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  5. "The blue water flows quickly…

"The blue water flows quickly in the spring."

Translation:봄에 푸른 물이 빨리 흘러.

September 9, 2017



샘 = the spring

봄 = spring/ springtime


Just as an explanation to anybody who might be confused by this:

샘: spring (where water comes out of the ground)

봄: spring (the season)

And then there is also:

용수철[龍鬚鐵]/스프링: spring (the bouncy spirally thing)


Also, In the spring = next spring. In spring = every spring.​


can't I use 파란 instead of 푸른 when describing water?


Of course, you can. It is down to what the Speaker wishes to project.

파란 - sky blue or the "primary color" blue represents youth and (unblemished) innocence

푸른 - grass blue (green) or the "secondary color" blue, a yellowing blue represents maturity (ageing), serenity (wisdom)

In this case, (my guess) DLG uses 푸른 in "봄에 푸른 물이 빨리 흘러" probably to express the rejuvenation of some old brook in springtime.


it was marked wrong, that is why I asked. thanks for the explanation


What's wrong with "푸른 물은 봄에 빨리 흘러요"?


Can't see why. Wish DLG would at least state whether it has to do with a semantic or syntactic error.


In April 2021, Duo accepts "푸른 물은 봄에 빨리 흘러." The verb form is different, but the other forms are correct. Maybe it would also now accept 흘러요, as well.


What's the difference between 흘리다 and 흐르다?


흘리다 vs 흐르다

(1) 흘리다 =

(transitive verb) to spill, to shed (tears);

(Intransitive verb) to get cloudy; to get blurry = 흐려지다

(2) 흐르다 = (Intransitive verb) to flow


Why is 푸른 used to describe both "green" ('grass' in one example) and "blue" ('water' in this ex.)?


Because it’s a colour between those two, a hue range from lush green to greenish blue. Unfortunately English doesn’t have a dedicated word for this range but splits it up; one part of it gets lumped together with “blue”, the other with “green”.

푸른색 is also typically associated with nature. For example leaves, grass, the sky, the sea etc can all be 푸른색, but a neon light would be either 파란색 or 초록색 to me, not 푸른색.


I chuckled at the "unfortunately" remark. Frankly, I figure most native English speakers are perfectly happy to have two dedicated words without the need for an intermediate catch-all that is even more ambiguous, though, truly, it's down to perspective.

I think it's actually an interesting hint at communicative priorities. I find that English places a high priority on exactness of description and Korean on the emotive quality of a thing. 푸른 can go a long way to describe the earthy natural-ness of a thing, but does not give the reader a very exact mind's eye picture of the color itself. And, indeed, when I quizzed two (Korean) family members on their associations with the word, I get slightly different answers that somewhat emphasize that emotive-at-the-cost-of-exactness quality. Korean, note, also adopted the 녹색, 초록색 loanwords from Chinese (as did Japanese, which also originally only featured its native green/blue あおい) perhaps for times when said exactness was needed. Thoughts?


I feel that the trend to more specialised words for “blue” and “green” is a consequence of contact with the West since none of the CJK languages seem to have had it for more than a couple of hundred years.

Japanese has a native word for “green” (緑 [みどり]) but if wiktionary is to be believed it originally referred to budding plants. For “blue” it uses 青い [あおい]), but technically that’s more of the 푸르다 colour.

Korean has 초록색 for “green” and 파란색 for “blue”. However the former is obviously a Hanja word and the latter is 파랗다 + 색 and 파랗다 is derived from 푸르다 + an old -하- suffix (from 하다), which was later reduced to just -ㅎ- before plosive endings (and disappeared entirely before sonorant ones) and thus gave rise to the ㅎ-irregular adjectives in modern Korean (빨갛다, 하얗다, 그렇다 etc).

Mandarin Chinese has lǜ 綠/绿 for “green” and lán 藍/蓝 for “blue”. I’m not entirely sure about lǜ. A quick concordance search of Classical (roughly before the Common Era) texts does yield two or three results where it definitely refers to a colour but it’s pretty much invariably used in contexts of embroidery and dyeing, normally together with with 朱 “vermillion” – apparently 朱綠 “vermillion and lǜ” were seen as regal colours. So 綠 seemed to me more like a fairly specialised colour, possibly obtained from a very specific source, which was used to colour clothes (this is also supported by the fact that the character contains the silk radical 糸). Most definitely it was not a generalised primary colour like qīng 青, the Chinese equivalent of 푸른색 (and indeed some modern regional languages such as Southern Min don't use 綠 as a colour to this day and just have 青). Lán is not a colour in Classical texts at all but refers to the indigo plant (from which a blue colour can be obtained).


Giving it some thought, I think you may be on to something with the contact with the West thing, though I'd suggest it's probably contact with lingua franca English specifically, as there are a number of European cultures (including Greek and Icelandic) that also, evidently, didn't differentiate blue/green. Though probably they too, due to cultural transmission, ended up similarly acknowledging both, so same difference.

