In this lesson, we are going to look at how to say “sometimes I do this, sometimes I do that” or “sometimes it’s like this, other times it’s like that” in Korean.
In order to say this, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, you need to know how to use the -(으)ㄹ 때 ending, which means “when + S + V”. And you also need to know how the topic marker -는 is used to show contrast.
How to say “sometimes” in Korean
When the word “sometimes” is used just to show the frequency of an action, you can say 가끔 [ga-kkeum], 가끔씩 [ga-kkeum-ssik], or 때때로 [ttae-ttae-ro]. (가끔 and 가끔씩 are more common in spoken Korean than 때때로.)
But when you want to literally say “some times” and “other times”, you use the expression, 어떨 때 [eo-tteol ttae].
어떨 때 comes from 어떻다 + -(으)ㄹ + 때.
어떻다 [eo-tteo-ta] means “to be how” or “to be in what kind of state” and -(으)ㄹ marks a future action or state, and 때 [ttae] means “time” or “when”. So literally, 어떨 때 means “when what state will happen” or “when things are how”. Therefore when more naturally translated, 어떨 때 means “in what kind of situation”, “in what kind of times” or even just “when”.
어떨 때 영화 보고 싶어요?
[eo-tteol ttae yeong-hwa bo-go si-peo-yo?]
= When do you (usually) feel like watching a movie?
어떨 때 제일 힘들어요?
[eo-tteol ttae je-il him-deu-reo-yo?]
= When do you (usually) have the hardest time?
As you can notice from the examples above, 어떨 때 is commonly used when you are asking about a general pattern or habit, whereas 언제 [eon-je] would just have the plain meaning of “when”.
어떨 때 can also be used, however, to mean “sometimes”. But this is when you want to show contrast between “some times” and “other times”. Therefore, you usually use 어떨 때 with the topic marker, -는.
어떨 때는 [eo-tteol ttae-neun] = sometimes + certain state/action
어떨 때는 [eo-tteol ttae-neun] = other times + another state/action
Like shown above, you can repeat 어떨 때는. Let’s take a look at some examples.
커피요? 어떨 때는 마시는데, 어떨 때는 안 마셔요.
[keo-pi-yo? eo-tteol ttae-neun ma-si-neun-de, eo-tteol ttae-neun an ma-syeo-yo.]
= Coffee? Sometimes I drink it, but other times, I don’t drink it.
어떨 때는 혼자 있는 것이 좋은데, 어떨 때는 싫어요.
[eo-tteol ttae-neun hon-ja it-neun geo-si jo-eun-de, eo-tteol ttae-neun si-reo-yo.]
= Sometimes, I like being alone, but other times, I don’t like it.
If you want to be more specific and say “other times” in Korean, too, you can use the expression “다른 때는", using the verb “다르다".
Although 어떨 때는 is more commonly used, some people also use 어떤 때는, since it is in the present tense.
1. 그 사람은 어떨 때는 친절한데, 어떨 때는 정말 불친절해요.
[geu sa-ra-meun eo-tteol ttae-neun chin-jeo-ran-de, eo-tteol ttae-neun jeong-mal bul-chin-jeo-rae-yo.]
= Sometimes, he is kind, but other times, he is very unkind.
2. 어떨 때는 일을 그만두고 싶은데, 어떨 때는 일 하는 게 좋아요.
[eo-tteol ttae-neun i-reul geu-man-du-go si-peun-de, eo-tteol ttae-neun il ha-neun ge jo-a-yo.]
= Sometimes I feel like quitting my job, but other times, I like working.
You can also use the ending -(으)ㄹ 때도 있어요 after the second 어떨 때는 clause.
For example, the above sentence can be changed to 어떨 때는 일을 그만두고 싶은데, 어떨 때는 일 하는 게 좋을 때도 있어요.
-(으)ㄹ 때 means “a time when …” and -도 있어요 means “there are also …”, therefore this is to express the meaning “there are also times when...”.
3. 어떨 때는 운동하는 게 재미있는데, 어떨 때는 운동하고 싶지 않을 때도 있어요.
[eo-tteol ttae-neun un-dong-ha-neun ge jae-mi-it-neun-de, eo-tteol ttae-neun un-dong-ha-go sip-ji a-neul ttae-do i-sseo-yo.]
= Sometimes, working out is fun, but other times, there are also times when I don’t feel like doing exercise.