The Difference between Fun and Funny

If you took a survey of EFL teachers in Korea and asked them what the most common error made by their students is, I’m almost certain mistaking fun and funny would come out on top. Even some of my near-fluent students mix them up, and it’s easy to understand why, what with 재미있다 often taking the role of both words in Korean. Luckily, the two definitions are quite distinct, and I’ll teach you an easy way to remember the difference.

Fun – (adj.) Enjoy doing                                                       Funny – (adj.) Makes you laugh

First, let’s talk about fun. I like reading, so for me, books are fun. My wife, on the other hand, prefers television, so for her, watching TV is fun, whereas reading is not fun. My other hobbies include kayaking, meeting friends, and watching Doosan Bears, so I think all of those are fun. None of them are funny.

On the other hand, we describe things that make you laugh as funny. If you have a wicked sense of humour, you probably think it’s funny when your friends fall over. A lot of people think the American TV show Parks and Recreation is funny, and some of Psy’s dancing is pretty funny, too. You wouldn’t normally describe those things as fun.

One way I help my students remember the difference is by thinking of the word knee, which is pronounced the same way as the -ny in funny. Imagine laughing out loud and slapping your knee. When something makes you feel like that, it’s fun-knee, i.e. funny. If it doesn’t make you feel that way (but you still enjoy it), the word you’re looking for is fun. Let’s look at the following examples:

She's having fun.
She’s having fun.
Some people think Jim Carrey is funny.
Some people think Jim Carrey is funny.
Sledding is fun.
Sledding is fun.
Psy's dance is funny. Dancing is fun.
Psy’s dance is funny.
Dancing is fun.





The best way to practice is to make your own sentences, so comment below with your own sentences using fun and funny, and I’ll tell you if you’re correct.

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