[Learn Korean I5] Idioms, 4-character Idiom, “-답다,-스럽다”

안녕하세요. 토미입니다.

Let’s learn Korean today as well!

I will teach you idioms, 4-character idioms, and adjectives ending with 답다/스럽다, which modifies a noun with “___-like”, for example, “human-like.”

“Tammy, idioms and 4-character idioms are not grammar rules, are they?”

It’s a good point.

But, TOPIK Level 3, and 4, include questions regarding idioms.

Moreover, Korean people often use idioms and 4-character idioms in conversations.

So, although they are not grammar rules, I gathered expressions that Korean native speakers use in daily conversation.

And, also, today, I have a confession to make.

I made a small gift for you, which is a small test!!

It covers lessons #1-5.

You can enhance your grammar through this test.

I will leave the link in the description of this video.

I hope many of you come to try this test.

Now, let’s dig into today’s expressions and become a super master of Korean!

그럼 시작할게요!


There are various English idioms like “Beat around the bush,” “Break a leg,” and “Make a long story short” and so on.

Likewise, there are many Korean idioms as well.

Here, we’ll take a look at some idioms that are often used in daily conversations.

  • 김치국부터 마시다.

The literal translation is, “drink the soup of Kimchi,” which makes my throat sore from thinking about it.

I will explain the background of this story.

In ancient Korea, there was a custom to eat rice cakes with Kimchi soup.

With the expectation that the other person would give rice cake, someone drank Kimchi soup beforehand.

Using this analogy, the idiom came to mean “jumping to a conclusion with the wrong assumption.

In English, it is similar to “counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched.”


sample sentences
가: 시험에 합격하면 뭐부터 할까?
 What shall we do when we pass the exam?

나: 김칫국부터 마시지 말고 공부나 열심히 해.
 Don’t make such an assumption. You should study hard first.

In this instance, the speaker 가 is jumping into the wrong assumption before the exam.

So, the speaker 나 said 김칫국부터 마시지 말고 공부나 열심히 해.

For your additional note, recently, people combine 드링킹 or 원샷 with this idiom.

For example, if you say 김칫국 원샷, it sounds like,

“you (alone) jumped to the wrong conclusion!”

If you say this, your native Korean friends will be so surprised by your deep Korean knowledge.

That kind of surprise is very healthy.

  • 시치미를 떼다.

The literal translation of this idiom is “take out the Shichimi.”

Back in the day, people in Korea often hunted by using hawks.

“Shichimi 시치미” originally referred to the tags.

Tags were tied to a hawk containing the owner’s address so others would know who the hawk belonged to.

If taken off, no one would know who owns a given hawk.

From this story, this idiom came to mean, “pretend that one did not do what he/she did,” in other words, “play innocent,” or “play dumb.”

sample sentences
가: 내가 한 거 아니야.
    I didn’t do it.

나: 시치미 떼지 마. 너 아니면 누가 해?
   Don’t play innocent. Who would do it if it’s not you?

The idiom, 시치미를 떼다 is used like this; but I don’t want to be a part of such conversations, would you?

  • 삼천포로 빠지다.

삼천포(Sumchompo (三千浦)) was a small port town in Southern Korea.

One upon a time, a certain merchant was going to 진주 (Jinju(晋州)) where the market was flourishing, but got lost in the way and ended up in 삼천포, where the market was poor.

This idiom came from this story and means, “to get sidetracked” or “something goes in a completely different direction.”

sample sentences
가: 지금 무슨 얘기를 해요?
   What are you talking about now?

나: 미안해요. 이야기가 삼천포로 빠져 버렸네요.
   I’m sorry, I got sidetracked.

Additionally, people nowadays use the idiom,[이야기가 옆으로 새다]which has the same meaning as 삼천포로 빠지다.


1.아이는 그릇을 깨고도 ( ).
The child played innocent even though he broke the dish.

(1)시치미를 뗐다. (2) 삼천포로 빠졌다.

