I was in the supermarket just now and the till was responding very slowly (i.e. there was a long wait for the prices to come up after the item was scanned).

I remarked, "천천하지", but that felt wrong to me - but a native Korean confirmed that 느리지 was more appropriate. But why is this? Is it because 느리다 is more appropriate for talking about a long wait, rather than literal motion? Or is it more appropriate for an exclamatory observation than 천천하다?

In general, what are the differences in usage and meaning between 천천하다 and 느리다?

  • 1
    there's no such word like 천천하다 in korean. We usually say 천천히.
    – user1502
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 8:44
  • 1
    @user1502 I know 천천히 is the most common form, but wouldn't 천천하다 still be the 'dictionary' form? E.g. alldic.daum.net/word/view.do?wordid=kew000070835 or krdic.naver.com/detail.nhn?docid=37152501. Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 9:25
  • @topo morto : I am suprised at the word 천천하다, because I have never seen and heard that word. But I could check the word in internet dictionary.
    – HK Lee
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 10:08
  • @HKLee see my previous comment! :) Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 10:24
  • You're right, an adjective 천천하다 does exist. However, (I don't know why), its adverb form, 천천히 is much more common use of it; I'd say, overwhelmingly. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 4:35

2 Answers 2


"Take your time walking. Don't be too slow"

"천천히 걸어. 너무 느리게 걷지 마."

Difference in Intent, Active/Passive Voice

Two sample phrases:

  1. Pondering or deliberately thinking

천천히 생각하다


  1. Time passes slowly

시간이 느리게 간다

From my experience, I find that 천천하다 tends to describe a deliberate/active decision which implies qualities of carefulness, prudence, or leisurely pacing. 느리다 is a basic description of speed on a spectrum.

Compare with Antonyms

  • 천천하다 controlled pace vs. 서두르다 hurried/rushed

  • 느리다 delayed, slow vs. 빠르다 instant, fast

General Connotation

  • 천천하다 is often used in a positive tone while
  • 느리다 is objective or conveyed negatively (where speed is expected or considered a quality).

(a) son : 할머니가 ... 오래요. (Granmother says that you should come)

father : 너 왜 말이 느려 ? 빨리 빨리 못해 ? (Why is yout talking slow ? Talk speedly)

mother : 속도는 중요하지 않아. 천천히 정확하게 하는 것이 중요해. ( Speed is not important. Talking slowly and correctly is important)

(b) Usually, even though I want to do something fast, my body is not followed. Here we use 느리다 : 나는 말이 느려요.

In other words, 느리다 is just observation : 거북이는 느리다. (Turtle is slow)

And when we have some intension, we use 천천히 :

(1) 지뢰를 밟지 않기 위해서 천천히 걸었다. (To avoid bomb, I walk slowly)

(2) 그는 내게 천천히 걸어 왔다. 그리고 내 지갑을 훔쳐갔다. (He walked to me slowly. And he stole my wallet.)

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