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What is the difference between 좋다 and 좋아하다?

How do we distinguish between them?

3 Answers 3


Derivation of 좋아하다

  1. 좋다 is an adjective that means good.
  2. Appending the 하 to its infinitive form 좋아 creates a compound, where it is given a notion of feeling.
    Thus, 좋아하다 has a "raw" meaning of something like... to feel good about.
  3. Apply that to some object and one would quickly find that they like that thing. Hence ultimately, 좋아하다 has come to adopt the meaning of to like.


  • 이런 산법은 좋다: Such algorithm is good.
  • 그는 사과를 좋아하다: He likes apples.
  • 난 네가 좋다: (To) me, you are good. → I like you.
    This one may be a little weird, but if you follow how 좋아하다 was derived from the section above, you can quickly come to the conclusion that "To me, you are good." can adopt a meaning of "I like you".

Generalizing the pattern

Now I'm really only beginning to learn how to "transform" words, and I don't know what adjectives can use this and what cannot, but as far as I know things to do with feelings can use this derivation:

  • 아프다 painful (eg a painful wound) → 아파하다 to feel pain / be in pain (eg to feel pain due to the wound)
  • 슬프다 sad (eg a sad story) → 슬퍼하다 to feel sad(eg to feel sad listening to the story)
  • 그립다 longed for, dear → 그리워하다 to miss (think "to feel something that you long/yearn for"), as in "I miss you"
  • 밉다 unpleasant → 미워하다 dislike ("to feel something unpleasant")

In addition, for a sentence like the "I like you" example above, for a transitive verb, it can be said that if
A가 B를 C아/어하다
then it is equivalent to say
A는 B가 C다
Note, however, that the former is used if A is a third person, otherwise the latter form is used.

  • 3
    The derivation and examples are OK, but the generalization misses an important point because 좋아하다 is kind of an exception. -아/어하다 is usually only added to feeling verbs if other people are 'feeling' them (3rd person). For 1st person (and asking in 2nd person) the -아/어하다 is usually not added. I think the explanation is that only the person feeling can truly know what they are feeling. Other people can only observe what they perceive that person to be feeling (thus -아/어하다 is added).
    – Leftium
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 22:35
  • @Leftium can you show me some examples? And perhaps some sources? I would like to look into this.
    – busukxuan
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 1:26
  • I don't have my Korean textbooks handy at the moment, but here is a good example with discussion: -고 싶다
    – Leftium
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 3:59
  • 1
    OK, here is a source: Intermediate College Korean, pp 77-78. The rule is not explicitly stated but the examples clearly alternate between 1st person and 3rd person with the same verb using the two different forms. (Also notice both 좋다/좋아하다 are used for 1st person)
    – Leftium
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 4:22
  • @Leftium thank you very much :-) I have updated the answer accordingly. I wonder though, is this a strong tendency or a rule? For example 2ne1's song "Missing You" actually has a line 그리워해요 saying I miss you. Is this so because it's just a tendency or is the lyric incorrect/unnatural?
    – busukxuan
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 12:12

좋다 -> adjective, A(이/가) 좋다 describes that A is good

날씨가 좋다 -> the weather is good
성격이 좋다 -> (have) a good character

좋아하다 -> verb, describes the act of liking something/one
너를 좋아하다 ->(I) like you
떡을 좋아하다 -> (I) like rice cake


Basically, '좋다' is a predicate. It can be used as an adjective, an adverb, and a verb. As others told, basically 좋다 is an adjective in many cases. However, if you try to use it to describe a behavior, then it is verb. For example,

나는 네가 좋다. (I like you.)

It can also be felt like an adverb when you translate the sentence in English.

나는 기분이 좋다 (I feel good.)

And of course, like this, it can be used as an adjective. 이 제품은 좋다. (This product is good.)

What you have to know is, Korean grammar usually classifies words with their role, not with their form or notation.

In contrast, 좋아하다 is obviously a verb. It can only be used as a verb. This is because of its ending, -하다.

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