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I mostly understand the difference between them (what do you think about xx vs. how yy), but I’ve seen the sentence 그 여자에 대해 어떻게 생각해요?

Does this mean that 어떻게 can also be used to say “what do you think about xx”? Or is the sentence just incorrect? Would the sentence mean the exact same thing if 어때 were used instead? Is it just a common usage thing?

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They both come from 어떠하다 (adjective for 'how / in what way' in a question, and 'in a certain way' in a statement), but 어때 is a sentential form while 어떻게 is just an adverb.

  • 어떠하다 + -아/어/여 (declarative or interrogative sentence ending) -> 어떠하여 -> 어떠해 -> 어때.
  • 어떠하다 + -게 (adverbial suffix) -> 어떠하게 -> 어떻게 (adverb for 'how', 'in a certain unnamed way).

So 어때? can be a one word predicate (in Korean adjectives work much like verbs), as in 이 영화 어때? (How is this movie?), 맛이 어때? (How does it taste?), 그 여자 어때? (How is that lady / How do you like her?)

Since 어떻게 is nothing more than an adverb, you need a verb to phrase the same idea, so 이 영화 어떻게 생각해? (What do you think of the movie?), 그 여자(를) 어떻게 생각해? (What do you think of her). 어떻게 생각해? is the most common way of asking someone's opinion about something, similar to 'What do you think of something?' (English stresses 'what' (the idea) while Korean uses 'how' (the way you view it) to phrase the same idea. 어떻게 생각해? and 어때? may be considered loosed synonyms.

어때 is not so specific, so its use is limited to those 'How is it?', "How do you like it?'-type of sentences. To ask about more specific things, you'll need 어떻게 with a verb, as in '서울 아트센터에 가려면 어떻게 해야 돼요?', 어떻게 가든 부산까지 두 시간 이상 걸린다 (No matter how you do it, it takes over two hours to go to Busan).

[EDIT]

Here's some more examples.

1 이 영화(는) 어떄? = A) How is this movie? (Asking someone who already saw it) B) How about this movie? (Suggesting to see it)
2 이 영화(는/를/에 대해) 어떻게 생각해? = What do you think of this movie? (correct, but might sound too serious - could be appropriate when reviewing movies)

1 어제 만난 사람(은) 어떘어? = How was the person you met yesterday?
2 어제 만난 사람(은/을/에 대해) 어떻게 생각해? = What do you think of the person you met yesterday? (#1 is asking more loosely and broadly (how did they feel in general about the person. #2 is more specific about their assessment and opinion)

1 거긴 살기가 어때? = How is life where you're at?
2 (This kind of sentence is not as natural with a specific verb)

(어떻게 used with a different verb)

1 이 경기(를/는) 어떻게 보셨습니까? ("How did you view this game / What is your take on this game - as a newscaster might ask a commentator)
2 이 경기(는) 어떠셨습니까? ("How was this game (to you)?" - more informal)

(어떄 can also be used as a retort, like "So what?" or "What does it matter if ...?")

1 빨간색으로 입으면 어떄? = What does it matter if I wear red? (= it is fine) - here the ending is not raised.
2 (This can't be phrased with 어떻게. You can say 빨간색으로 입어도 괜찮아 = It is okay to wear red)

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  • Thank you very much, however I have some more questions. You said that 어떻게 생각해 is the most common way to ask about what one thinks of something. I’m assuming that using 어때 is still acceptable, just not used as much, right? For example, both 커피를 어떻게 생각해? and 커피 어때? mean the same thing, but the first one is more common. Also, if you are using past tense, can you conjugate 어때 to 어땠어 or is using 어떻게 생각했어 more common/acceptable? Jul 20, 2022 at 21:40
  • 어떻게 생각해? is both common and grammatically clear, but it is also a question specifically asking someone's thoughts and opinions. To ask how someone feels about something, 어때? works better precisely because it has vague but wide applicability like 'How is it?", "What do you say to ...?", or "How about [something]?". So 커피 어때? is more natural, and for the past tense, it would be 커피 어땠어? (How was the coffee?) like you said. 커피 어떻게 생각해? sounds stiff, like "What is your opinion on coffe?", and 어떻게 생각했어? even more so.
    – Tony
    Jul 21, 2022 at 2:26
  • Thanks for the further explanation, but I’m still kind of confused as to when one is acceptable versus the other. Could you provide some more examples of when one is correct or more natural over the other? Sorry that I keep asking, I’m just having kind of a hard time understanding this. Jul 21, 2022 at 21:20
  • I added more examples to my original post. If you have more questions, it might help if you mention the situation you have in mind.
    – Tony
    Jul 22, 2022 at 14:26
  • I think I get it now. Thank you so much for your help! Jul 22, 2022 at 16:01

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