힘들어요 vs 어려워요 in Korean

Hi guys, it’s your Korean teacher Jun. Many students requested a tutorial for the differences between 힘들어요 and 어려워요. I think yes, it’s something students gets easily confused because it seems so similar in English. But today I’m going to solve your confusion today! Today’s tutorial is ‘힘들어요 vs 어려워요 in Korean’

Warm Up Your Brain

Actually I taught both Korean words before, can you say what meaning of each word? Answer it in 5 seconds!

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힘들어요 vs 어려워요 Featured

힘들어요 Meaning in Korean


It’s hard / It’s tough / I’m tired

힘들어요 is ‘to be hard’ because of physical or mental problems or you can’t afford it at the moment. However, Korean extends the meaning ‘to be hard’ because of a mental hardness or a problem too.


계속 공부하기 어려워요
[gongbu-hagi eoryeo-woyo]
I’m tired to keep study


계속 공부하기 힘들어요
[gongbu-hagi himdeu-reoyo]
I’m tired to keep study

Actually in this sentence, 힘들어요 can describes so many reasons, not only being tired, any mental, physical problem can be used like too much noise.

어려워요 Meaning in Korean


It’s hard / It’s difficult

어려워요 ‘to be hard’ because of lack of skill, ability or knowledges. It can be translated as ‘it’s difficult’ and that’s perfectly natural. It doesn’t have any other meaning such as ‘firm’ or physically hardness.

Wrong (?)

요리하기 힘들어요
[yori-hagi himdeu-reoyo]
It’s difficult to cook


요리하기 어려워요
[yori-hagi eoryeo-woyo]
It’s difficult to cook

Technically, the first sentence is also right as a meaning difficult and can also means ‘it’s a very tiring job to do’

힘들어요 vs 어려워요 in Korean

So, 힘들어요 actually describe a physical, mental hardness or you can’t afford it at the moment. In the other hand, 어려워요 describes a difficulty to do something. When both words are used alone, you can see the difference very easily.

I’m tired

It’s difficult

Sometimes both means exactly same based on a context when it literally means ‘it’s not easy’. How can you tell which is which if both means an exactly same thing? Well you can’t. That’s why you need to read a context. Besides that, now you know which one is more correct to use based on a context.

How To Use

A: 오늘 저녁 준씨가 할거예요?
Will you make dinner tonight Jun?
B: 지금 요리하기 너무 힘들어요
I’m too tired to cook right now

A: 내일 이 요리 해줄 수 있어요?
Can you cook this tomorrow?
B: 이거 요리하기 어려워요
This is difficult to cook

A: 내일 이 요리 해줄 수 있어요?
Can you cook this tomorrow?
B: 이거 요리하기 힘들어요
This needs a lot of labor to cook

Vocabulary Note

계속 -하다 [gesok – hada] : to keep doing something / to continue something
공부하다 [gongbuhada] : to study
요리하다 [yorihada] : to cook
오늘 [oneul] : today
저녁 [jeonyeok] : evening / dinner
지금 [jigeum] : now
너무 [neomu] : too many / too much
내일 [neil] : tomorrow
이 [i] : this [determiner]
이거 [igeo] : this [pronoun]