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Korean lessons: Lesson 1

Fundamental features of Korean Language

The Korean language is spoken by more than 60 million people. It belongs to the group of Altaic
languages together with Japanese, Ainu, and Mongolian, which were splitted one another several
thousand years ago. Syntactically, Korean shares some common characteristics with these Altaic
languages, while over 70% of its contemporary vocabulary came from Chinese.

1) SOV language

Korean is classified as an SOV language, which stands for <Subject-Object-Verb> word order.
English on the other hand is an SVO language. A subject is the one who acts. An object is the one
who receives the subjects action. For example:

<English> Bob loves Jenny.

Who loves Jenny? Bob does. Who is loved by Bob? Jenny is. In Korean this sentence will be in the
the word order:

<Korean> Bob Jenny loves.

2) Topic-prominent language

Although we call it a subject, its position is not for subjects, the actor, only. A topic can also be in the
position. A topic may not be an actor, but the one which the sentence is about. Let's take an example:
You bumped into a friend after lunch. Your friend asks you, "Hey, how about a lunch?" You might
want to say, "Lunch? I already had it. How about a cup of coffee?" The first part of this speech can be
understood, 'As for (or, speaking of) lunch, I already ate it.' In Korean, this can be stated simply:

<Korean> Lunch, I ate.

3) Agglutinating language

Now, you may have been confused, saying, "I don't get it. How come no one interprets it 'A lunch ate
me.'?" This is where the powerful function of particles, endings, and conjugation comes in. By
attaching these little grammatical devices, you label each words, so that your words come into places
without causing misunderstanding.

4) Basic Sentence Formation:

{Subject/Topic+particle} + {Object+particle} + {Verb/Adjective+conjugation}

Korean lessons: Lesson 2


-- Click on the chart and listen to how they

1. Consonants (자음)
Consonant chart
Plain Aspirated tensed
ㄱ [k] ㅋ [k'] ㄲ [kk]
ㄴ [n]
ㄷ [t] ㅌ[t'] ㄸ [tt]
ㄹ[ r / l ]
ㅁ [m]
ㅂ [p] ㅍ[p'] ㅃ [pp]
ㅅ [s] ㅆ [ss]
ㅇ [zero / ng ]
ㅈ [ch] ㅊ [ch'] ㅉ[cc]

dictionary order:

ㄱ (ㄲ), ㄴ, ㄷ (ㄸ), ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ (ㅃ), ㅅ (ㅆ), ㅇ, ㅈ (ㅉ), ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ

Aspirated ones are with more puff of air than the plain ones. As for tensed ones, you add
more stricture, but without puff of air, when letting out the sound. Tensed ones are
difficult for beginners, and many students take long time to acquire the correct

ㄱ is similar to g as in god.

ㄲ is similar to k as in sky.

ㅋ is similar to k as in kill.

ㄷ is similar to d as in do.

ㄸ is similar to t as in stop.

ㅌ is similar to t as in two.

ㄹ is similar to tt as in butter (not [t] but a flap like a Spanish [r]), in a syllable initial

ㄹ is similar to l as in filling, in a syllable final (받침) position.

ㅂ is similar to b as in bad.

ㅃ is similar to p as in spy.

ㅍ is similar to p as in pool.

ㅅ is similar to s as in astronaut.

ㅆ is similar to s as in suit.

ㅈ is similar to j as in jail.

ㅉ is similar to tz as in pretzel.

ㅊ is similar to ch as in charge.

ㅎ is similar to h as in hat.

2. Vowels (모음) -- Click on the chart and listen to how they sound.

Vowel Chart
Simple Palatalized labiovelarized
ㅏ [a] ㅑ [ya]
ㅐ [ae] ㅒ [yae]
ㅓ [o^] ㅕ [yo^]
ㅔ [e] ㅖ [ye]
ㅗ [o] ㅛ [yo] ㅘ [wa] ㅚ [oe]
ㅙ [wae]
ㅜ [u] ㅠ [yu] ㅝ [wo^] ㅟ [ui]
ㅞ [we]
ㅡ [u^] ㅢ[u^i]
ㅣ [i]

dictionary order:

ㅏ(ㅐ, ㅒ), ㅑ, ㅓ (ㅔ, ㅖ), ㅕ, ㅗ (ㅘ, ㅙ, ㅚ), ㅛ, ㅜ (ㅝ, ㅞ, ㅟ), ㅠ, ㅡ (ㅢ), ㅣ

ㅏ is similar to "Ah".

ㅑ is similar to "yard".

ㅓ is similar to "cut".

ㅕ is similar to "just" or "Eliot".

ㅗ is similar to "order".

ㅛ is similar to " Yoda".

ㅜ is similar to " Ungaro".

ㅠ is similar to "you".

ㅡ is similar to "good" or "le chatau".

ㅣ is similar to "easy".

ㅐ is similar to "add".

ㅒ is similar to "yam".

ㅔ is similar to " editor".

ㅖ is similar to " yes".

ㅘ is similar to " Wow!" or "what".

ㅙ is similar to "wagon".

ㅚ is similar to "Koeln".

ㅝ is similar to " one".

ㅞ is similar to " weather".

ㅟ is similar to "we" or "Oui!".

Traditional vowel classification:

Traditionally, vowels are classified into three categories, that is yang (bright), yin (dark),
and neutral. This classification is very important, for it will be used when we learn conjugation of
predicates and some phonological aspects of Korean. The classification also principles the vowel-
hamp3ony phenomena that Korean has as a member of Altaic language family. The cassification is as

yang (bright) -- ㅏ and ㅗ series (ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅘ)

yin (dark) -- ㅓ and ㅜ series (ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅝ)
neutral -- ㅡ and ㅣ

3. How to make a character out of alphabet

Each character is designed to represent one syllable, the structure of which may be described as
(C)V(C), where C stands for a consonant, and V does a vowel--(C) means that the consonant in the
position is optional.

