I have seen 는 셈이다 in the grammar list, and the documentation explained that it means 는 것 같다. However, I am confused on the difference in usage between them.

Usually I would see 는 것 같다 in texts, but sometimes I still can see 는 셈이다. So, how to differentiate them?

Much help is appreciated.

2 Answers 2


-는 것 같다 is a guess (about the present). E.g.:

비가 오는 것 같다 (It seems to be raining).

The past tense version is -ㄴ 것 같다 and the future version is -ㄹ 것 같다.

-는 셈이다 means basically "it is the same as...", "it's as good as saying ...", "It amounts to":

서울서 이렇게 오래 살았으니, 이제 나의 고향은 서울이 되는 셈이구나1

This means basically "I've lived in Seoul so long, it's like it's my hometown. So the second part literally means "Now my hometown "amounts to" being Seoul; it isn't really Seoul, but it's as good as true.

Note that -ㄹ 셈이다 has a different meaning: intend to ~

유학을 갈 셈이었다. (I intended to go abroad to study).

1 This example taken from "어미-조사 사전 (이희자ㆍ이종희 지음; 한국문화사)"

  • Your examples are not clear. Maybe don't give me some English equivalent and directly explain?
    – user237
    Jun 27, 2016 at 8:22
  • Does 셈 here mean "situation"/"circumstances", and hence "This bread, it is the situation of eating a stone"?
    – busukxuan
    Jun 27, 2016 at 8:28
  • 셈 comes from the verb "세다"=to count, so it means more like "it counts as..."
    – gaeguri
    Jun 27, 2016 at 8:39
  • @Super Cool Handsome Gel Boy - I wasn't sure my example sentences were very good, so I replaced them with one from a reference book, and tried to explain better. I hope the other examples are OK.
    – gaeguri
    Jun 27, 2016 at 8:46
  • I am sorry, but I still could not grasp it.
    – user237
    Jun 27, 2016 at 10:30

Here's an explanation coming from Korean Grammar In Use: Intermediate:

This expression is used when the speaker, after considering a number of possible situations, concludes that something could be considered more or less as the topic or subject that has been mentioned. It is considered equivalent to 와/과 마찬가지다.

And so,

How to differentiate them?

To me (non-native by the way), 은/는/을 것 같다 is an expression of conjecture while 은/는 셈이다 isn't.

I'm not sure if gaeguri's example highlights their difference because 제 나의 고향은 서울이 된 것 같다 could also be said as a substitution (someone correct me). However, I do think it can be better seen through your example of 비가 오다.

비가 오는 것 같다

You say this probably in some situation where you here the sound of rain and you know it's cloudy, but you haven't gone outside and checked. That's what's known as conjecture.

비가 오는 셈이다

You'd say this when it's snowing, but (for some odd reason) the snow immediately turns into water (I guess it's because the ground is hot enough?) and starts making everything wet and damp instead of nice and Christmas-y. Since the situation would almost turn out the same when it rains, you'd say that it's just practically raining.

  • So you mean for 는 셈이다: There are clear evidence that the thing is happening, but then there are also some other phenomena which makes you not 100% sure?
    – user237
    Jun 27, 2016 at 11:10
  • 는 셈이다 isn't a conjectural statement, meaning that there isn't any uncertainty that one situation is seemingly like the other. For example, say that I lived with my older sister for 20 years, and she has taken care of me and advised me on all sorts of things about life. You could say that she was pretty much my mother. In that case, 내 누나가 내 엄마인 셈이다 would be something you could say.
    – blimpy
    Jun 27, 2016 at 11:47
  • I am sorry, but I still could not grasp it.
    – user237
    Jun 27, 2016 at 17:26
  • Do you by chance have another example I could try to explain? Or perhaps, is there some part of the construction you still have trouble grasping?
    – blimpy
    Jun 27, 2016 at 18:57
  • @supercool: may be post some of the example sentences from your book for both 는 셈이다 and 는 것 같다, then we can try and analyse them and compare the differences
    – user17915
    Sep 29, 2016 at 10:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.