[KWotD] – What does -에 불과하다 mean?

Korean Word of the Day: What does 불과하다 mean?

불과하다 (adjective, DVST, also grammar pattern)
Meaning: Only, mere, just, nothing more

Meaning of – 에 불과하다

In today’s Korean Word of the Day, we will take a look at the word 불과하다. While the meaning is easy to grasp, the tricky thing is how to actually use it.

Since it’s an adjective and not a particle like 만, you can’t just stick it onto a noun and call it a day. Instead, you have to use the pattern N-에 불과하다.

This might seem confusing at first glance, but the word actually means “does not go above a certain level” or “does not surpass…”. In other words, it refers to an abstract “place” which is the noun (it can not go above [Noun]!) so the location particle – 에 has to be used. Some books choose to classify this as grammar.

Let’s look at some examples:


학생은 일곱 명에 불과하다.

= The are just seven students.

농담에 불과하다

= It’s nothing more than a joke.

나이는 숫자에 불과하다.

= Age is just a number.

시작에 불과하다

= It’s just the beginning.

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By: Kimchi Cloud