(C) + V + (CC)
initial consonant vowel final consonant (coda)

Some vowels are placed on the right side of the initial consonant; some are placed
underneath the initial consonant: Vowels ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅣ (and their derivatives, i.e. ㅐ, ㅔ , ㅒ,
ㅖ ) are placed on the right; and vowels ㅗ , ㅜ , ㅡ are placed undersneath the initial
consonant. Final consonants are always placed at the bottom.


ㄱ + ㅏ + ㅁ = 감 [kam]
ㄱ + ㅜ + ㄱ = 국 [kuk]
ㄲ + ㅜ + ㅇ = 꿍
ㄴ + ㅏ = 나 [na]
ㅎ + ㅘ = 화 [hwa]
ㅇ + ㅐ = 애 [ae]
ㅇ + ㅗ + ㅅ = 옷 [ot]
ㄱ + ㅗ + ㄷ = 곧 [kot]
ㄲ + ㅗ + ㅊ = 꽃 [kkot]
ㅂ + ㅏ + ㅌ = 밭 [pat]
ㅎ + ㅡ + ㄺ = 흙 [hu^(r)k]
ㅇ + ㅓ + ㅄ = 없 [o^p]
ㄸ + ㅓ + ㄼ = 떫 [tto^(r)p]

NB) Final consonant clusters: ㄳ, ㄵ, ㄶ, ㄺ, ㄻ, ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㄿ, ㅀ, ㅄ

Except for ㄺ, ㄻ, ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㄿ, ㅀ (ones with ㄹ placed befre another consonant), when followed by
another consonant or nothing, the second consonant of the cluster becomes silent. This second
consonant will come alive when there is a vowel after it.

값 = kap "price"

값 + 과 = kap kwa "price and"

값 + 이 = kapsi "price (with a subject particle)"

Final clusters with 'ㄹ+consonant' fomp3ation are pronounced with slight irregularity. As
for ㄺ , ㄻ , ㄼ , ㄾ , ㄿ , the foregoing liquid sound [ ㄹ ] of the cluster is ignored when
followed by another consonant or nothing. This ㄹ comes alive when the cluster is
followed by another vowel. However, Seoul speakers (and many other regions too) tend
to throw in a touch of liquid sound for the ㄹ even when the cluster is followed by a
consonant or nothing.

삶 = sa(l)m "a living"

삶 + 이 = sal mi "a living (with a subject particle)"

In clusters ㄽ and ㅀ, however, [ㄹ] is alive even when followed by another consosnant.

끓 + 고 = kku^l k'o "boil and.."

Korean lessons: Lesson 3

Phonological notes

1. Syllable-final Consonants (받침):

1) Theoretically, any consonant can be in the 받 침 (syllable final) position. In reality, ㄸ , ㅉ , and
ㅃ are not used as 받침.

2) Some of the consonants merge into one sound when they are in the syllable-final position.
Orthographically, however, they remain different. Summarized as follows:

consonant endings 받침 sound examples

ㄱ, ㅋ [k] 각, 부엌
ㄴ [n] 눈
ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ [t] 낟, 낫, 낮, 낯, 낱, 낳 all pronounced as [
ㄹ [l] 쌀
ㅁ [m] 봄
ㅂ, ㅍ [p] 입, 잎 both pronounced as [입]
ㅇ [ng] 영

3) These merged sounds regain their original values when they are followed by a zero-initial syllable
(i.e. vowel).

각 + 이 (topic/subject marker) = [가기 kagi]

부엌 + 에 (place marker) = [부어케 puo^k`e]
낮 + 에 (temporal marker) = [나제 naje]
낯 + 에 (place marker) = [나체 nach`e]
입 + 이 (top./sub. marker) = [이비 ibi]
잎 + 이 (top./sub. maeker) = [이피 ip`i]

2. Rules of Pronunciation

2.1. Liason (받침 carry-over)

1) A 받침 is carried over by the following syllable when the following syllable starts with a zero-initial.


국이 → [구기] 문이 → [무니]
밥을 → [바블] 옷이 → [오시 ]
잎이 → [이피] 밖에 → [바께]

2) The second part of a double 받침 is carried over by the folowing syllable when the following syllable
starts with a zero-syllable.


앉아요 → [안자요] 읽어요 → [일거요]

밟아요 → [발바요] 핥아요 → [할타요]
읊어요 → [을퍼요] 없어요 → [업서요]

2.2. Nasalization

When a final (non-nasal) consonant is followed by a nasal initial ( ㄴ , ㅁ ), the non-nasal consonant
absorbs the nasality, keeping its place of articulation. Remember, ' ㅇ ' in the initial position is not a
nasal consonant but a zero.

ㄱ, ㅋ → ㅇ
ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ → ㄴ / before ㄴ or ㅁ
ㅂ, ㅍ → ㅁ


갑니다 → [감니다] 낱말 → [난말] 먹는다 → [멍는다]

2.3. Aspiration

When ㅎ [h] is adjacent, a consonant is influenced and aspirated.

ㄱ → ㅋ
ㄷ → ㅌ / before or after ㅎ
ㅂ → ㅍ
ㅈ → ㅊ


좋다 → [조타] 노랗다 → [노라타]

생각하다 → [생가카다] 입히다 →[이피다]

2.4. Palatalization

When ㄷ or ㅌ is followed by 이 [i], a paplatalization occurs.

