Want to speak fluently in Korean? You don’t have to know so many words! You can do so much with just one word if you know how to properly use it.
In this article, we will explore the many different uses of the Korean verb 들어가다 (deul-eo-ga-da), which means "to go inside" or "to enter." While this verb is commonly used for entering indoor places, such as rooms or buildings, it can also be used for open-air spaces, such as zoos and amusement parks. Additionally, 들어가다 is also used for going into the water, like at a swimming pool or the sea, and surprisingly, it can also be used for going on mudflats. Finally, 들어가다 can also be used for joining an organization, such as a school club or volunteer group. In this post, we will explore each of these different uses and how to use them properly. Let’s jump right in!
들어가다 Usage #1: to go inside, enter
If you’ve been studying Korean, you probably know the main meaning of 들어가다: to enter. It means to go inside a place, like a room or a building. There is a joke in Korea that uses this meaning of the verb to show the importance of spacing in the Korean language. Take a very careful look at the following two sentences:
아버지가 방에 들어가신다.
(a-beo-ji-ga bang-e deul-eo-ga-sin-da.)
Father enters the room.
아버지 가방에 들어가신다.
(a-beo-ji ga-bang-e deul-eo-ga-sin-da.)
Father enters the bag.
These two sentences look pretty much the same, right? The only difference is the spacing, but it changes everything! The first sentence means, “(My) father enters the room,” while the second means, “(My) father enters the bag.” See? The only difference is where we placed 가. Spacing is extremely important, so be careful about it!
Coming back to today’s topic, 들어가다,
This verb is not only used for entering indoor places. It can also be used for open-air spaces such as zoos and amusement parks, as long as there’s an ‘entrance’. Whenever my mom took me to the zoo or Everland, the biggest theme park in Korea, she put me to bed early the night before, saying:
일찍 가야 줄을 서지 않고 들어갈 수 있어.
(il-jjik ga-ya jul-eul seo-ji an-go deul-eo-gal su iss-eo.)
We have to go early so that we’ll be able to enter without waiting in line.
들어가다 Usage #2: to go into the water (or mudflat)
들어가다 is also used for going into the water, like at a swimming pool or the sea. You’re probably used to hearing that you should do some warm-up before going into the water, and that’s universal. In Korea, you would see signs around most swimming pools that say:
물에 들어가기 전에 반드시 준비운동을 해야 합니다.
(mul-e deul-eo-ga-gi jeon-e ban-deu-si jun-bi-un-dong-eul hae-ya hab-ni-da.)
You must warm up before going into the water.
Notice how the warning is in ‘polite formal’ form? Nice work!
And, if you go to the beach with your friends and some of them want to take a dip while you aren’t up for it, you should say:
나는 물에 들어가고 싶지 않아.
(na-neun mul-e deul-eo-ga-go sip-ji an-a.)
I don’t want to go into the water.
There is another kind of place in which you can use 들어가다 in this sense, and I bet you’ll find this surprising… It’s 갯벌 (get-bol), a mudflat!
Now, there are three types of beaches in Korea (And we have a lot of beaches, this country is a peninsula after all!): sand, stone, and mud.
The first type, sandy beaches are the most common kind of beach.
The second type is round stone beaches. These beaches are not made of sand but dark stones, cut into round shapes by countless waves over time.
The third type is mudflat beaches. They’re made of black sticky mud! They’re like swamps, and you can get stuck easily. At the same time, the mud is extremely slippery, so you can slip and get dark mud all over your clothes (which is very hard to remove.) If you’re a fan of Korean variety shows like Running Man, you’ve probably seen Korean celebrities running, slipping, and getting stuck in mudflats.
So you can use 들어가다 for going on mudflats, but not for sandy or stone beaches. Why? I’m not sure. I guess that’s because once you’re on mudflats, you can’t escape without at least your shoes and feet sinking ‘inside’ the mud.
들어가다 Usage #3: to join an organization
Another use for 들어가다 is to join an organization, like a school club or a volunteer organization.
If you’re an exchange student or about to become one and come to Korea, joining one of the ‘special’ clubs that only exists in Korea would be great. For instance, my university has two ‘Korean traditional martial arts clubs’ where you can learn how to wield Korean swords and shoot arrows using a traditional bow while riding a horse.
[pic of Korean martial arts performance]
If you’ve picked a club you want to join, you can say:
나는 (name of the club)에 들어갈 거야.
