Key Korean Prefixes: 되

my daneo jjang

If you’re an English speaker who pays close attention to language traits, you’ve probably learned or realized that a vast majority of English verbs beginning with “re” are words that talk about doing something over again. Shall I reword, rephrase, or reorganize that thought?

re = originally a Latin prefix meaning “again” or “back”

remove = to move something back or away

reverse = to go backward

Similarly, Korean has its own prefix that functions like the Latin-based English prefix “re”. Korean uses 되~; English uses re~.

(as a prefix) = back, again; on the contrary

Let’s take a look at some Korean words that reflect this usage. 

  • 찾다 to recover or find again (찾다 means “to find” or “look for”)
  • 짚다 to retrace one’s steps; to look back on or reminisce (짚다 has multiple possible meanings and is often found combined with other verbs.)
  • 살리다 to revive, resuscitate; to recall memories (살리다 means “to save” i.e. a life)
  • 돌리다 to restore or return i.e. to its original state or owner (like 짚다, 돌리다 has multiple possible meanings — seven per Naver Dictionary — but “to turn” is probably most helpful to remember here. You could use this verb to say 시간을 되돌리다 or “to turn back time”)
  • 들다 to reenter, to come in again (the most relevant meaning for 들다 in this context is “to enter” or “come in”)
  • 세우다 to rebuild, to make a fallen thing stand again (세우다 here means “to make something stand up”, or “to build or erect something”)
  • 받아치다 to return a blow, to strike back (받아치다 is “to return” i.e. a service, insult, or a serve/strike such as in tennis

Note: This does not mean that all Korean words that start with 되 are automatically emphasizing the “do over again” nature of the prefix. For example, 되다 is a completely different verb, and regardless, its spelling changes depending on conjugation i.e. 됐다. But if you see 되 + another verb that you know, you can probably guess its meaning thanks to this handy prefix!

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다.


지금 재생 중

Hey, you there. Did you notice that the title of this song by Lee Seung Gi uses the 되 prefix? Look at you, you Korean-learning genius. Keep it up!


One thought on “Key Korean Prefixes: 되

  1. Pingback: Key Korean Prefixes: 재, 재, and 재 | 서울드림

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