If I am correct, the 'Noun+때문에 / Verb+기 때문에' structure is a neutral way to express a cause. For example, 비 때문에 늦었어요 (I was late because of the rain) expresses a negative cause, whereas 여자친구 때문에 행복해요 (I am happy because of my girlfriend) expresses a positive cause.

Are there structures that express a cause:

  1. emphasising that the cause is considered as negative?
  2. emphasising that the cause is considered as positive?

Note: I am asking mostly because I am French Native where "a cause de" (because of) usually expresses a negative cause, whereas "grace a" (thanks to) only refers to a positive cause. I wish I could convey similar nuance in Korean.

  • ... 덕에, ... 덕분에, and ... 덕택에 for positive causes. ... 탓에 and ... 바람에 for negative causes. ... 때문에, -서, and et cetera for general uses. – Константин Ван Mar 22 '18 at 8:12

A positive one is the 덕분에 / 덕택에 construction, meaning "thanks to":

구 선생님 덕택에 한국어를 많이 배웠어요. => Thanks to you, Ms. Koo, I learned a great deal of Korean

흥부 덕분에 제비가 목숨을 구했다. => Thanks to Hŭngbu's help, the swallow survived.

Some negative ones:

(느)ㄴ 바람에:

늦잠자는 바람에 늦었어. I was late because I slept late

취한 바람에 그는 상관과 다투었다 – under the influence of alcohol, he argued with his boss


급하게 나오느라고 숙제를 놓고 왔어요. => Because I left home in a hurry, I left the assignment behind.

뭐 하느라고 잠도 못 잤니? => Why couldn't you sleep?

There's a variation 느라니까 / 노라니 / 노라니까 – "because X, I discovered / couldn’t help Y"

누워서 책을 읽노라니까 잠이 오더군요 – because I was reading lying down, I found I was falling asleep

  • I tried to but can't fix a typo letter, from 덕텍 to 덕택. – dextto Jul 25 '16 at 12:51

Another negative one is 탓: (because / by fault of).

It can be used after a verb in the form Verb+ㄴ/는 탓, or after a noun, usually Noun의 탓. It's usually in the form 탓에 or 탓으로:

늦잠을 잔 탓으로 버스를 놏쳤어요

비 오는 탓에 소풍을 못 가요


Adding to other great answers, '때문에' is more negative than positive as the linked 우리말 바로쓰기 on '때문에' explains:

말씀하신 대로, '덕분'은 '베풀어 준 은혜나 도움'을 뜻하고, '탓'은 '주로 부정적인 현상이 생겨난 까닭이나 원인'을 뜻하는 말이므로, 쓰이는 맥락이 확연히 구별됩니다. 그런데 '때문'은, 그 용례를 살펴보면, 부정적 맥락에서 좀 더 많이 나타나기는 하지만, 특정 맥락에 한정되지는 않고, '어떤 일의 원인이나 까닭.'을 나타내는 경우에 쓰이고 있음을 알 수 있습니다. (용례) 그는 빚 때문에 고생을 했다.

Short summary:

As '덕분' means a favor or help and '탓' means a cause that brought about a negative effect, there could be no confusion on which should be used for positive and negative context. On the other hand, '때문에' is used to describe a reason or cause for something and it is used in negative context a little more than in positive context.

비 때문에 늦었어요 (I was late because of the rain) could be rephrased to

비가 와서 늦었어요. ㅍ

와서 (short for 비가 와서) 늦었어요.

땜에 (short for 때문에) 늦었어요.

비가 오는 바람 (See 의존명사 2)에 늦었어요.

여자친구 때문에 행복해요 (I am happy because of my girlfriend) could be rephrased to

여자친구가 있어서 행복해요. (Since I have a girlfriend, I am happy.)

여자친구 덕분에 행복해요.

여자친구가 잘 해줘서 행복해요. (Since my girlfriend is nice to me, I am happy.)

It is important to note that "비 늦었어요" could be used, but doesn't sound very idiomatic.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.