The correct answer is one!

시치미를 떼다 means “to play innocent.”
You want to make a past tense by attaching -ㅆ-.
So, the best answer is 시치미를 뗐다, “played innocent.”

아이는 그릇을 깨고도 (시치미를 뗐다).

2.아직 선물 준다는 말도 안 했는데 ( ).
I haven’t told you I’d be giving a present to you, so don’t jump to the wrong conclusion.

(1)김칫국부터 마시지 마 (2) 딴 짓 하지 마

Ok, the correct answer is number one!

김칫국부터 마시다 means “to jump to the wrong conclusion.”
Since you want to say “don’t do something,” you attach -지 마 to the stem to say 김칫국부터 마시지 마.

아직 선물 준다는 말도 안 했는데 (김칫국부터 마시지 마).

4-character idioms

Now, let’s learn 4-character idioms.

In Korean, 4-character idioms have profound meanings.

Besides, you can express your deep thoughts with just four Chinese characters.

No wonder Korean people love to use these idioms.

Now, I will introduce commonly used 4-character idioms.

일석이조 means “to kill two birds with one stone.”

자포자기 means “to surrender oneself to despair.”

칠전팔기 means “to stand up eight times after falling seven times.”
It expresses the importance of making incessant efforts despite failures.

Korean people use 함흥차사(咸興差使) when someone who you sent for an errand does not return, or when you didn’t receive any reply from someone.

설상가상(雪上加霜) means, “frost added on piles of snow.”
This is similar to the English idiom, “misfortune never comes alone.”
It expresses that suffering occurs one after another.

속수무책(束手無策) comes from the literal phrase, “nothing can be done with hands bound” and means to be “to be helpless” or “to get stuck.”

팔방미인(八方美人) means “a person who is talented in many ways,” “an all-rounder,” or “multi-talented,” which has quite positive connotations.
It often refers to women.

Now, let’s read sample sentences and see how these 4-character idioms are used.

sample sentences
좋아하는 노래도 듣고 한국어도 공부할 수 있어서 일석이조야.
I can listen to my favorite songs and learn Korean. This is like killing two birds with one stone.

전철를 놓쳤는데 설상가상으로 핸드폰까지 놓고 나와서 연락할 수도 없었다.
I was late for the train and forgot to bring my phone, so I couldn’t call. Misfortune never comes alone.


가: 오빠는 심부름 가서 아직 안 왔어요?
Has your brother not come back yet from running errands?

나: 나간지 한참 됐는데 ( )네
It’s been a while since he left. I’ve heard nothing.

(1)함흥차사 (2)칠전팔기

The correct answer is one.

함흥차사 which means someone went for an errand and did not return.
The second option, 칠전팔기, refers to “make incessant efforts despite failures.”

나간지 한참 됐는데 (함흥차사)네.

2.저 선배는 정말 못하는 게 없는 ( )이구나.
That senior student is so multi-talented that she doesn’t have anything she can’t do.

(1)천하태평 (2)팔방미인

The correct answer is two.
팔방미인 means “Multi-talented person.”
천하태평 refers to a person who is carefree and relaxed.

저 선배는 정말 못하는 게 없는 ( 팔방미인 )이구나.

-답다, -스럽다

Now, let’s learn the next grammar, [-답다] and [-스럽다].

[-답다] is usually attached to a noun and makes adjectives such as [남자답다] “to be manly,” [사람답다] “to be humanly,” [학생답다] “to be student-like,” and [어른답다] “to be adult-like.”

In fact, [-스럽다] is attached to nouns or some word stems to create words that mean “to be apparently ___,” or “to look like ___.”

For example, [어른스럽다] means “ to look like an adult.”

[고급스럽다] means “to be apparently luxurious,” “to look luxurious.”

[자랑스럽다] means “to look proud,” and [의심스럽다] means “to look suspicious.”

Please keep in mind that [답다] and [스럽다] both apply to [ㅂ] irregular.