ㄷ[t] → ㅈ [ch]
ㅌ[t`] → ㅊ [ch`] / before 이


미닫이→[미다지] 굳이 →[구지] 같이 →[가치]

2.5. Liquidation

ㄴ → ㄹ /before another ㄹ


전라북도 → [절라북도] 신라 → [실라]

Korean lessons: Lesson 4

Base forms and Stems

In a language, we find three basic ways of describing facts: description of action, state,
and identity. To describe an action, we use verbs. For example, in English, we say "I eat
lunch," which describes the action ('eating') of the subject ('I'). To describe a state, we
use adjectives. When we say, "I am tall," it describes the state ('being tall') of the
subject ('I'). Describing an identity is relating one thing to another, characterizing the
property of the subject. To say "I am a student" is characterizing a property of the
subject ('I'), by identifying the subect as a student. When we talk about facts that
happened in the past, or a something that will happen in the future, the story is not
simple. In English, if the your action of eating had happened in the past, you need to use
a different form of the verb, i.e., "I ate lunch." If you used to be quite tall for your age in
the past, but it is not the case now, you have to say, "I was tall."

For similar reasons, we say, "I was a student." In order to differentiate the mode of
facts, such as tense, we make variation on the predicates--in other words, verbs,
adjectives, and noun phrases, etc. This variation is called "conjugation." Like English,
Korean also uses this conjugation of predicates. Therefore, in a verb predicate, for
example, we see a part that is constant in all kinds of sentences, and the other part that
changes according to the modes of facts. (Think of "push, pushes, pushed, pushing..." in
English. "Push" is the constant, where "-es", "-ed", and "-ing" are alternating.) The
constant part is called the 'stems'. The conjugation in Korean is made by attaching
different suffixes to the stems.

가 요
stem mid-polite suffix
"to go/leave" (present tense)

"가", a lexical verb stem, is attached with a mid-polite suffix " 요", making a present-
tense predicate. ("- 요 " has more stories. We will learn them later.) Subjects can be
omitted in many simple everyday-conversational sentences, as long as they are obvious
by the context. " 가요"thus can be used in the sense of "I go," "you go," or sometimes,
"He goes," etc. With an intonation rising at the end ( ), it can be a question, "Do you go
(Are you leaving?)" or "Shall we go?", etc. It can even be taken as an imperative
sentence, "Go (Leave)!"

A stem is a part of a verb predicate, not a whole word. When we list it in dictionaries,
or refer to it as a word--just as when we say "to go" or "to eat" as words--, we add " 다"
at the end of a stem. Thus,
Stem + 다 = Base Form

가 + 다 = 가다 (Base Form, "to go")

High-polite -세요

When addressing a senior (in terms of age or social ranking), a high-polite stle of speech
is used. "-세요" is a typical suffix of this style. A simple "How are you?" is made as the

안녕하 세요
stem high-polite suffix
"to be well" (present tense)

"안녕하" is a stem, the base form of which is "안녕하다". Apart from the politeness of the
style, "-세요" can be used you use "요", as in "You go (Please leave)" or "Do you go (Are
you leaving)?", "He/She goes", or "Does he/she go", etc. However, you may not want to
use it when the subject is you, the subject. For the added politeness by "- 세-" is for the
subject, not the addressee, whereas "- 요" is for the addressee, as it is used in the mid-
polite style.

Using the given words, make different sentences as seen in the key.

1. [verbs] --- 만나다 (to meet), 자다 (to sleep), 사다 (to buy), 타다 (to ride), 파다 (to dig)


가요. 가세요. I/you go. He/she goes.

가 다 (to가요? 가세요? Do you go? Does he/she go?

가요! 가세요! Please go!

2. [adjectives] --- 비 싸 다 (to be expensive), 짜 다 (to be salty), 차 다 (to be cold)


싸다 (to be cheap) : 싸요. It's cheap.

싸요? Is it cheap?

3. '-하다' verbs and adjectives (adj.)건강하다 (to be healthy)

(verb)공부하다 (to study), 일하다 (to work)


안녕하세요? Are you well (How are you)?

(adj.) 안녕하다 (to be well):
(verb) 하다 (to do) : 하세요? Do you do (it)?
하세요! Do (it)!

Korean lessons: Lesson 5

Nominal predicates : "--이에요"

Sample Dialogues

By 'nominal predicate', we mean a predicate of a sentence that describes the subject by

identifying it with another noun: "I am a student." For verbs and adjectives, we learned
that there are base forms and stems. We thus get base forms, "가다" for "to go", and "싸
다" for "to be cheap", etc. Now, we are facing a new problem. If there is no such thing
as the English verb "to be", how are we going to say such sentences as "I am a
student"? Many languages lack the verb like "to be," which can be used both in nominal
predicates and adjectival predicates. ("I am a student" and "I am tall".) In order to
relate two nouns (i.e., the subject and the nominal complement), such languages use
so-called 'copula'. In Korean, that copula is "-이다". "-이다" is of course the base form,
which still has to be conjugated to be used in actual sentences. Hence, "학생이다" ("to
be a student"); " 구 름 이 다 " ("to be clouds").

True stories of the present-tense suffix - 요 and - 세 요

In Lesson 4, -요 and -세요 were introduced. It was, however, not exactly everything that
we should know about them.

1) Mid-polite suffix - 아 / 어 요

Verbs and adjectives that we practiced with for -요 suffix in Lesson 4 have something in
common: they all have the stem ending in vowel ? without any patch'im followed ('가다',
'자다', '싸다', etc.) Those whose stems end otherwise, should take either -아요 or -어요.
The last vowel of the stem decides which of the two to take. Once again, the vowel
harmony principle ('yang with yang; yin with yin') applies:

If the stem has a yang vowel at the last syllable, use -아요;

If the stem has a yin or neutral vowel at the last syllable, use - 어 요 .
(For yang/yin/neutral vowels, see Lesson 2.)

