Korean Sentence Structure – Difference between 아주 and 너무

2013 November 21
by juyeon

Hi everyone!

Did you know that Hills Learning tweets a Korean word every day at 6 PM? Not only that, we also tweet about various Korean events taking place in New York City, such as a free movie night, concert, Korean celebrity visit to NYC and distinctive knowledge of Korean culture. One follower tweeted to ask us the difference between Korean words 아주 and 매우. I thought this information would be helpful to everyone’s studying Korean.

It’s not uncommon to get confused about adverbs. In a casual setting, many people focus on exchanging light information so they tend to use these two words interchangeably without realizing it. It is subtle but ‘아주’and ‘너무’ are different. In order to accurately grasp a speaker’s intent, it is important to know the correct usage of the words, particularly, if you are in a formal environment. Furthermore, choosing the right word is always beneficial in academic writing.

The Korean word ‘아주’ (pronounced as A-Ju), is an adverb that means very (much), extremely, exceedingly (formal) in English. In a Korean sentence, ‘아주’ comes before adjectives, verbs or other adverbs to describe the conditions or status are beyond the average. Look at the example in below.

• 즐거웠다 – I enjoyed the show
• 아주 즐거웠다 – I enjoyed the show very much

In the first sentence, a speaker plainly describes that she/he had a good time watching the show. By adding ‘아주’ to the sentence, the speaker indicates the level of enjoyment was more than the average or expected. This adverb is often used to emphasize the degree of the conditions the speaker feels or faces.

Next, the adverb ‘너무’ (pronounced as Neo-Mu) originally stems from the verb ‘넘다’ (pronounced as Neom-Da) and means (much/far/way) too, overly in English.

• 이 시계는 사기 비싸다 – This watch is expensive to buy
• 이 시계는 사기 너무 비싸다 – This watch is too expensive to buy

The first sentence is a statement indicating the price of watch is not cheap. When you add the adverb ‘너무,’ the statement suggests that the speaker cannot buy or probably will not buy the watch because it is too expensive. With this adverb, sentences often carry a negative connotations.

I hope this article clarifies the questions of when to use 아주 vs 너무.  Please feel free to leave a comment or follow our Twitter if you have any further questions.


3 Responses leave one →
  1. Bob the builder permalink
    July 14, 2015


  2. gwen gertrude permalink
    September 10, 2016

    Does that mean that neomu is informal?

  3. Myranda permalink
    January 7, 2018

    I’m a little confused because you went from using “아주 and 너무” to typing ‘아주’ and ‘매우.’ but then you went back to the original 너무 and never mentioned 매우 again.

    Please explain, was this a mistype?

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