Keep this in mind as you read this: the English sentence structure “A made B do C”, does not directly exist in Korean. The closest generalized Korean translation is “A는 B가 C게 하다” which literally translates to “do it so that B does the verb C”. At times this can feel like a forced literal translation, and using a more liberal translation will be a better option. Having said that, as learners we can always resort to the literal translation and generally convey our meaning just fine, albeit a little bit awkwardly.
My mum made me do something
There are a lot of ways to say this. It is good to learn the different options, but realistically speaking you will probably stick to one at first when you are speaking yourself. I’ve listed them in descending order of how often my Korean native friends say they would use them.
- 엄마는 나한테 청소를 시켰다 – My mum made me do the cleaning. 시키다 means make someone do something and is usually used in this pattern “A가 B한테 Noun를 시키다. The noun is generally a 한자 form of a word such as 청소. If you want to use a pure Korean word like 뛰다 for example you should use this pattern “A가 B한테 뛰게/도록 하다”
- 엄마는 나한테 청소를 하라고 했다 – It doesn’t translate the exact same meaning as our English sentence but instead says “my mum told me to clean”.
- 엄마는 나를 청소하게 했다 – My mum made me clean. It doesn’t specify what or how she did it, but she did it so that I cleaned. Just like in English when you say my mum made me clean it isn’t clear how. Here you can interpret 나 as the object and 했다 as the verb so that literally “my mum did me such that I cleaned”.
- 엄가는 내가 청소를 하게 했다 – Essentially the same as #3
- *엄마는 내가 청소하게 빗자루를 줬다 – You can specify what your mum did to make you clean. For example, my mum made me clean by giving me the broom. Note that 나 has become an subject here. The literal translation would be “my mum gave me the broom so that I would clean”
My mum let me do something
My mum let me go outside to play – 엄마는 나를 놀어나가게 해줬다
My mum didn’t let me go outside to play – 엄마는 나를 놀어나가지 못하게 했다
My mum let me eat the last piece of cake – 엄마는 내가 마지막 케이크 조각를 먹게 해줬다. This is technically correct, but the sentence structure is actually a bit convoluted. It would be much to forgo the direct translation and instead say 엄가가 마지막 케이크 조각을 나한테 줬다. This is similar to the above where I say examples #2 is more commonly used than #3 and #4.
Special causative verbs
Pure Korean verbs sometimes have a special causative form. You can find a more comprehensive list of them here. Instead I just want to show you how to use them correctly.
- 먹다: 엄마는 아기한테 밥을 먹게 하다 -> 엄마는 아기한테 밥을 먹이다. You can say 아기를 먹이다 as well but that could hypothetically mean you’re feeding the baby to something
- 자다: 아기를 자게 하다 -> 아기를 재우다. Notice the structural difference to sentence #1. Here 아기 is the object because you’re acting directly on the baby.
- 높다: 의자를 높게 만들다 -> 의자를 높이다. Raise the chair
- 죽다: 누구을 죽게 만들다 -> 누구을 죽이다. Kill someone
When there is a special causative verb and you use the -게 하다 or -게 만들다 form instead, it sounds awkward.