As exercise I was trying to translate the following sentence.

Can you show me where the watermelon is?

(The watermelon is completely random). You can imagine as situation you're in the supermarket and ask where something is and in addition if the staff member can physically show you where it is.

My attempt is:

어디 수박을 있는을 보여 주세여?

Which I constructed using a first clause:

어디 수박을 있어요

And then transformed this clauze into a noun using 는 and later as object of the second clause using 을.

The second clause is of the form:

... 보여 주세요

Where 보여 is conjugation of 보이다 which is passive of 보다. In this context 보다 is a causative so I thought it was appropriate and the 주세요 is for asking politely for a favour.

Does it work? How wrong is it?

  • '보여주세요' works. Other parts are not. It should be: '(당신은) (그) 수박이 어디 있는지 보여줄 수 있어요?'. I can't explain how wrong is it, so I'm just leaving this in a comment and let other people to give more detailed explanations.
    – Bihrang
    May 26, 2023 at 5:06
  • @Bihrang what's the stuff in parenthesis you wrote? Missing bits perhaps? I can't understand. May 26, 2023 at 5:11
  • The ~ㄹ 수 있어요 pattern doesn't suggest a request to me but ability. So when you write 보여줄 수 있어요? I still translate as "can you show" but the interpretation to me is not a request but more if the listener is "able" to show. I don't know if your suggestion comes from maybe unclarity in my question or the question is clear but that's just the way you would translate it. May 26, 2023 at 5:14
  • Usually the words in the parenthesis for the Korean sentences means that it could be omitted, and have no significant differences in the sentence's meaning. 당신은 could be omitted since Korean language mostly does not specify the second person in the sentence.
    – Bihrang
    May 26, 2023 at 5:15
  • Also Korean 청유형 sentence convey the meaning of request via questions. So 'ㄹ 수 있어요?' would usually be interpreted as 'polite request' rather than asking the actual ability. However the difference is not explicitly shown in the text and sentence, so distinguishing whether this is request or not should be based on the context.
    – Bihrang
    May 26, 2023 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


"Can you show me where the watermelon is?"

Literal translation would be: 수박이 어디(에) 있는지 보여줄 수 있어요?

As for grammar on your trial sentences:

  1. 어디 수박 있어요?
    • 을 is wrong. 있다 means "to be/exist", so it cannot take an object (and the attendant case marker 을/를) any more than it can in English.
  2. 어디 수박을 있는 보여 주세여? (여 -> 요)
    • 있는을 is wrong. 있는 is a modifier form used before a noun. You cannot add a particle to it directly. There are specific clause making verb ending forms like -는지 for such constructions (it may look like adding a particle 지 to 있는 but technically it is a different verb ending form -는지 attaching to the verb stem 있).
    • correct sentence: 수박이 어디 있는지 보여 주세요 (-는지 creates the noun clause working as an object of 보여. Also, it is more natural to put the subject 수박 before the adverb 어디(에)).

Going beyond grammar into how natural it sounds, even "수박이 어디(에) 있는지 보여줄 수 있어요?" doesn't sound the best in my opinion. It sounds too fussy for what it's saying.

It is partly because 보이다 and 보여 주다 are used much less in the sense of showing people around a place. In most cases it means physically showing something in front of you. There are other verbs like 가르쳐/알려 주세요 (inform me) or 말해 주세요 (tell me), but all these words sound a bit redundant because the store context (I assume) makes the point so obvious (you want to know their location).

So what do we say then? We would most commonly just say 수박(은) 어디 있어요? or 수박(은) 어디 있죠? (Where are the watermelons?). This makes it clear you want a simple direction so you can go check the watermelons yourself, whereas 보여 주세요 sounds like you want the store person to take you there or even to take one out in front of you. 보여 주세요 would be the right phrase though if you're asking them to show you a particular item, like a certain type of jacket in a clothing store, for example.

In short, I think it sounds strange mainly because 보여 주다 is not commonly used for "directions" as "show" is in English.

  • Am I correct that you used the 는지 ending because my question is specifically an "undirect question"? I am reading about it now. May 28, 2023 at 2:57
  • The context was more like: A. Hi, where the watermelons? B: Hello, they are over there. A: I went and I cannot find them. Can you just show me where they are?. So more like to walk me where the watermelons are. May 28, 2023 at 8:14
  • Probably I should've used a different examples from the watermelons. Also with "indirect questions" this is what I meant: explorekorean.net/intermediate1-lesson1 May 28, 2023 at 8:15
  • I see. Using your example exchange between A and B, I think 안녕하세요, 수박은 어디 있어요? may be the most natural for A's first question. The second time might be phrases with 보여 주세요, like 가서 (찾아) 봤는데 못 찾겠어요. 어디 있는지 보여 주시겠어요? As your linked page shows, -는지 is the most common way to ask or tell about something, most commonly with verbs like 알다, 모르다, 묻다, 말하다, etc. When you're doing it for someone's benefit, you can add -아/어 주다, as in 손님한테 수박이 어디 있느지 알려 드렸다 (드렸다 is a respectful form of 주다), 보여 주다/드리다 is also common, but it is usually used about showing the physical thing rather than how to get somewhere.
    – Tony
    May 28, 2023 at 14:37

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