Welcome to Part 2 of the Passive Voice lesson! In Part 1, we learned how sentences in the Passive Voice are made in general. In this part, let us take a look at how the passive voice in English and in Korean are different, as well as some more example sentences.
Let’s review a little bit first.
Suffixes for passive voice in Korean
Verb stem + -이/히/리/기
Verb stem + -아/어/여지다
Again, there is no fixed rule for which verb stem should be followed by one of the -이/히/리/기 suffixes and which should be followed by -아/어/여지다. And some verbs have the identical meaning when followed by either of these two.
So for example, “to make” in Korean is 만들다 [man-deul-da]. And when you conjugate this using -아/어/여지다, you have 만들어지다 [man-deu-reo-ji-da] and that’s how you say that something “gets made” or “gets created”.
만들다 = to make
→ 만들어지다 = to be made, to get made
주다 = to give
→ 주어지다 = to be given
자르다 = to cut
→ 잘리다 = to be cut
→ 잘라지다 = to be cut
Another meaning for passive voice sentences in Korean
In Korean, in addition to the meaning of an action “being done”, the meaning of “possibility” or “capability” is also very commonly used with the passive voice sentences. (The basic idea is that, when you do something, if something gets done, it is doable. If something doesn’t get done when you do or try to do it, it’s not doable or not possible to do.)
This meaning of “possibility” or “capability” does not signify YOUR ability or capability so much as it does the general “possibility” of that certain action being done.
만들다 is “to make”, and when you say 만들어지다, in the original passive voice sense, it would mean “to be made.” But 만들어지다 can not only mean “to be made”, but it can also mean “can be made”.
이 핸드폰은 중국에서 만들어져요.
[i haen-deu-po-neun jung-gu-ge-seo man-deu-reo-jyeo-yo.]
= This cellphone is made in China.
케익을 예쁘게 만들고 싶은데, 예쁘게 안 만들어져요.
[ke-i-geul ye-ppeu-ge man-deul-go si-peun-de, ye-ppeu-ge an man-deu-reo-jyeo-yo.]
= I want to make this cake in a pretty shape, but I can’t make it pretty.
(In the 2nd example sentence, you can see that the person is NOT directly saying that he or she CAN’T make a pretty cake, but that the cake DOESN’T get made in a pretty shape.)
1. 이거 안 잘라져요.
[i-geo an jal-la-jyeo-yo.]
= This doesn’t get cut.
= I can’t cut it. (more accurate)
2. 안 들려요.
= It is not heard.
= I can’t hear you. (more accurate)
3. 안 보여요.
= It is not seen.
= I can’t see it.
하다 vs 되다
Since the passive voice form represents “possibility” or “capability”, the passive voice form of 하다, which is 되다, takes the meaning of “can”.
하다 = to do (active voice)
되다 = to be done, to get done (passive voice)
되다 = can be done, can do (possibility/capability)
이거 안 돼요.
[i-geo an dwae-yo.]
= This doesn’t get done.
= I can’t do this. (more accurate)
= I can’t seem to do it. (more accurate)
이해가 안 돼요.
[i-hae-ga an dwae-yo.]
= Understanding is not done.
= It is not understood.
= I can’t understand. (more accurate)
= I don’t understand. (more accurate)
More examples with 되다
And from there, more usages of 되다 are formed.
Originally, 되다 means “to be done” but it can also mean things like:
- can be served
- to be available
- can be spoken
- can be done
- can be made
- can be finished
여기 김밥 돼요?
[yeo-gi gim-bap dwae-yo?]
= Do you have/serve kimbap here?
영어가 안 돼서 걱정이에요.
[yeong-eo-ga an dwae-seo geok-jeong-i-e-yo.]
= I’m worried because I can’t speak English.
오늘 안에 돼요?
[o-neul a-ne dwae-yo?]
= Can you finish it today?
So how often does the passive voice take the meaning of “possibility”?
Through Part 1 and 2 of this lesson, we have looked at how the passive voice sentences are formed and used. First, you need to figure out (by being exposed to a lot of Korean sentences) which of the endings is used in the passive voice form. And also, you need to tell from the context of the sentence whether the verb is used in the original “passive” voice or in the sense of “possibility/capability”.
Often times, though, sentences that would be certainly be in the passive voice are written in the active voice in Korean. This is because, in English, in order to NOT show the subject of a certain action in a sentence, you used the passive voice, but in Korean, you can easily drop the subject, so you don’t have to worry about it as much.
For example, when you say “this was made in Korea”, who are you referring to? Who made it? Do you know? Probably not. Therefore, in English, you just say that “it was made in Korea”. But in Korean, you don’t have to worry about the subject of the verb, so you can just use the active voice form and say 한국에서 만든 거예요. or 한국에서 만들었어요. In these two sentences, the verbs are in the active voice, but no one asks “so who made it?” and understands it as the same meaning as “it was made (by somebody) in Korea”.