If you wonder what [ㅂ] irregular is, please watch beginner-level video #14 regarding [요] form.

sample sentence1
사탕을 좋아하는 걸 보니까 정말 아이답다.
From your love of candy, you really seem like a child.

Here, [아이] is a “child.”

[-답다] is attached to it to be 아이답다 “to be child-like.”

sample sentence2
내일 발표가 정말 부담스러워요.
Tomorrow’s presentation is really burdensome.

Here, [부담] is “burden.”

If you attach [스럽다], it becomes [부담스럽다] “to be burdensome” or “to feel pressured.”

This phrase, [부담스럽다], is a very good expression.

Native Korean speakers frequently use this expression when they are pressured and stressed out.

I recommend memorizing this phrase as it is! OK?

sample sentence3
자연스럽게 행동하면 아무도 눈치 채지 못 할 거야.
I guess nobody will notice if you act naturally.

Here, [자연] means “nature.”

If you attach [스럽다], it becomes “to be natural.”

Therefore, [자연스럽게] means “naturally.”


1.주저하지 말고 ( ) 말해요.
Don’t hesitate and speak like a man.

(1)남자답다 (2)남자답게

The correct answer is two.

[남자] is a “man.”
If you say [남자답다], it will mean “to be manly.”
But one is incorrect.
Since you want to say “to be like a man” instead of “to be manly.”
Therefore, [남자답게] is the correct answer.

주저하지 말고 (남자답게) 말해요.

2.역시 ( ) 생각이야.
Of course, this is so like you to think this way.

(1)너다운 (2)너답게

The correct answer is one, [너다운]!

Here, since [너] is “you”.
You can say [너답다] to express “it’s so you.”
Additionally, since you want to modify the noun and say “so like you to think this way,” you can apply the grammar [(으)/ㄴ] +noun and say [너다운 생각].

You didn’t forget this grammar, did you?
If you want to review it, you can watch beginner level #38.

역시 (너다운) 생각이야.


The first homework assignment is to create three sentences using the phrases that we learned today.

For the first sentence, please write a sentence using the idioms that you learned today or idioms that you already know.

For example,

  • 언니는 눈이 너무 높아서 결혼 못 할 거 같아요.
    Because my sister’s expectations are too high, I don’t think she’ll be able to get married.

Alright, here, I used an idiom, [눈이 높다] which means “to have high expectations.”

For the second sentence, let’s use 4-character idioms.

For example,

  • 집을 살 때는 반드시 심사숙고해야 합니다.
    When you buy a house, you must consider it seriously.

I used [심사숙고], which means “to consider it seriously.”

For the third sentence, please make a sentence by using [답다/스럽다] “to be like ___.”

For example,

  • 갑작스럽게 왜 한밤중에 전화야?
    Why did you call me suddenly in the middle of the night?

You would be surprised if you receive a call in the middle of the night.

Nowadays, I get surprised when I receive a call even in the daytime.

Anyway, I am looking forward to reading your homework comments!

Be sure to surprise me by using idioms!

The second part of the homework assignment is memorizing vocabulary.

Please memorize 40 words from numbers 161 to 200 on page 3 of the Intermediate Vocabulary list.

small test

I have a small gift for you.

There is a small test as this is the fifth lesson.

This test covers lessons 1 to 5.

I will leave the link in the description of this video.

[Learn Korean I] QUIZ No.1-No.5


That’s all for today!!

Good job, everyone! 칠전팔기 is one of my favorite four-character idioms.

Let’s rise many times even after falling several times.

Let’s move forward every time. And I know you can do it for sure.

그럼 오늘도 행복 가득, 웃음 가득한 하루 되세요! 한국어 화이팅, 화이팅, 화이팅!!

Vocabulary Test : 40 Questions

There will be 40 multiple choice questions in total displayed in random order, testing on Vocabulary #161~200 from the Intermediate Level Vocabulary List.