Sometimes we need or want to speak authoritatively on something that we know or believe to be true. However, sometimes we want to express that we are a little uncertain about we’re saying, or we just want to emphasize a little more that it’s coming from our own thoughts or opinions and not actual fact. Also, in Korean, saying something too directly can come across as rude, especially when speaking to your superiors. So how do we soften things up? Today, we’ll look at how to say that X seems or looks like Y.
There are actually three grammatical forms that we can look at to express this kind of meaning! Today we’ll look at what might be the most common one, 것 같다. The other two are -ㄴ가 보다 and -나 보다. They are largely similar to 것 같다, but there is a difference. Look forward to seeing a post on those in the future 🙂
PLEASE NOTE that in this post, “past,” “present,” and “future” all refer to the tense of the (noun modifier ending of the) verb before the grammar in question, not the tense of the sentence as a whole! I will write all of my sentences in this post in present tense for the sake of simplicity.
To use this form properly you should understand noun modifier endings, which I discussed here. You simply use the appropriate noun modifier ending depending on whether you’re using an action verb, description verb, or noun and then follow that with 것 같다. Conjugate 같다 to your formality of choice and you’re done!
PAST: -은/ㄴ 것 같다
- 이미 나간 것 같아요. (It seems he already went out.)
- 강아지가 내 숙제를 먹은 것 같아. (It seems the dog ate my homework.)
PRESENT: -는 것 같다
- 저 차는 너무 빨리 달리는 것 같아요. (It seems like that car is going too fast.)
- 아기가 맛있게 먹는 것 같아요. (It seems that the baby is eating well.)
FUTURE: -(으)ㄹ 것 같다
- 오늘 비가 올 것 같다. (It seems it will rain today.)
- 내일 만나지 못할 것 같아요. (It seems we won’t be able to meet tomorrow.)
PAST: -았/었을 것 같다 / -았/었던 것 같다
If you are just speculating about something that you didn’t experience, use -았/었을 것 같다. If you’re talking about your own memory or something that you experienced, you can use -았/었던 것 같아요.
- 이 옛날 사진을 보니까 그 때 살기는 많이 힘들었던 것 같아요. (Looking at this old photo, it seems that living at that time was really hard.)
- 미나 씨가 어제 산 케이크가 이미 다 먹힌 걸 보니 정말 맛있었던 것 같아요. (Seeing that the cake Mina bought yesterday has already been entirely eaten, it seems it was very delicious.)
PRESENT: -(으)ㄴ 것 같다
- 이 머리 스타일은 그 스타일보다 더 예쁜 것 같아요. (This hairstyle seems prettier than that one.)
- 이 제품을 처음 사용해 보는데 품질이 정말 좋은 것 같네요. (I’m trying this product for the first time, and it seems the quality is really good.)
FUTURE: -(으)ㄹ 것 같다
- 장마철에 한국에 가는 게 정말 안 좋을 것 같아요. (It seems that going to Korea during the rainy season won’t be good.)
- 머리를 좀 더 밝은 색깔로 염색하면 예쁠 것 같아요. (It seems that if you dye your hair a lighter color, it will be pretty.)
PAST: -이었/였던 것 같다
- 저 할아버지는 요리를 이렇게 잘 하시는 걸 보니 과거에 요리사이셨던 것 같아요. (Seeing how well that old man cooks, it seems he was a chef in the past.)
- 뉴스를 보니 우리가 어제 지나간 교통 사고가 많이 심한 사고였던 것 같아요. (Seeing the news, it seems that the accident we passed yesterday was a really serious accident.)
PRESENT: -인 것 같다
- 재우 씨의 스타일을 보면 미술가인 것 같아요. (If you look at Jaewoo’s style, it seems like he’s an artist.)
- 오늘의 메뉴는 불고기인 것 같아요. (It seems today’s menu is bulgogi.)
FUTURE: -일 것 같다
- 내일은 좋은 날일 것 같아요! (It seems like like tomorrow will be a good day!)
- 그 영화는 아이들이 많이 좋아할 영화일 것 같아요. (It seems like that movie will be one that children will like a lot.)