(na-neun (name of the club)-e deul-eo-gal geo-ya.)
I’m going to join (name of the club.)
However, joining one of the ‘famous’ clubs can be quite competitive. Usually, there are too many applicants and not all of them can join. In such a case, you will have to submit the required application form and do an interview. How about expressing your passion and eagerness for the club?
꼭 (name of the club)에 들어가고 싶습니다!
(Kkok (name of the club)-e deul-eo-ga-go sip-seub-ni-da!)
I really want to join (name of the club!)
As an interview is a formal situation, you must always use the ‘polite formal’ form, even if the interviewers are your peers.
들어가다 Usage #4: to enter after being admitted (to a school or company)
This use is similar to #3, but there’s a slight difference. While you can use 들어가다 for joining a club without competition, when talking about being admitted, 들어가다 is usually for good schools (or sought-after majors such as medicine) that always get lots of applicants. So in this sense, 들어가다 means something like ‘to enter after being selected through a highly competitive process.’ For example, my youngest cousin just got admitted to Seoul National University, the best university in this country, and all the relatives have been talking about it. However, as he is not a student at the university yet, we cannot use 들어가다. Once he gets enrolled and starts taking classes in March, our relatives will be saying:
우리 조카가 서울대 들어갔어.
(u-li jo-ka-ga seo-ul-dae deul-eo-gass-eo.)
My nephew entered (and is attending) Seoul National University.
In the same way, you can use 들어가다 for getting a job at a company. But unlike with schools, the company you want to talk about doesn’t have to be a good one. You can use 들어가다 both for getting a job at Samsung or a mini-company with only a handful of employees. However, as 들어가다 in this sense means to fully belong to the company, it is only for full-time jobs. If you are a freelancer or a part-timer, 들어가다 is not for you, even if you love what you do and feel like a real member of the team. It’s about receiving a regular salary and health care, not about a sense of belonging.
들어가다 Usage #5: to fit into
들어가다 also means ‘to fit into’. For instance, if you’re moving and you can’t move your bed using the elevator because either the bed is too big or the elevator is too small, you would be saying:
침대가 안 들어간다.
(chim-dae-ga an deul-eo-gan-da.)
The bed won’t fit in.
Or you might go shopping and try on a pair of shoes, but you can’t get your feet in them because they’re too small for you. Then you will have to tell the salesperson:
발이 안 들어가요.
(bal-i an deul-eo-ga-yo.)
I can’t get my feet in.
Important point: 들어가다 can also be used for ‘the thing you’re putting something into’. In the two examples above, the verb is used on the thing you’re trying to put inside: the bed and the feet. Nonetheless, the following sentence is correct as well:
살이 쪄서 바지가 안 들어간다.
(sal-i jjyeo-seo ba-ji-ga an deul-eo-gan-da.)
I’ve gained weight, my pants won’t fit.
In this case, you’re not trying to put the pants into anything, you’re trying to put your legs into the pants. But you can use 들어가다 both for your legs and your pants. Just like ‘My pants don’t fit,’ and ‘My legs don’t fit in my pants,’ are both correct, ‘바지가 안 들어간다’ and ‘다리가 바지에 안 들어간다’ are both grammatically correct.
들어가다 Usage #6: for something important to “fall into” your opponent’s hands
This is by far the trickiest use of 들어가다. When combined with 수중에 or 손에, in one’s hands, 들어가다 gets to mean ‘something to fall into your opponent(s) hands’. That is to say, the expression is for when they manage to take something important that you don’t want them to have, such as a secret, a clue, land, or an important document, etc. So, when a soldier wants to his general something like, “The enemy has already taken half of our land!”, he would use 수중에 들어가다.
Or, in Korean law or political dramas, you would hear things like:
비밀 장부가 벌써 강 회장의 손에 들어갔어.
(bi-mil jang-bu-ga beol-sseo gang hoe-jang-ui son-e deul-eo-gass-eo.)
The secret ledger has already fallen into Chairman Kang's hands.
There is another word that can be used similarly, and that is 넣다. 손에 넣다 can be used to mean the same thing as 손에 들어가다, which I will explain in detail in another article about 넣다.
Want to master the conjugations of 들어가다 explained in this article? How about practicing with Konju, the only Korean learning quiz app that specializes in conjugations!
If you enjoyed this post, check out my previous previous one where I discuss the many uses of the verb 먹다. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with the next article: How to Use the Korean Verb 떨어지다. Thanks for reading!