I was reading here and there about post modifiers and auxiliary verbs in korean. And recently a couple of them captured my attention namely ~아/어 보다 (auxiliary verb) and ~(으)ㄴ 적/일.

Specifically I wonder if there's any semantic difference rather than actual rule of using them (namely the first is a verb + verb and the second is a noun modifier + post modifier).

They both seem to be related to experience (of the form "I have tried / have you ever tried").

Is there any semantic difference between the two constructions?

As example maybe:

저는 음식을 먹어 보어요


음식을 먹는 적이 있어요

I think they both mean I try food. But maybe there's a subtle difference between the two?

  • They could have multiple meaning by the context. Exactly in what context are you interested in?
    – Bihrang
    Jun 12, 2023 at 6:48
  • @Bihrang I made up two examples (hopefully correctly) Jun 12, 2023 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


In most common usages they both mean the speaker has had a particular experience, but there are cases where they mean different things.

-(으)ㄴ 적이 있다 only refers to past experiences, like "I have had the experience of ...".

-아/어 보다 can have two meanings if you go to the details.

  1. to do something as a test or trial with a purpose. (문이 안 열리면 그 단추를 눌러 봐)
  2. to do something as a casual trial, for fun or novelty experience. (이번 여름엔 부산에 가 보자)

#2 used in the past tense is equivalent to -(으)ㄴ 적이 있다.

  1. 삼계탕(을) 먹은 적이 있어요? = Have you ever tried 삼계탕.
  2. 삼계탕(을) 먹어 봤어요? = same.

(For this kind of "experience" talk, #1 is most commonly expressed combining the two phrases, as in 삼계탕 먹어 본 적이 있어요?, but it is not wrong as is)

Here's a less common but valid case where the two phrases can mean different things even in the past tense.

(mother saying) 이거 아기한테 괜찮을지 보려고 내가 먼저 먹어 봤어 = To see if it's okay for the baby I tasted it myself first.

Here, -아/어 보다 means testing something with a clear purpose and not just to gain an experience. So there is no way you can express it with -(으)ㄴ 적이 있다.

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