작 다: 작 + - 아 요 → 작 아 요
to be small "It's small." or "He/She is small."?
오 다 : 오 + -아요 → ( 오 아 요 ) → 와 요
to come "Come!" or "I come" or "He/She
괜찮다[괜찬타] : 괜 찮 + - 아 요→ 괜 찮 아 요 [ 괜 차 나 요 ]
to be alright "It's OK."
주 다: 주 + - 어 요→ ( 주 어 요 ) → 줘 요
to give "Give (me, etc.)!" or "I give."
먹 다 : 먹 + -어요 → 먹 어 요
to eat "Eat!" or "I eat." or "He/She eats."
읽 다 [ 익 다 ]: 읽 + -어요 → 읽 어 요 [ 일 거 요 ]
to read "Read!" or "I read." or "He/She reads."

In fact, 가다 → 가요 is a contraction [가 + -아요 → (가아요) → 가요], so are the others

inLesson 4.

(NB) -하다 verbs and adjectives are rather peculiar. For them, -여요 is assumed instead
of -아요. This may sound quite overwhelming, but -하다 words are in fact easier. All the
- 하 다 stems with no exception appear as - 해 요 .

일 하 다
→ 일해요
to work
공 부 하 다
→ 공부해요
to study
착 하 다→ 착해요
to be nice (person)

2) High-polite suffix -( 으 ) 세 요

Although not so complicated as -아/어요, this suffix also has its own rules:

If the stem ends without a patch'im, use -세요;

If the stem ends with a patch'im, use -으세요.
가다 : 가 + 세요 → 가세요
웃다 to laugh : 웃 + 으세요 → 웃으세요
안녕하다 : 안녕하 + 세요 → 안녕하세요
괜찮다 : 괜찮 + 으세요 → 괜찮으세요 [괜차느세요]

" 오 영 균 이 에 요 "

Finally, we arrive the detail structure of "안녕하세요. XXX(name)이에요." Since personal

names are the same as nouns, we use the nominal-predicate copula, - 이다. In order to
make it into a real sentence, we need to add either - 아요 or -어요 in place of the base-
form making -다 after -이-. For 이 is a neutral vowel, -어요 is added. -이어요 had gone
through a certain phonological change in modern Seoul speakers' speech, and ended in -
이 에 요 .

오 영 균 이 다 → 오 영 균 이 + - 어 요 → 오 영 균 이 에 요 "I am Oh Young Kyun."


학 생 : 학 생 이 에 요 "I am / You are a student" or "He/She is a student"

기 차 : 기 차 이 에 요 "It's a train."

There are two forms to spell this -이에요: -예요 and -이에요. As far as we are concerned,
just - 이 에 요 suffice.


1. Using the following words, make sentences with - 아/어요 and -(으)세요 conjugation.
Please give at least one possible translation for each sentence. Also, mark each word
whether it is a verb (V) or an adjective (A).


좋아요. "It is good."

좋다 "to be good" (A)
좋아요 ? "Is it good?"
좋으세요. "He/She is good."
좋으세요? "Is he/she good?"

일하다 "to work" (V) 일해요. "I work."

일해요? "Do you work?"
일하세요. "He/she works."
일하세요? "Is he/she working?"


싫 다 [ 실 타 ]입 다
보 다
(to be hated) (to wear, put on)
(to see)
작 다사 다비 싸 다
(to be small) (to buy) (to be expensive)
읽 다괜 찮 다 편 안 하 다
(to read) (to be OK) (to be comfortable)
차 다많 다 [ 만 타 ]웃 다
(to be cold) (to be many/much) (to laugh)
건강하다 [겅강하다]공 부 하 다
(to be healthy) (to study)

2. Using the following nouns, make dialogues. (And translate them.)


오리: A-오리이에요? B- 네, 오리이에요.

a duck Is that a duck? Yes, it is a duck.


나무 (tree); 아기 (baby) 모자 (hat)

바지 (pants) 나비 (butterfly) 차 (car)
바나나 (banana) 별 (star) 곰 (bear)

Korean lessons: Lesson 6

Subject marker: -이/가

As mentioned in Lesson 1, Korean is an agglutinating language. It means that Korean

uses little grammatical devices attached to words to specify their roles in a sentence.
English is not an agglutinating language, employing rather a fixed word order and
prepositions in order to specify the role of each part.
A subject of a sentence is the agent (doer) of the action described by the sentence.
Assuming that a state of being can also be treated as an action, a subject can take any
kind of predicate, i.e., a verbal, an adjectival, or a nominal predicate. Think of "S goes,"
"S is bad," and "S is a man." In each case, S is the subject. To mark this subject,
Korean attaches either 이 or 가 to it. -이 is used when the subject word ends without a
final consonant (patch'im), whereas - 가 is for those ending without a final consonant.
Only nouns can be subjects in Korean, such is the case in English. In other words, when
you see a part of a sentence attached with - 이 or - 가 , you will know that it must be a
noun. However, you might hear sometimes people say sentences without using subject
markers - 이 / 가 for subjects. It is because the sentences were simple and a
conversational reality is presumed. For these sentences, subject markers can be
replaced by a short pause. In sentences the structure of which is complex, or in written
forms, the markers should be specified.

Finally, we get a sentence meaning, "The embassy is far."

Now, let's look at some more examples.

이 바지 가 편안해요. These pants are comfortable.
기차 가 와요. The train is coming.
선생님 이 웃으세요. The teacher is laughing.
저것 이 학교이에요. That (over there) is a school.
이것 이 곰이예요. This is a bear.

