Both seems to express past experience.

For example,

  • 막걸리 마셔 봤어요? Have you tried to drink maggeolli?/Have you ever drunk maggeolli?
  • 서울에 가 봤어요? Have you ever been to Seoul?
  • 생낙지 안 먹어 봤어요 I never never eaten live octopus.
  • 인도 영화를 본 적이 있어요 I have seen an Indian movie.

It seems very similar to me. Are they interchangeable?

For example, what would be the difference between "제주도에 가봤어요?" and "제주도에 간 적이 있어요?" ? This is especially confusing since my textbook also combine both structures into "제주도에 가 본 적이 있어요?" (가다 -> 가 보다 -> 가 본 적이 있다).

  • What do you mean by "my text book combine both into 제주도에 가 본 적이 있어요"? Can you quote the explanation in the book?
    – user7
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:29
  • I meant both structures are used: 가다 -> 가 보다 -> 가 본 적이 있어요. From Super Cool Handsome Gel Boy's answer, I guess it means 'to'have the experience of trying to go'.
    – Taladris
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:55

3 Answers 3


아/어 보다 does not necessarily denote past tense. It is equivalent to the meaning "TRY TO" in English. Example:

알아보다 -> 알다 + 아/어보다 -> try to know

시도해 봐! -> Try!

내 제안을 생각해 볼 수 있다 -> You can consider (try to think of) my proposal.

은/ㄴ 적이 있다 indicates that an agent had the EXPERIENCE of doing something, so it has to be in past tense. Example:

서울에 간 적이 있어요? -> Have you been to Seoul? (Did you have the experience of going to Seoul?)

Their focuses are different.

아/어 보다 focuses on the TRY.

적이 있다 focuses on the EXPERIENCE instead.

  • Please read the question and your answer again. You need to look up the words you are using as examples in the dictionary unless you want to make a mistake. That's why we need to include some references or links for words that you use. I don't understand how your post answers the question. Please edit it with proper reference and explanation.
    – user7
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:27
  • 1
    I didn't notice my examples with (아/어) 보다 where all in the past tense. This answer makes a lot of sense to me. A last question: since (아/어) 보다 is about trying something, could 서울에 가 봤어요 also mean "I tried to go to Seoul", implying that I may have failed to do so?
    – Taladris
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:53
  • @Taladris How would a wrong answer make a lot of sense to you? I am a little curious to know.
    – user7
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:55
  • @Rathony: do you mind explaining why the answer is wrong? I would be glad to see an answer from you.
    – Taladris
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:56
  • @Taladris I will answer this question after your question and this answer are edited.
    – user7
    Oct 3, 2016 at 7:58

I think the answer by Super Cool Handsome Gel Boy makes sense, so let me supplement it. In my opinion, 아/어 보다 could be translated as 'try ~ing' rather than 'try to'. But I am not so confident in my English, so I need English speakers' help.

According to my understanding, 'try ~ing' is used when you are doing something already or try to do something expecting some future influence. For instance,

I am trying going vegetarian. (I have already stopped eating meat for a while.)

Try being quiet. (Be quiet and keep quiet.)

If this understanding is correct, I can give an explanation. Two expressions would be translated as

  1. ㄴ적이 있다: there was an event that ~ (better translated as 'have ever ~')

  2. 아/어 보다: try ~ing

If you are using the second expression in the past tense, you are saying that the action was already taken. So two sentences are basically the same in this case and can be used interchangeably. Of course you can combine two expressions.

  1. 아/어 본 적이 있다 (have ever tried ~ing).

I think the third expression is most common in Korea because it sounds somewhat polite. The following might be an answer to Rathony.

  • 서울에 가려고 했는데 못 갔다. (correct)

I tried to go to Seoul but couldn't.

  • 서울에 가 봤는데 못 갔다. (very weird and not recommended, could possibly be used by some comedians because 가다 could be interpreted as either 'go' or 'reach')

I tried going to Seoul but couldn't.

  • 서울 방향으로 가 봤는데, 다리가 끊어져서 도착하지 못했다. (fixed)

I tried going toward Seoul, but couldn't reach it because the bridge was broken.

  • Nice answer, but a few things. I don't see a very significant difference between "마셔 보다" and "마셔 본 적이 있다". The only difference I see is the former sounds more colloquial and less respectful. The main issue of your answer and another one is you are trying to interpret it as if they had the same difference in English. That's English way of thinking, not Korean way of thinking. Also, 서울에 가 봤는데 못 갔다 sounds totally wrong and doesn't make any sense. 가다 can never be interpreted to mean to reach. If you have any example, please quote it. It will never be said by any Korean in their right mind.
    – user7
    Oct 6, 2016 at 8:38
  • @Rathony, not being an English speaker, I don't see a significant difference in English either. I hope somebody would explain the difference in English. And for your another remark, it's almost wrong but not 100% wrong. That sentence could be used in a joke, for instance. That's why I said it's very weird. 가다 could mean 'reach'. Consider the following sentence. 교문 앞에 무서운 개가 있어 학교에 가지 못했다. You went very close to the school, but couldn't reach it because of the dog.
    – Hwang
    Oct 6, 2016 at 8:55
  • @Rathony, I don't understand your comment. Going to school and joining the class are different. You can go to school and skip the class. If I want to say the latter in Korean, I would say 수업에 참석하지 못했다. Anyway, I write a few more examples. 추석에 차가 막혀 고향에 가지 못했다. 아버지 묘소에 가지 못해 죄송스럽다. 편의점에 갔더니 문이 잠겨있었다. 도서관에 가서 공부해야지. Non of them make sense if you don't really reach the destination.
    – Hwang
    Oct 6, 2016 at 9:37
  • @Rathony, I was saying that 서울에 가 봤는데 못 갔다 could be interpreted as "I tried going to Seoul, but couldn't reach it.
    – Hwang
    Oct 6, 2016 at 9:46
  • 2
    This discussion doesn't seem to be productive, so let me write my last opinion about this topic. I am doing math and consider 'never' to be 0%. So I don't agree with you when you say 'never'. Anyway, it's true that it's very weird and recommended to avoid it.
    – Hwang
    Oct 6, 2016 at 10:21

Since I promised to post an answer, I will try to keep my promise. I am not sure how fluent you are in Korean or other languages, but you should always remember that you can't use another language's grammar or nuance to study a different language. It could be an efficient way to study Korean using English grammar and their usage differences when you start to study Korean, but unfortunately, the Korean language or any other languages that I've studied or encountered don't work the same way as the English language does.

- 보다 is an auxiliary verb which indicates mainly "trying" or "experience". You can never know what it exactly means without any context. For example:

먹어 보다 could mean (1) try eating (a new food) or (2) have an experience of eating.

  1. 산낙지 먹어 봤어요? It could mean "Have you tried eating a raw octopus?" or "Do you have any experience of eating a raw octopus?"

  2. 산낙지 먹어 본 이 있으세요? It means the same as above. Literally, it could be best translated to "Do you have time when you ate a raw octopus?" There is no big difference between the two.

You need to note that -적 is a dependent noun that indicates time when an action or state occurred or passed. Therefore, there is no reason to differentiate the two sentences.

The only differences I see is

No. 1 sentence is more colloquial and less respectful than No. 2. For example, when you speak to your senior that you don't feel very close to, it's better to use No. 2. Depending on context, No. 1 might sound challenging and argumentative, especially when you are engaged in argument.

Note: 알아보다 has a completely different meaning than explaind in another answer. It is not recommended to use it with -보다 auxiliary because they have the same ending.

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