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I stumbled on this question:

집에 __________ 비가 내리기 시작했다.

(1) 도착하거나

(2) 도착하니까

(3) 도착하거든

(4) 도착하려고

The right answer is (2).

But I don't understand the reason. What is the meaning of '니까' in this sentence? It doesn't seem to mean 'because'.

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  • 1
    I think it more likely means, " Just as I got home, it started to rain." or " It started to rain as soon as I got home" or " No sooner did I get home, it started to rain". Nov 28 '20 at 4:49
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That's correct. Like it's other connective counterpart, 어서/아서, it both can provide reason for something and conjoin two clauses in sequence. In (으)니까's case, however, this sequential conjoining can be translated as "When (I) [first clause], I discovered/realized that [second clause]".

Thus, for your sentence

집에 도착하니까 비가 내리기 시작했다

a translation would be "When I arrived home, (I discovered that) it started to rain".

Note two things about (으)니까:

  • When it is used for sequences like this, the subject of the first clause is usually the speaker
  • Unlike its usage in providing reasons, you don't conjugate (으)니까 into the past tense (as seen in the sentence above)
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  • Side question: Is it possible to use (으)니까 without a second clause, and would the meaning remain the same (taking the previous sentence as a second clause)? (ex. 비가 내리기 시작했다. 집에 도착하니까....) Jun 29 '16 at 12:03
  • Absolutely! In fact, fragmenting a construction in this sort of way is extremely common. Although, note that there is another verb ending "다니까(요), -라니까(요)" that takes on another meaning. So, keep that in mind.
    – blimpy
    Jun 29 '16 at 12:14
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blimpy and Rathony's answers are useful, so I will answer why other options are incorrect.

  • -거나: "A하거나 B하다" implies that A and B are both possible options. However, selecting "집에 도착하다" or "비가 내리기 시작하다" is unnatural.

  • -거든: If you write "집에 도착하거든", then it implies "If you arrive home, then ..." However, there is no causality between arriving home and raining.

  • -려고: "집에 도착하려고" means "To arrive home, ...", but "비가 내리기 시작했다" implies that you didn't make the weather rainy.

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'니까' is an emphatic form of '' which is a conjunctional connective suffix used to connect two clauses. It has two meanings as follows:

  1. It provides a reason, basis, prerequisite for the second clause as in:

봄이 오(까) 꽃이 핀다. Because spring has come, the flowers bloom.

  1. The first clause contains (usually) a timing of an action before stating another fact in the second clause as in.

서울역에 도착하(까) 일곱 시였다. When I arrived at Seoul Station, it was 7 o'clock.

"집에 도착하니(까) 비가 내리기 시작했다" can be translated to

When I arrived home, it started to rain.

which could also mean

It didn't rain until I arrived home.

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