연습 <practice>

Use the following pairs of words to make sentences in mid-poite style. Don't forget to use subject markers, and
to translate each sentence, as given in the above examples.
subject predicate
1. 이 사람 (this person) 친구 (friend)
2. 장미 (rose) 비싸다 (to be expensive)
3. 물 (water) 차다 (to be cold)
4. 나무 (tree) 좋다 (to be good)
5. 저 사람 (that person) 건강하다 (to be healthy)
6. 돈 (money) 많다 (to be many/much)
7. 아기 (baby) 건강하다
8. 이것 (this [thing]) 모자 (hat; cap)
9. 여기 (here; this place) 학교
10. 바지 작다 (to be small)
11. 공부 (studying) 싫다 (to be dislikable)
12. 차 (car) 오다 (to come)
13. 친구 일하다 (to work)
14. 집 (home) 어디 (where)
15. 저 사람 누구 (who)
16. 책 (book) 싸다 (to be cheap)
17. 미국 (America) 멀다
18. 이 컴퓨터 (this computer) 괜찮다 (to be okay)
19. 동생 (a younger sibling) 자다 (to sleep)
20. 숙제 (homework) 많다

Korean lessons: Lesson 6: Answer

1. 이 사람이 친구이에요. This is a friend.

2. 장미가 비싸요. Roses are expensive.
3. 물이 차요. The water is cold.
4. 나무가 좋아요. Trees are good. (I like trees.)
5. 저 사람이 건강해요. That person is healthy.
6. 돈이 많아요. There are a lot of money.
7. 아기가 건강해요. The baby is healthy.
8. 이것이 모자이에요. This is a hat.
9. 여기가 학교이에요. There (or, this) is a school.
10. 바지가 작아요. The pants are small.
11. 공부가 싫어요. Studying is dislikable. (I hate studying.)
12. 차가 와요 (<오+아요). A car comes. (Here comes a/the car.)
13. 그 친구가 일해요. That friend works.
14. 집이 어디이에요? Where is your home? (Where do you live?)
15. 저 사람이 누구이에요? Who is that man?
16. 책이 싸요 (<싸+아요). The book is cheap/inexpensive.
17. 매디슨(Madison)이 멀어요. Madison is far (from here).
18. 이 컴퓨터가 괜찮아요. This computer is okay.
19. 동생이 자요 (<자+아요). My younger sibling is sleeping.
20. 숙제가 많아요. Homework is a lot. (I have a lot of home

Korean lessons: Lesson 7

Object marker -을 / -를

[Not many people are fond of talking about grammar. However, this is the least bit of the Korean
grammar that you should know. We will be as plain as possible while discussing it.] An object in a
sentence is the thing or a person that receives the action (described by the verb) from the subject. As
we know, the subject is the doer (agent) of the action that the verb describes.

In this sentence, the doer of eating is "friend ('my' is assumed)," and the recipient of the action
("eating") is "lunch." As you might have noticed already, not every sentence will have both subject and
object. Only those sentences containing verbs that take objects will. Let us think about English for a
moment, in order to understand this grammatical terminology. In English grammar, the verbs that take
objects are called 'transitive verbs.' For example, "to eat" is a transitive verb, since there must be
something that is eaten (that is, receives the action). Similarly, you have a group of verbs that are
transitive and another that are intransitive. Such verbs as "love, buy, drink, see, understand, choose,
find..." are transitive. (What these verbs have in common is that you can say "to [verb] something /
someone.") Such verbs as "go, sit, stay, die, come..." are intransitive. You handle an object in an
English sentence simply by placing it AFTER the verb.

A dog bites a person.

subject verb predicate object


If you switch the positions of the subject and the object, you get a completely different meaning.

A person bites a dog.

subject verb predicate object

Now, let's go back to Korean. We know that the predicate must be placed at the of a sentence. Thus,
both subject and object should come before the verb (predicate), and such change of meaning
depending on the word order is less likely to happen. A subject does not necessarily come before the
object in a Korean sentence. What clarifies the meaning, therefore, is the particle, i.e., subject/object
markers. (Linguists usually call them Case markers.)

사람이 개를 물어요 .
subject "a person"
object "a dog" verb predicate "bite"

"A person bites a dog."

-이 and -를 are subject and object markers, respectively. Since the subject and object are labeled with
markers, there is no possibility of confusion, as long as you keep them together.

개를 사람이 물어요 .

object "a dog" subject "a person" verb predicate "bite"

"A person bites a dog."


The meaning can only change when you switch the markers.

사람을 개가 물어요 .

object "a person" subject "a dog" verb predicate "bite"

"A dog bites a person."

Oftentimes, a subject is simply not said in Korean when it is understood.

A: 개가 누구를 물어요? (Who does the dog bite?)

B: 사람을 물어요. ([It] bites a person.)

As you might have noticed, the difference between - 을 and - 를 is purely phonological: when the
previous syllable ends with a consonant (patch'im), use -을; with a vowel (no patch'im), use -를.

연습 <practice>

You are given two nouns and one transitive verb in each line. Combine them into a sentence,
assuming that the first noun is the subject and the second is the object. Be sure to conjugate the verb
with -아요, -어요, -(으)세요, when needed.


친구, 텔레비, 보다 친구가 텔레비를 봐요.

(friend) (television) (watch, see) ([My] friend watches TV.)
1. 남자친구 (boy friend), 책 (book), 사다 (buy)

2. 아버지 (father), 신문 (newspaper), 읽다 (read)

3. 학생 (student), 책, 읽다

4. 여자친구 (girl friend), 영화 (movie), 좋아하다 (like)

5. 할머니 (grandmother), 돈 (money), 주다 (give)

6. 아이 (child), 점심 (lunch), 먹다 (eat)

7. 친구, 남자친구, 만나다 (meet)

8. 삼촌 (uncle), 영어 (English), 공부하다 (study)

9. 여자친구, 한국어 (Korean), 공부하다

10. 어머니 (mother), 친구, 만나다

Korean lessons: Lesson 8

Who, What, Where?

