Surprise and Reason: -(으)니까
If there is one verb ending that has confounded me it is the verb ending I want to discuss now -(으)니까. It is, in my opinion, such a often used verb ending and most of the time I hardly know why they use it. However, I need to get used to it since this grammar topic will appear soon on my Korean exam. So It’s time to find some answer.
Conjugating with -(으)니까
Normally, I discuss the why and how in none go, but for this time I’m going do things a bit different. First let’s just look at the basic grammar rules. How to use a verb with this form.
This verb ending follows the “batchim/no batchim” rule of Korean grammar. If the verb stem ends in a vowel, we use the form -니까. However, if the verb ends in a consonant (batchim), we need to use -으니까. However, this form like many grammar forms can cause some irregularities to occur when used with the irregular Korean verb groups:
- ㅂ irregular verbs; 덥다 = 더우 + 니까 = 더우니까
- ㄹ irregular verbs; 살다 = 살 + 으니까 = 사 + 니까 = 사니까
- ㄷ irregular verbs; 듣다 = 들 + 으니까 = 들으니까
- ㅎ irregular verbs; 하얗다 = 하야 + 니까 = 하야니까
- ㅅ irregular verbs; 젓다 = 저 + 으니까 = 저으니까
That is essentially everything that can be said on this topic. Now to the more important topic: What it means and how to use it!
Reason and Cause
The first use of the -(으)니까 verb pattern is immediately a very important use. You can use this pattern to express the reason or cause of something. If you use it to express that, this pattern can be translated as “so” or “because”. This can be confusing since there is another pattern, 어서/아서, that does the same thing. There are, however, clear differences between them.
With -(으)니까 you can do the following things:
- Can be used in imperative or propositive sentences; sentences with verb endings such as -(으)세요 or -(으)ㄹ까요.
- It can be used with tense markers such as -었-/-았-.
- It cannot be used with common expressions to greet others, etc.; such as 반갑다, 감사하다, 고맙다.
There is also a meaningful difference between the two. The -(으)니까 ending is used for more subjective reasons or to offer the basis of a reason. It is also mainly used when the listener knows what you are talking about. 어서/아서 is kind of generic form to express reasons.
Example: 오늘은 추우니까 따뜻한 옷을 입으세요. – It is cold today, so please wear warm clothes.
However, there is another way to use this form. You can use it to express that the result of something is a surprise to you. However, when you use it to express your surprise at something, you can only attach it to actual action verbs, not adjectives. Furthermore, if you use it for this reason you cannot attach tense markers such as -었-/-았-, unlike when using it for reason and cause.
When you use it to express your surprise or discovery of the consequence of your action, this pattern can be translated as “when” or “…. only to discover”.
Example: 집에 오니까 밤 한 시였어요! – When I came home, it was 1 O’clock at night!