Try doing - ~해 보다

Try doing - ~해 보다

보다 means "see" and ~해 보다 is a special expression which means "try doing". This expression is used very commonly in ordinary conversations.

● Rule

Add 보다 to a spoken form of a verb. (Verbs - Present, Past)

  • 해 보다 = try doing
  • 가 보다 = try going
  • 먹어 보다 = try eating
  • 마셔 보다 = try drinking
  • 읽어 보다 = try reading
  • 들어 보다 = try listening
  • 사 보다 = try buying
  • 앉아 보다 = try sitting
  • 봐 보다 = try seeing/looking/watching
  • 올라가 보다 = try going up
  • 쳐 보다 = try playing (the instrument)

The tables below are showing the written and spoken forms, and their respective positive and negative forms.

Remember that the plain form of verbs is the most basic from which many other forms of verbs derive and the plain form itself is rarely used in both written and spoken Korean.

I have omitted the present negatives for both written and spoken forms because people never use it in this way.

Instead of saying, "don't try eating", people would say, "don't eat" which is 먹지마.

There are two ways of expressing past negatives and one is more common than the other. "안~" form is more commonly used.

먹어 보다
먹어 본다
먹어 봤다
먹어 보지 않다
먹어 보지 않았다
안 먹어 봤다

먹어 보다
먹어 봐
먹어 봤어
먹어 보지 않다
먹어 보지 않았어
안 먹어 봤어
  • 안나는 중국 음식을 먹어 봤다. = Anna tried eating Chinese food.
  • 찰스는 조나단 에드워즈의 책을 읽어 봤다. = Charles tried reading Jonathan Edwards' book.
  • 예전에 먹어 봐서 코코넛을 또 사 봤다 = Because I tried eating it before, I tried buying a coconut again. (Conjunctions - Because, So)
예전에 = in the past, before
또  = again
  • 이 음악을 들어 봐! = Try listening to this music!
  • 이 차를 마셔 봐! = Try drinking this tea!
  • 이 언덕에 올라가 봐. 그리고 푸른하늘을 봐 봐. = Try going up this hill! And try looking at the blue sky!
  • 독일 가 봤어? = Tried going to Germany? (= Have you been to Germany?)
  • 이 오래된 소파에 앉아 봤어? = Tried sitting on this old sofa?
  • 피아노 쳐 봤어? = Tried playing the piano?

Formal Form
Refer to Verbs - Formal [Present, Past] 

Written Form

  • 먹어 봅니다 = try eating
  • 먹어 봤습니다 = tried eating
  • 먹어 보지 않았습니다 = haven't tried eating
  • 안 먹어 봤습니다 = haven't tried eating
Spoken Form
  • 먹어 봐요 = try eating
  • 먹어 봤어요 = tried eating
  • 먹어 보지 않았어요 = haven't tried eating
  • 안 먹어 봤어요 = haven't tried eating


  1. I've seen and heard "말해 봐" quite frequently, and to my knowledge, it has the meaning of "Tell me!" rather than "try talking". Can 봐 make things into exclamations without adding the meaning of "try"?

    Ex. If said on its own, would 들어 봐 mean "Listen!"?

    Also, if anyone knows, does this use of 보다 match the use of 吧 in Chinese?


  2. Yes, you're quite right.

    As for the examples above, you could say that,

    이 음악을 들어 봐! = Try listening to this music! = Listen to this music!

    이 차를 마셔 봐! = Try drinking this tea! = Drink this tea!

  3. Can you explain the difference between the use of ~해 보다 and ~려고 노력하다? Here are a few of the sentences I am trying (haha) to decipher. I understand individual parts, just not the overall concept of "trying to do something". There's intention, doing something once as a test, etc. and it's driving me nuts!

    가 보다
    가려고 노력하다
    가려고 하다

    Here is a sentence I came up with:
    저는 매운 밥을 먹어 봤지만 안 좋아해요.
    I tried eating spicy food, but I don't like it.

    Here is a sentence a native speaker tried to explain to me:
    저는 매운 밥을 먹어 보려고 했지만 못 먹었어요.
    I tried to eat spicy rice but I couldn't.

    I know the meaning and tense after 지만 in both sentences is different and I understand both of them, it's the part BEFORE 지만, the parts about trying and intention that I can't get.

    Thanks! Sorry for such a long question. :(

    1. Hi William,

      Here's my answer to your question.

      The difference between

      저는 매운 밥을 먹어 봤지만
      저는 매운 밥을 먹어 보려고 했지만


      저는 매운 밥을 먹어 봤지만 = I have tried /eaten spicy rice/meal (before).

      In this case, you have actually eaten spicy rice.

      By the way, if you meant "spicy food,"
      it'd be better to use 매운 음식.

      In the case of 저는 매운 밥을 먹어 보려고 했지만, it means "I have tried to eat spicy rice/meal." In this case, you haven't actually eaten the spicy rice/meal.

      So you tried to eat it but you didn't quite eat it. You may have eaten a few spoons of it, but you didn't actually quite eat a lot of it, if at all.

      Here's another example,

      저 레스토랑 가봤지만 음식이 별로였어요
      I have been to that restaurant, but the food wasn't too good. (You have been there!)

      저 레스토랑 가보려고 했지만 아직 못 가봤어요 = I tried to go to that restaurant but I haven't been there yet. (You haven't been there!)

      Also, 는데 is more commonly used than 지만 in spoken Korean.

      So I'd use,

      저 레스토랑 가봤는데 음식이 별로였어요
      저 레스토랑 가보려고 했는데 아직 못 가봤어요

      Hope this helped!

  4. Hey Luke!

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. It is becoming much clearer.

    As for using 밥, some of the first example sentences I was exposed to when I began learning Korean used it for "food" (I guess because Koreans eat rice with basically every meal), so it got stuck in my head. Now I see a lot more usage of 음식, so hopefully that will sink in. Thanks for the tip.

    Thanks for the note about 는데 over 지만 as well.


  5. 해 보다 = To experience.
    It's about trying but always in the past, experiencing is a more accurate translation. Don't always trust what the book says. For instance, there's a lot of mistakes in Yonsei's book.

  6. How interesting is to see the similarities with Japanese. In Japanese verb to see is also used to express the idea of try doing something, although I notice a little difference in how the "tried verb" is linked to the verb to see. In Korean it seems to be that the stem of the verb is used and then to see is added whereas in Japanese the connector て needs to be used to then attach みる (to see).

    Is it that both language share the same origin despite having such a different vocabulary? It seems to be a question that will never be answered.

  7. That's for the learning it so helpful


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