-보다 – “compared to X”

The particle -보다 has two meanings, but both are fairly straightforward.

Meaning One:

-보다 is attached to nouns or clauses to make comparisons. It can be translated as “than X “, “compared to X”, or “more than X”.

There is a slight difference in the sentences you can create in Korean with this particle compared to how you’d create a comparitive sentence in English. For example, in English you could say: “Compared to you, I’m tall” or “I am taller than you” but “I am tall than you” is not a correct sentence.

The point I’m making is that tall/taller are not interchangeable in use in the sentences created above. However, with the use of -보다 in Korean, you can use a plain adjective in your comparison, or add the word 더 (more) to create a comparative adjective. Both are correct.

For example, these sentences are both correct and the meaning is the same. The only difference is the way it gets translated into English.

나는 너보다 기가 더 커. = Compared to you, I’m taller. / I’m taller than you.
나는 너보다 기가 커. = Compared to you, I’m tall.

Now, if you’re wondering how -보다 could possibly translate to “more than”, here’s how. Again, note that one of the following sentences uses 더 and the other does not. They mean the same thing. They only look different in English.

나는 너보다 밥이 더 많아. – Compared to you I have more rice.
나는 너보다 밥이 많아. = Compared to you, I have a lot of rice.

더 is not the only comparative word you can use with this principle. You can also use the word 훨씬, which means “much” or “much more”. Using this word will of course change the meaning of the sentence from “Compared to you I have more rice” to “Compared to you I have much more rice”.

You can also use the word 덜 (less) to make a comparison the other way around, but this is much less frequently done. 나는 너보다 기가 덜 커. = “I am shorter (lit: less tall) than you” but 9 times out of 10, the speaker would just flip this sentence and say, 너는 나보다 기가 커. = “You are taller than me.”


Examples:

Make It Right
보다 조금 더 커진 키에 = “To a height that’s a bit higher than before.”
Noun: 전 = before

시차 (My Time)
누구보다 더 빨리 어른이 된 것만 같아 = “It just seems like I’ve become an adult faster than anyone.”
Noun: 누구 = who, someone, anyone

친구 (Friends)
일곱 번의 여름과 추운 겨울보다 오래. = “Longer than 7 summers and 7 cold winters.”
Noun: 겨울 = winter

소우주 (Mikrokosmos)
넌 누구보다 밝게 빛나. = “You shine brighter than anyone.”
Noun: 누구 = who, someone, anyone

Trivia 轉 : Seesaw
내가 너보다 무거워졌었던 순간 = “The moment when I became heavier than you”
Noun: 너 = you

Begin
형이 아프면 내가 아픈 것보다 아파. = “When my brother is in pain, it hurts more than when I am.”
Clause: 내가 아파. = I hurt/ I am in pain.

First Love
내 키보다 훨씬 더 컸던 갈색 피아노 = “that brown piano, so much taller than me”
Noun: 키 = height


Meaning Two:

-보다 can be attached to a noun or clause to mean “rather than X”. For example, “Rather than just sitting here, let’s go do something.” Simple as that.

This usage is not very frequent, since there are other ways to say this (Egs: 대신 = instead of, 말고 = don’t do X, but do Y). So here’s the lone example I could pull from BTS’s lyrics:

고민보다 고 (Go Go)
고민보다 고 = “Rather than worrying, go.”
Noun: 고민 = the act of worrying, overthinking, contemplating


-보다 grammar Korean