왠/웬 – Korean Grammar vs Grammar #11

3 Speed Only

With Explanation

Many confusing grammars have similar sounds. 왠 and 웬 are one of them. I tried to find the difference in pronunciation, but I couldn't. So I can safely say that 왠 and 웬 have same sound.

It is easy to use 웬 and 왠 correctly. Just remember this. If it is used as 왠지, then it is 왠. In other cases, it is all 웬. Because 왠지 is the shortened form of 왜인지, ㄴ is added under 왜 as a 받침.

Let's see each word in more details.

왠지

왠지 means somehow, without reason or for some reason. Sometimes, we feel like we should do something, but we are not sure why we should do that. 왠지 is used in those situations.

오늘은 왠지 먼 곳으로 여행을 떠나고 싶다.
Somehow, I want to travel to far away land.

매주 보던 방송인데 오늘따라 왠지 더 재미있어 보인다.
I watched this show weekly, but today, it looks more interesting for some reason.

왠지 불길한 예감이 들어 와 봤는데, 다행히 아무 일도 없었다.
Somehow, I felt something uneasy so I came back. Fortunately, there was nothing wrong.

If you find 웬 in dictionary, it says 1. 어찌 된, 2. 어떠한. It is hard to define this word in English with one or two words, so I collected some usages.

웬만하다

웬만하다 means near average, near the allowed level.

웬만해서는 쉽게 못 풀어. 대학원에서 배우는 내용이거든.
You cannot solve it with average level. You should learn something you can only learn in graduate schools.

웬만하면 당신이 참으세요.
Please tolerate if you can.

웬 일

웬 일 means surprise or unexpected event. 웬일이야 is used like "what's up?" in English.

네가 전화를 다 하고 웬 일이야?
What's up? You never called me before.

웬 떡

The basic meaning 웬 떡 is unexpected rice cake. As an idiomatic expression, when something unexpected and good happened, Koreans sometimes use the expression 웬 떡이냐.

상대편 선수가 기권을 했다는 소식을 듣고는 그는 이게 웬 떡이냐는 표정을 지었다.
When he heard that his opponent withdrew from the match, there was surprise on his face.

웬 as Why

We use the word why when we want some answers. However, sometimes we use it to say something unexpected or unreasonable like "why does he walk so fast? We have plenty of time!" "Why does it snow now? It's May!" 웬 is used to say something like them.

웬 걱정이 그렇게 많아?
Why do you worry so much?

웬 걸음이 그렇게 빨라? 시간은 충분한데.
Why does he walk so fast? We have enough time.

5월에 웬 눈이지?
Why does it snow? It's May!