There are two Korean TV shows with titles that were translated as "While You Were Sleeping" in English. What's the difference between them?

  • 당신이 잠든 사이
  • 당신이 잠든 사이에
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Wow. I am a native Korean speaker and I am really struggling how I can answer this question.

I wouldn't be able to explain this in any grammatical way, but I can try my best to explain it using real-world examples.

Long story short, there is hardly any difference in meaning. But 당신이 잠든 사이 is more like finished word, while ... 사이에 gives more like unfinished feeling.

"당신이 잠든 사이" sounds like describing what happened while you were in sleep.
- for example, "When did you get here?" While you were sleeping - 너가 잠든 사이. "당신이 잠든 사이에" sounds like you are about to describe what happened while you were in sleep.
-for example, "While you were sleeping, I got here". (너가 잠든 사이에... and describe the event.

But honestly, I bet 99.99% of people use those interchangeably in real life.

  • Thanks! That's an interesting subtle difference. I assumed the answer would be about politeness levels. – user1945 Nov 15 at 21:29
  • So basically what he or she's saying is that “당신이 잠든 사이에” (lit. “at the time you're asleep”) is an adverbial while “당신이 잠든 사이” (lit. “the time you're asleep”) is a noun phrase, that the former feels like an incomplete sentence. Both are pretty much suitable for a title and have the same meaning, though. – K._ Dec 6 at 2:04

-에” omission after time-adverbial noun phrases

The postposition “-에” (“at”) often gets omitted after time-adverbial noun phrases, such as “…… 사이,” “…… 새,” “…… 시,” “…… 순간,” “…… 찰나” and “…… 때.” It might be similar to that of English: “at the moment we met” and “the moment we met.”

비행 시, 휴대 전화를 사용하면 안 됩니다.

비행 시에는(,) 휴대 전화를 사용하면 안 됩니다.

그날 오후 11시에서 12시 사이 일어난 일이었다.

그날 오후 11시에서 12시 사이에 일어난 일이었다.

그녀가 물속으로 뛰어들려던 찰나(,) 그가 나타나 그녀를 말렸다.

그녀가 물속으로 뛰어들려던 찰나에(,) 그가 나타나 그녀를 말렸다.

나는 그를 보는 순간(,) 당황하여 어쩔 줄 몰랐다.

나는 그를 보는 순간에(,) 당황하여 어쩔 줄 몰랐다.

방학 때(,) 아르바이트를 하다.

방학 때에(,) 아르바이트를 하다.


What @RedA said is very true; from what I've seen, 99.99% of the Korean do this thing. I personally avoid this omission since it feels incomplete to me, being one of the 0.01%. And that would be why I feel the same connotation from both forms. Koreans (not including myself) tend to use “-에” only sometimes in sentences, so not to mention they wouldn't in titles. They find “-에” redundant, I guess.

Note that this has nothing to do with politeness nor colloquialism. It's pretty standard.


See also

For your example, "~에" doesn't add that much information or important here. So I'd say it's 99.9999% same, and you can pick up whatever expression you'd like to use.

1) 에 is a preposition of place or time. Even though there is no exact theory about omission, then we can omit.

너 뭐할 거니 ? What will you do ?

학교에 갈거에요 = 학교 가려구요 I will go to school.

2) Omission is not allowed :

아침에 운동을 합니다 I exercise in the morning.

아침 운동을 합니다. I do a morning-exercise at lunch.

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