Are these two ending forms pretty much interchangable? Someone suggested that it is a matter of degree, with 기로 하다 being a strong intention (or promise) while (으)려 하다 being more a bit weaker, maybe closer to "thinking of doing"...

Does that sound accurate?


2 Answers 2


These two are totally different from each other.

기로 하다

하다 here is denoting the word 결정하다(decide), so you will often see sentences like the following:

설거지를 하기로 (결정)했다.
I decided to wash the dishes.

So 기로 하다 should mean "decide to..."

마음먹다 is the same as 결심하다, and can be used in the above case too.

(으)려 하다

하다 here is usually the contraction of 노력하다(pay effort). Same, you will see sentences like this:

좋은 사람이 되려(고) 노력하십시오.
Strive to be a good person.

The meaning of (으)려(고) is "intending, with some sort of efforts, to do...".

Ex: 되도록 빨리 숙제를 다 하려고 TV를 껐다.

I'm intending to finish homework ASAP, so I switched off TV.

  • May I ask how you know this? I've never seen either of these grammar patterns described as denotations or abbreviations before...
    – B. Alvn
    Jan 4, 2017 at 6:13
  • See this site: howtostudykorean.com
    – user237
    Jan 4, 2017 at 12:20

Even the use of 으려 has a "degree" to it.

If you are plain old "going caroling" you would just say it (or maybe use the future tense 하겠다, or leave room for fate to change your plans 을것같다):

크리스마스 캐롤링을 한다.

크리스마스 캐롤링을 하겠다.

크리스마스 캐롤링을 할것 같다.

I go Christmas caroling.

If you are expecting that "going caroling" will have some issue occur, or more likely using this to tell a story where something happened along the way to going caroling 으려 describes your state of on the way so that it might be interrupted.

크리스마스 캐롤링을 하려고 한다.

I am planning to go Christmas caroling.

In the past tense it's is more useful:

크리스마스 캐롤링을 하려고 하다가 다른 데로 가기로 했다.

I was going Christmas caroling but decided to go elsewhere.

As demonstrated in that sentence, 기로 is a degree different from 으려, in this case that minor difference between mindset and decision.

If it is found by itself, as you suggested, it just comes out stronger - like some sort of Yoda speak where you purposefully shown your decision in the noun state.

크리스마스 캐롤링을 하기로 한다

Christmas caroling is what I do.

Instead of I'm doing it it's like Doing it is what I am doing. Whereas 으려 might break down to I plan on doing it.

으려고 하다 -vs- Past Progressive Tense

Think about why we use Past Progressive Tense. When something is happening but is interrupted or punctuated by something else, we need this to explain it.

I was going but met a friend.

This is where 으려 shines:

가려고 했는데 친구 만나서 안 갔다

기로 -vs- Making up one's mind

It is very common to hear the phrase for to make up one's mind (마음을 먹다) in conjunction with 기로.

I made up my mind to go.

가기로 마음을 먹었다.

response to comments

Sorry, I tend to go for literal translation too often. 크리스마스 캐롤링을 하기로 한다 (depending on context of course), would most likely mean "okay i've decided (am deciding) to go caroling".

for your second comment, 크리스마스 캐롤링을 하기로 했다 is not that you went caroling past tense but decided to go caroling...so the caroling when is left unclear without context.

the third comment, sounds like a decision for the future. i never meant to say that it only works in the past. frequently, it seems, Koreans tend to say in a present tense that which (in my part of the world) we would always clearly represent with a past tense.

i think that is part of the confusion here that 참석하기로 합니다 sounds like a present tense decision where in English it would likely be phrased It has been decided ...attend...etc.

one final, less complex thought

으려고 하다

trying to do, attempt to do it, have intention to do it

기로 하다

plan to do it, decide to do it, definitively strive to do it

  • This is a lot to think about...thank you. So you are saying that: 크리스마스 캐롤링을 하기로 한다=Christmas caroling is what I do.? Yet I've seen in many places that this kind of sentence describes an "intention to do" which surely seems different than just "do".....so you have me confused here....
    – B. Alvn
    Dec 31, 2016 at 14:57
  • I understand that it's often used as 했다 but still, then according to what you are saying, changing it to 크리스마스 캐롤링을 하기로 했다 should only change "what I do" to "what I did" ....so now I'm really confused!
    – B. Alvn
    Dec 31, 2016 at 15:36
  • I did some searching around and found many sentences using this ending in the present tense. Here is an example:정기산행 참석하시는 분들은 정기산행후 송년모임에 참석하기로 합니다. So this doesn't express the intention to attend the year end meeting ??
    – B. Alvn
    Jan 1, 2017 at 0:59
  • my comment was too long...see update in answer, pls Jan 7, 2017 at 2:55
  • also after discussing this with my Korean wife, I'm abandoning 으려 하다 for two reasons, at 연세대학교 where I learned Korean, the pattern taught was 으려고 하다, and my wife agrees the 고 must be in the pattern. Jan 7, 2017 at 2:58

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