-gi-neun da-reun go-se bi-hae-seo jo-yong-han pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= This place is, compared to other places, pretty quite.

4. 그래도 버스에 비해서 지하철이 빠른 편이에요.
[geu-rae-do beo-seu-e bi-hae-seo ji-ha-cheo-ri ppa-reun pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= But still, compared to the bus, the subway is faster.

5. 저도 여기 자주 오는 편이에요.
[jeo-do yeo-gi ja-ju o-neun pyeo-ni-e-yo.]
= I come here quite frequently, too.
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