Q: 누 구 세 요 ? A: 순 이 이 에 요 .

Who is it? It's Sun-i.

Q: 누 구 를 만 나 요 ? A: 순 이 를 만 나 요 .

Whom are you meeting? I meet sun-i.

Q: 무 엇 이 에 요 ? A: 사 과 이 에 요 .

What is it? It is an apple.

Q: 무 엇 을 좋 아 하 세 요 ? A: 사 과 를 좋 아 해 요 .

What do you like? I like apples.

Q: 어 디 에 있 어 요 ? A: 서 울 에 있 어 요 .

Where is it? It is in Seoul.

Q: 어 디 에 가 요 ?
A: 서 울 에 가 요 .
Where are you going?
I go to Seoul.
누구 who
무엇 (often > 뭐 ) what
어디 where

These words are pronouns. They need particles to be specified for their functions, such as subject,
object, adverbial, etc. Although we have not discussed it in detail, let us learn - 을 and - 를 , object
markers. - 을 is used when there is a final consonant (patch'im) preceding; whereas 를 is for
elsewhere. Note that 어디(where) is also a noun (pronoun), while "where" in English is not.

sub. obj.
what 무엇이 (= 뭐가 ) 무엇을 (=뭐를)
who 누구가 (>누가) 누구를
where 어디가 어디를


무엇이 어려워요? What is difficult?

누가 와요? Who is coming?
lit. Where is hurting? (Which part of your body
어디가 아파요?
is hurting?)
무엇을 배워요? What do you learn?
누구를 만나요? Whom are you meeting?
어디를 때려요? Where do I hit?

For similar reasons, -에 is needed after 어디 in the above dialogues. -에 is a marker that functions
like the preposition ('in' or 'to') in English, though they are placed after the noun they work with.

<English> <Korean>
in Seoul = 서울 에 (Seoul + in)
We will discuss this in detail later.

Korean lessons: Lesson 9

This 'n that, here 'n there 이 --, 그 --, 저 --

이 , 그 , and 저 are demonstrative modifiers for nouns.

+thing +person +place

this 이 이것 이 사람 여기
that over there 저 저것 저 사람 저기
that 그 그것 그 사람 거기
Q-word 무엇(what) 누구 (who) 어디(where)

When the referent (an object or a person) is close to the speaker, it is referred to as 이--.
When it is closer to the listener than to the speaker, it is referred to as 그 --. If it is
rather distant from both parties, it is referred to 저 --. The only thing that is different
from the case in English would be that what is referred to with 저 -- should be in
the sight of the speaker.

이것이 무엇이에요? 그것은 한국 책이에요.

저것은 무엇이에요? 저것은 미국 신문이에요.
그것은 무엇이에요? 이것은 일본 잡지이에요.

이 사람은 누구이에요? 그 사람은 내 친구이에요.

저 사람은 누구이에요? 저 사람은 내 동생이에요.
그 사람은 어디 가요? 이 사람은 학교에 가요.

여기는 어디이에요? 여기는 학교이에요.

저기는 어디이에요? 저기는 우리 집이에요.
거기는 어디이에요? 여기는 미국이에요.

Using 사람 ('person') is not polite enough to refer to an older person. You replace 사람
with 분 in such cases. Then, the predicate will have to change accordingly into high-
(with honorific infix -시-) style.

이 분은 누구세요? 그분은 김 선생님이세요.

저 분은 누구세요? 저분은 박 선생님이세요.
그 분은 어디 가세요? 이분은 학교에 가세요.

Korean lessons: Lesson 10

Styles of speech--a broad classification

1. 존댓말 or Polite speech

반 말 (non-polite style): the style of speech in which you speak to your friends (of your
age) or to people younger than you are.
존 댓 말 (polite style): the style in which you speak to your superiors or seniors.
Politeness of style can be demarcated into two criteria:

(1) whom you talk to -- Politeness is achieved by - 아 요 /- 어 요 or - ㅂ 니 다

(2) whom you talk about -- Politeness is achieved by infix - 시 -.

When you talk to someone, that person you are talking to could be older or younger than
you are; when you talk about a person to someone (of course, they can either be
different or identical), that person you are talking about can also be older or younger
than you are. Chon-dae mal concerns the proper handling of both these criteria in
speech. In addition to age, rank in various social relations also dictates proper use of
these speech styles.

Throughout these categories applies a supervening category of formality. This category

concerns the occasion where the conversation occurs. For example, the formal style will
be adopted more in work place, public speech, army, etc. ; whereas the informal would
better be used among close friends, family members, and people in private relationship.
However, in many cases, the consistency of formal/informal speech style is not really
strict. In other words, you may feel free switch back and forth between formal and
informal style within a conversation, as long as you keep the consistency of politeness.

We can summarize the above:

ABOUT formal ending informal ending

TO seniors ABOUT juniors or self -ㅂ/습니다 -아/어요
(polite) ABOUT seniors -(으)십니다 -(으)세요
TO juniors ABOUT juniors or self -다 -아/어
(plain) ABOUT seniors -(으)시다 -(으)셔

This is a simple outline of endings. As we will learn later, there are other grammatical
details that may be needed according to tense, verb/adjective differentiation, etc. There
are also other supplementary devices, such as self-effacing pronoun for the first person
( 저 instead of plain 나 for 'I'), lexically honorific words ( 말 씀 instead of 말 for 'speech,
words'), etc. , which will also be discussed later.

Now let us see how we can make variation for same sentences. The following is in
informal style.

(Talking to my friend) The teacher is coming to our house.

선 생 님 이 우 리 집 에 오 셔 .

(Talking to my mother) The teacher is coming to our house.

선 생 님 이 우 리 집 에 오 세 요 .

