They are all postfixes that can be used to say X~ like, but what is the difference between them? Do some have more positive or negative connotations associated with them? Is saying ~답다 more poetic?

For example, papago translates "aggressive marketing campaign" as 공격적인 광고 캠페인

First of all, is 공격적인 the correct word here? It's not talking about physical attack, so can we say 공격적인?

Secondly, would it sound weird (or just incorrect) if I say 공격스러운 or 공격다운?

This was just an example phrase I needed to use. Please give a simpler or clearer example that highlights the differences between the three postfixes, if possible.

What is the difference between ~적인, ~스럽다 and ~답다?

  • They are just totally different postfixes that in no way relate to each other. None of them really corresponds to like in English.
    – Coconut
    Dec 19, 2020 at 7:01
  • If you say A는 B답다, this means A has the properties of B "as expected". For example, if I say 너는 한국인답다, it means you, as a Korean, act like a Korean. Compare this with A는 B같다, which means "A is like B", but here we are assuming that A is not B, or at least we don't know whether A is really B or not. For example, if I say 너는 한국인같다, it means you act / looks like a Korean, but you are not actually a Korean (or I don't know whether you are). ~답지 않다 is also commonly used. For example, when someone acts differently from what he/she used to do, we often ask them "너답지 않게 왜 그래?".
    – Absol
    Dec 21, 2020 at 12:45
  • @Absol As an example, if you want to say "hard working as a bee", does it make sense to say 벌꿀답다? (Based on your example I'm guessing this doesn't work, as a person is not a bee). How about 벌꿀같다? Do either of them make any sense?
    – user17915
    Dec 22, 2020 at 14:13
  • It is 꿀벌. (벌꿀, or just 꿀, means honey.) 꿀벌답다 certainly doesn't make sense unless you are a bee. 꿀벌같다 ("like a bee") is okay. There is another word, ~처럼, which is similar to ~같이. In principle, ~처럼 indicates a visual similarity, while ~같이 indicates similarity of a more abstract aspect. However, in practice, people often use them interchangeably, so you don't really need to care much about their difference. Example: 꿀벌처럼 부지런하다 = 꿀벌같이 부지런하다. Another example: 나비처럼 날아서 벌처럼 쏜다 (Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee).
    – Absol
    Dec 22, 2020 at 14:40

4 Answers 4


1. ~적이다 can go with 한자어

  • 공격적이다 - correct
  • 공격스럽다 - wrong
  • 공격답다 - makes sense
  • 공격 is neither a feeling, an object nor a person, but an act.
  • 공경적이다 - makes sense, not common though
  • 공경스럽다 - wrong
  • 공경답다 - makes sense
  • 공경 is neither a feeling, an object nor a person, but an act.

2. ~스럽다 can go with abstract concept, feeling, or an object

  • 사랑적이다 - wrong
  • 사랑스럽다 - correct
  • 사랑답다 - makes sense
  • 사랑 is not an act but a feeling.
  • 자랑적이다 - wrong
  • 자랑스럽다 - correct
  • 자랑답다 - makes sense
  • 자랑 is something abstract and is not an act.
  • 치욕적이다 - correct (Since 치욕 = 恥辱)
  • 치욕스럽다 - correct
  • 치욕답다 - makes sense
  • 치욕 is not an act but a feeling.

3. ~답다 can go with an object or a person

  • 너적이다 - wrong
  • 너스럽다 - wrong
  • 너답다 - correct
  • 너 is a 2nd person noun that can't be objective.
  • 엄마적이다 - wrong
  • 엄마스럽다 - makes sense
  • 엄마답다 - correct
  • 엄마 is a person as an object.
  • 꽃적이다 - wrong
  • 꽃스럽다 - makes sense, but not common
  • 꽃답다 - correct
  • 꽃 is an object.
  • There are some cases where we use 공격답다, for example "공격다운 공격".
    – Absol
    Dec 21, 2020 at 12:31
  • 1
    @Absol That makes sense, in that case 답다 can be used with almost any noun I can think of - which was missing in this answer. I edited the answer for clarity
    – Coconut
    Dec 21, 2020 at 18:33

If you adding ~적 to a noun, you can change it into the meaning of “relating to, or having the properties of’ the original. ex: 공격 mean attack. so if you add ~적 into 공격, it mean aggressive.

~스러운 and ~다운 is simillar suffix. but it have difference. ~다운 means that a word refers to something that has an attribute as a word. ex : 어른 mean adult. if you add ~다운 into 어른, it mean adult is like a adult. ~스러운 means that it has no attributes as words. ex : 어른 mean adult. if you add ~스러운 into 어른, it mean child(or teenager)is like a adult.

you can make "공경" to "공경스러운" but it`s not in dictionary


It's not talking about physical attack, so can we say 공격적인?

I think it depends on what kind of marketing we're talking about. In Korean, 공격적 is closely related to 공격 "attack", and describes a behavior that is combative, assertive, or full of confidence. In English the meaning is broader. For example, Merriam-Webster dictionary contains:

marked by driving forceful energy or initiative : ENTERPRISING

an aggressive salesman

strong or emphatic in effect or intent

aggressive colors / aggressive flavors

So, if you say 공격적인 광고 캠페인, that sounds to me like the marketing itself is aggressive - e.g., it's attacking competitors or being deliberately controversial. If the intended meaning is merely that the company is pouring its full resource (aggressively!) towards the campaign, it might be better to use other words that don't imply aggressive personality: e.g.,

대규모의 광고 캠페인 (a large scale ad campaign)

전방위적인 광고 캠페인 (an ad campaign "firing in all directions")

  • is there a simple word/phrase example that highlights the differences between ~적인, ~스럽다 and ~답다?
    – user17915
    Dec 19, 2020 at 6:46

There is already a lot of good information in the other answers, but I'll add an additional perspective on ~적이다 and ~스럽다.

~적 attaches to a 한자어 concept noun (적 itself is 한자어 的 ) and forms the property associated with that concept. You can then use it with 이다 either at the end of a sentence, or as ~인 to modify a noun. You can also use it directly with other grammatical bits like 으로. Examples:

  • 평화 - peace >> 평화적 - peacefulness >> 평화적인 - peaceful
  • 자동 - automatic motion >> 자동적 - being automatic >> 자동적으로 - automatically

~스럽다 attaches to something you would use with 하다 and modifies it to mean engendering that action. Examples:

  • 사랑하다 - to love >> 사랑스럽다 - to be lovely, that is, one would feel love for it
  • 자랑하다 - to brag or boast >> 자랑스럽다 - to be proud of something/someone, that is, it makes you feel like boasting about it

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