The etymology of blue, by the way, is from proto-Germanic blæwaz, referring to sky-blue, steely-blue, pale light, pale-blue, etc. Perhaps something about the landscape or some quirk of cultural development led to emphasis of this color as essential, perhaps because sky and earth were conceptualized differently. Or perhaps plants were simply too different a color. Either way, the colors pulled away from one another comparatively sooner as sky was drawn away from plant green toward what most now agree to be 'blue.' There is the argument that perhaps its just modern life, technical development that led to the same process happening at slightly different times around the world due to the advent of dyeing, craftwork and wider color choices in art, etc., etc.. The question (unanswerable) is whether or not English as the "modernizing" world lingua franca sped this process along, being a language that was in possession of that dichotomy for comparatively longer. Anyhow, nice to get the etymology on those Chinese terms. Good stuff, tossing a lingot your way!


I said 봄에 푸른 물은 빨리 흘러요, and it was marked wrong. Can someone explain why? Thanksǃ

I tried 봄에 푸른 물이 빨리 흘러요, and it was okay, so it seems like the issue is 물은. Why?


I’m not entirely certain if your first try would be flat out wrong, but it’s certainly a bit strange at least. There is a very strong tendency to put the part with -은/는 first in the sentence, so if I want to say 물은 I would say: 푸른 물은 봄에 빨리 흘러요. (That would sound a bit like I’m implying that non-blue water doesn’t flow quickly in spring, but okay, maybe that’s actually what I want to say.) There are exceptions to this, but usually out of necessity rather than choice, for example for the second item in an overt contrast (e.g. 개는 좋아하지만 고양이는 싫어해요. “I like dogs but I hate cats.”) or if there is a longer subordinate clause which doesn’t have any significant relation to the topic of the main clause. For example:

  • 요즘 날씨가 점점 추워지고 물에 얼음까지 얼었기 때문에 저는 이제 호수에서 수영하지 않아요. “Because the weather has gotten colder recently and there has even been ice forming on the water, I’m not going swimming in the lake anymore.”

You could in theory put the topic first, before the subordinate clause, but that would sound a bit like the weather turning cold and ice forming is also somehow related to “me”, so it sounds a bit strange.



Please correct me if I am wrong.


• 이/가 only marks the attached particle (noun/pronoun) as subject, giving more flexibility to the placement of other particles (object complements) within the sentence

봄에 푸른 물이 빨리 흘러요 = 푸른 물이 봄에 빨리 흘러요 = The water which is blue flows quickly in spring or The blue water flows quickly in spring => 이 simply identifies 물 as subject of the sentence.

• 은/는 on the other hand earmarks any articles preceding it, giving them no part in terms of placement in the rest of the sentence

봄에 푸른 물은 빨리 흘러요 = 봄에는 푸른 물은 빨리 흘러요 = Speaking of the blue water, and especially during Spring, it flows quickly.

봄에 푸른 물은 => 은 marks the whole phrase "봄에 푸른 물" as theme of the sentence.

(2) Literally, 이/가 and 은/는 cannot be translated and often leave new learners confused, perhaps DLG should opt for an interpretation of the sentence rather than use a verbatim translation. e.g.

봄에 푸른 물이 빨리 흘러요. The blue water flows quickly in spring (example of a single statement)

봄에 푸른 물은 빨리 흘러요. Speaking of the blue water, especially during Spring, it flows quickly. (example of an opening line)

Grateful for any comments.


I don’t feel -은/는 works any different than other particles in terms of scope. In fact it can’t because 봄에 푸른 물 is not a single cohesive phrase, just like “in spring blue water” can’t be one cohesive constituent in English.

Or do you mean with your equations that one -은/는 on a later phrase is just shorthand for marking all previous phrases with -은/는, too? I don’t think it’s that either. At least I’m pretty sure you can have double -은/는’s. It’s uncommon, but sometimes difficult to avoid, for example:

  • 그는 손가락이 긴데 발가락은 짧아요. “His fingers are long but his toes are short.” (In fact I guess you can even have 손가락은 if you want to put even more emphasis on it.)

If you ask me, it probably has nothing to do with -은/는 having inherently different properties than other particles which fill the same slot such as -도 and -만. I think it’s more due to a cross-linguistic tendency to pull prominent topics to the beginning. Some languages can do it more often than others but pretty much all languages have some way of doing that (for example one reason for using the passive in English can be to pull the object to the front). That includes even predominantly head-initial ones such as Tagalog, which you would expect to have the opposite syntactical structure from head-final Korean. But the topic-comment structure appears to work outside of the head-initial/head-final thing. I have yet to see a language which marks something as a topic and puts it anywhere else than the beginning of the clause at least, preferably the whole sentence. And I think it’s just this tendency at work.


Thank you both for such detailed answers! Have some lingots!


Very good explanation. Pity due to lack of space, unable to dwell on this topic further.

But thank you for the feedback.

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