(Talking to my younger sister) My friend is coming to our house.

친 구 가 우 리 집 에 와 .

(Talking to my mother) My friend is coming to our house.

친구가 우리 집에 와요.

Extensive variety in speech style is often the most overwhelming part when a foreigner
begins to learn Korean. It is known to be more complicated than in Japanese.
However, as much as it is hard to foreigners, it is not an easy matter to native speaker.
People in younger generations in Korea also experience difficulty with proper use of
speech style. (In fact, this is somehow related to the shifts that happened in the Korean
social structure. Speech style is a product of layers of social/kinship relationship.
Compared to traditional families where more than three generations lived in one house
or neighbourhood, modern 'nuclear' families offer very few opportunities for the children
to practice different speech styles. )

2. 문어체 or written style

문 어 체 literally means "written-language style," in which you write formal documents,

articles, papers in classes, and so on. As there are polite and non-polite styles, we have
polite formal style and non-polite formal style. They both have - 다 at the end.

polite formal ending -- - ㅂ 니 다 / 습 니 다

non-polite formal ending -- - ㄴ 다 / 는 다 (present-tense verb) or - 다 (elsewhere)

Newspaper articles, academic papers, public announcement, and so forth, are written in
these styles. In fact, the non-polite is preferred in most written documents over the
polite, unless the document is by nature a dialogue (i. e. , announcement) aiming at
actual readers.

The non-polite formal, from a native speaker's intuition, gives the impression of self-
addressing, which may explain why it is also used in diaries--something that can be most
informal. The style is also used frequently by a speaker toward others in the same or
younger age, as we saw in the chart above, and therefore we can call it 반말.

Korean lessons: Lesson 11

Numbers (I)

Two Sets of numbers

Two sets of numbers are in use in Korean: native Korean and Chinese-based sets. The
Chinese-based set transmitted to Korea long time ago, probably with Chinese writing
system, to settle in the language. It is also the case in Japanese, and we see certain
phonological similarity among Chinese numbers and Chinese-based sets of Japanese and
Korean numbers.

Japanese Korean
one yi ichi il (일)
two er ni i (이)
three san san sam (삼)
four si shi sa (사)
five wu go o (오)

In fact, the Japanese and Korean sounds of Chinese numbers are quite similar to those
in many modern Chinese dialects, sometimes even more similar than modern Mandarin
to them. The Chinese remnants in Japanese and Korean, along with other Chinese
dialects, reflect old phases of Chinese language.

For the sake of our convenience, let us call these two sets 'Korean numbers' and
'Chinese numbers.' Here are the two sets of 1 to 10.

Korean numbers Chinese numbers

1 하나 일
2 둘 이
3 셋 삼
4 넷 사
5 다섯 오
6 여섯 육
7 일곱 칠
8 여덟 팔
9 아홉 구
10 열 십

There is no semantic difference between the two sets. Both ' 하 나 ' and ' 일 ' means one.
They differ according to when and how they are used. We will discuss this in the next

First, let us learn more about the Chinese numbers. Counting more than ten observes
the arithmetic principles. Take "12" and "20" for example. 12 is made of 10 and 2--there
are other ways of making it, but this is what the number stands for--. On the other
hand, 20 stands for two tens. Thus, the Chinese number has them:

12 = 10 + 2
십 이

20 = 2 x 10
이 십
Chinese numbers under 100
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
십 십일 십이 십삼 십사 십오 십육 십칠 십팔 십구
20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
이십 이십일 이십이 이십삼 이십사 이십오 이십육 이십칠 이십팔 이십구
30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
삼십 삼십일 삼십이 삼십삼 삼십사 삼십오 삼십육 삼십칠 삼십팔 삼십구

Tens, hundreds, thousands . . .

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
영 일 이 삼 사 오 육 칠 팔 구
tens 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
십 십 이십 삼십 사십 오십 육십 칠십 팔십 구십
hundreds 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900
백 백 이백 삼백 사백 오백 육백 칠백 팔백 구백
thousands 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000 8,000 9,000
천 천 이천 삼천 사천 오천 육천 칠천 팔천 구천
10 thou. 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 70,000 80,000 90,000
만 만 이만 삼만 사만 오만 육만 칠만 팔만 구만
100 thou. 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000 700,000 800,000 900,000
십만 십만 이십만 삼십만 사십만 오십만 육십만 칠십만 팔십만 구십만
millions 1 mil. 2 mil. 3 mil. 4 mil. 5 mil. 6 mil. 7 mil. 8 mil. 9 mil.
백만 백만 이백만 삼백만 사백만 오백만 육백만 칠백만 팔백만 구백만
10 mil. 10 mil. 20 mil. 30 mil. 40 mil. 50 mil. 60 mil. 70 mil. 80 mil. 90 mil.
천만 천만 이천만 삼천만 사천만 오천만 육천만 칠천만 팔천만 구천만
100 mil. 100 mil. 200 mil. 300 mil. 400 mil. 500 mil. 600 mil. 700 mil. 800 mil. 900 mil.
억 억 이억 삼억 사억 오억 육억 칠억 팔억 구억

Notice that 'one hundred', 'one thousand', etc. are not ' 일 백 ', ' 일 천 ', etc.

Now, let us see how these work.

168: 백 육 십 팔

250: 이 백 오 십

7,892: 칠 천 팔 백 구 십 이

980,768,543: 구억 팔천 칠십 육만 팔천 오백 사십 삼

Some examples in the usage of Chinese numbers.

