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These 3 verb endings can all be used when one event follows another, but what's the difference between them?

[아/어]서 can be used causally, but I'm specifically talking about when it is used to say that one event follows another.

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~어/아서

  • When the second clause is sequentially dependent on the first clause

  • 슈퍼에 가서 장을 본다. "I go to the supermarket and buy groceries".

    • In this example, you can't buy groceries before going to the supermarket. Therefore, they're order dependent.

~다가

  • When the action in the first clause is interrupted by or shifts to the action noted in the second clause. They aren't necessarily sequentially or causally related.
  • 저전거를 타다가 넘어졌다. "I was riding my bike and I fell".
    • In this example, the action of riding was interrupted by the act of falling. However, the two actions are not causally related.
  • Do note that the action also doesn't necessarily have to completely stop.
    • 잠을 자다가 무서운 꿈을 꿨다. "I was sleeping and had a scary dream".

~었/았다가

  • Used similarly with ~다가 in terms of shifting actions. However, unlike ~다가, the action in the first clause completes before shifting to the second action.
  • The clauses should also contrast or be opposites of each other.
  • 셔츠를 샀다가 마음에 안 들어서 환볼했다. "I bought the shirt but then returned it because I didn't like it".
    • In this example, there isn't an interruption but rather two contrasting situations. Also, the action of buying a shirt finishes before the return is made.

Some other things to note:

  • In all three connectives, the subjects of both clauses must be the same.
  • ~다가 and ~었/았다가 can be written without 가: ~다 and ~었/았다

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