Something you may have noticed if you’ve read through a few of my song translations/vocabulary lessons is that there are many ways to say “because” in Korean. There are 1 or 2 that carry an extra nuance of some kind, and there are 1 or 2 that only get used in certain situations. This one – 아서 or 어서 – is not one of those. It just simply means “because”, or “so”, depending on how you like to translate it. You’ll see via the examples below.
How to attach it:
This particle is used with verbs, adjectives, and nouns. It attaches a little differently to nouns than to the rest.
Verb and adjectives: Follow these rules. It is not necessary to conjugate the verb or adjective into the past or future tense. The verb or adjective in the second clause will be conjugated to indicate the tense of the sentence.
Nouns: There are 2 ways, both acceptable, but the 2nd way is more commonly used.
1: Attach -이어서 to nouns that end in a consonant, and -어서 to nouns that end in a vowel. Eg: 내가 가수어서 = “because I’m a singer” or I’m a singer, so…”
2: Attach -이라서 to nouns that end in a consonant, and -라서 to nouns that end in a vowel Eg: 내가 가수라서 = “because I’m a singer” or I’m a singer, so…”
Finally, it’s fairly common for the -서 to be omitted when this particle is attached, leaving you with just -아 / -어 / -이라 / -라 etc.
어떤 이들은 회사가 작아서 제대로 못 뜰거래. ~ “Some said that because our company was small we’d never truly make it.”
Original adjective: 작다 – to be small
숨쉬고 있어서 I’m sorry bae. ~ “I’m sorry for breathing, bae.”
Literal translation: “Because I’m breathing, I’m sorry, bae.” This is the Korean way to phrase “Sorry for…” or “Thank you for…”
Original verb: -고 있다 – to be doing
Agust D (by Agust D):
니 밥그릇 뺏은 게 나라서 나 미안해 boy ~ “I’m sorry that the one who took your rice bowl [livelihood] away was me, boy.”
Original noun: 나 – I, me
할 수 있는 게 나 이것뿐이라서. ~ “Because this is the only thing I can do.”
Original noun: 이것 – this, this thing + 뿐 – “only”
치리사일사팔 (724148) (by Agust D):
지난 일이라 얘기하는데. ~ “I’m talking about this because it’s in the past.”
Original noun: 일 – a thing, a matter
You may sometimes see sentences that begin with 그래서. If you look this up in the dictionary, the definition is “so” or “therefore”. However, 그래서 is actually the verb 그렇다 (to be like that) with 어서 attached to the root (using some weird grammar rules because ㅎ is considered an irregular consonant when attaching particles). So the literal translation of it would be “Because it’s like that…”, or “It’s like that, so…”
This doesn’t change the meaning of anything, but I thought it would be interesting to know. When I was just a rookie Korean learner, I felt there were so many words popping up that started with 그 and looked similar to each other and to other grammatical principles. It was a bit overwhelming. It helped me a lot when I realized and understood that they were not just words to memorize, but they were made up of 그렇다 plus a grammatical principle.
그래서 더 특별한 걸까? ~ “Is that what makes it more special?”
Literal translation: “Is it because of that that it’s more special?”
그래서 조급했고 늘 초조했어. ~ “So I was impatient and constantly restless.” OR “Because of that, I was impatient and constantly restless.”
There is another grammatical principle that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in writing, but is used in speech a lot that means exactly the same thing and is used in the same way as -아서 / -어서. In fact, I didn’t learn it from the course I used to study Korean. I kept hearing Jimin and V – and probably the others too – use it while talking, and I had to look it up online:
-아 가지고 / -어 가지고
Notice there is a space between the words. The meaning is identical to -아서 / -어서 but my experience has been that it’s only used in speaking, while -아서 / -어서 is commonly used in writing as well.