Money: 만 이 천 원 (12,000 won), 삼 천 오 백 달 러 (3,500 dollar)

Phone number: 238-7834 ( 이 삼 팔 에 칠 팔 삼 사 )

Room/APT Number: Room 305 (삼백오 호)

Korean lessons: Lesson 12

Numbers (II)

Native Korean Numbers

Another set of numbers are of native Korean numbers. They are indigenous in Korean, possibly
stemmed through a different route from that of the Chinese-based set. Although they used to have a
complete system of native numbers that can go up to three digits (or more), they now only use the
numbers up to two digits (99). The formation of numbers is quite similar to that of English numbers in
the sense that you have a set of numbers for single digits (1-10) and another set for tens (10-90).

Numbers and formation

Single digits

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
하나 둘 셋 넷 다섯 여섯 일곱 여덟 아홉 열

Ten, twenty, thirty....

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Native numbers 열 스물 서른 마흔 쉰 예순 일흔 여든 아흔 백

The formation is quite simple:

15 = 10+5 열 다섯

21 = 20+1 스물 하나

87 = 80+7 여든 일곱

Using with counters and measure words

Such formation as "five birds," however, is not directly applicable in Korean. When you speak of a
thing with its amount, the proper formation should be the following:

**Noun + number + counter**

noun + number + counter
새 다 섯 마 리
(bird) (five) (counter for animals)

Thus, an expression like "다섯 새" is not used in Korean. It may remind you of such expressions as
"two bottles of wine" in English. It is necessary in English to specify the measure unit when it comes
to uncountable nouns, such as 'water,' 'coffee,' etc. In Korean, this is applied to all nouns. Does this
mean that they have different counters for all nouns and that you have to memorize all of them?
Probably. Do not panic, though, for there are a certain number of counters that are more frequent
and common than the others, and you could strat by learning them and then move on to the rest.

There is yet another issue of when to use Chinese numbers and when to use native Korean numbers.
This will be discussed in the next lesson.

Slight changes when used before counters

Also, when before counters, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 20, change their shape slightly, for the ease of

numbers changes examples

새 한 마 리
하나 → 한 "a bird"
(마리: counter for animals)
학 생 두 명
둘 → 두 "two students"
(명: counter for people)
사 과 세 개
셋 → 세 "three apples"
(개: counter for countable objects)
책 네 권
넷 → 네 "four volumes of books"
(권: counter for books)
나 이 스 무 살
스물 → 스무 "age of twenty"
(살: counter for age)

Korean lessons: Lesson 13

Locative markers - 에서 and - 에

So far, we have used - 에 as a marker indicating a place. We now have a new location marker: - 에서 .
The meaning of - 에서 is 'in', used after a noun, like a postposition (the opposite concept to English
'preposition'). For example:

나는 은행에서 일해요 . I work at a bank.

Now it becomes quite puzzling how - 에 and - 에서 are different.

(1) Meaning of 'in (or at/on)'

- 에 indicates the place of a state of being (있다, 없다, 계시다, etc.)

- 에서 indicates the place of an action (하다, 일하다, 공부하다, 먹다, etc.)

NB) 살다 is rather peculiar, being used with both - 에 and - 에서 . No apparent semantic difference is
noticed, except that - 에서 with 살다 induces more vivid image of 'life' than simple 'dwelling'.

(2) With directional predicates (가다, 오다, 다니다, etc.)

- 에 means 'to'.

- 에서 means 'from'.

NB) 넣다 (to put) and 앉다 (to sit) also use - 에 because these verbs are recognized to be directional.

김 선생님은 한국에서 오셨어요 . Mr. Kim came from Korea.

We may understand that - 에서 still keeps the meaning of 'in' and that it is the directionality implied by
the predicate that produces the sense of 'from'. In the above example, although Mr. Kim may not be in
Korea at the time that the sentence is spoken, his action of 'coming' must have started in Korea.

The following table summarizes what we have discussed above.

  -에 - 에서

state in ( at )
( 있다 , 없다 , 계시다 ) 집에 있어요
directional to from

( 가다 , 오다 , 다니다 ) 학교에 가요 한국에서 왔어요

action in ( at )
( 먹다 , 보다 , 일하다 , etc.) 은행에서 일해요

x indicates that the respective marker is not used with the predicates.

Korean lessons: Lesson 13: Practice

Locative Markers - Practice

Practice the following. Fill in the blanks with either - 에 or - 에 서 , and translate the
sentences. (Answers are given below.)

1. 어느학교 ______ 공부하세요?

2. 어디 ______ 사세요 ?
3. 여자친구가 도서관______ 있어요. (도서관 : library)

4. 나도 지금 도서관______ 가요. (지금 : now)

5. 친구가 일본______ 와요. (일본 : Japan)

6. 내일 극장______ 영화를봐요 . (내일 : tomorrow)

7. 극장이 어디______ 있어요 ?

8. 오빠는방 ______ 책 읽어요. (방 : room)

9. 선생님이 교실______ 안 계세요. (교실 : class room)

10. 그 책은 이 방______ 없어요 .

11. 우리 고양이는 침대______ 자요. (우리: we/our, 고양이: cat, 침대 :bed)

12. I work at a bank.

13. 영희 goes to the bathroom. (bathroom: 화장실 )

14. 정수 goes to a college this year. (this year: 올해 )

15. I eat dinner at a Korean restaurant. (restaurant: 식당 )

16. 혜선 buys a radio at Best Buy. (radio: 라디오 )



1. 에 서 [In which school do you study?]

---- "To study" is an action.

2. 에 or 에 서 [Where do you live?]

---- "To live" can be understood either as action or as state. This is an unusual case
due to the two different, but subtle, modes of "living." Combined with 에서, it sounds to
be asking the place where the action of living--eat, sleep, go to work, pay bills, etc.--
takes place, whereas with 에, simply asking the place of residence.

3. 에 [My girl friend is at the library.]

---- "Being" is a state.

4. 에 [I am going to the library now.]

---- "To go" is directional.

5. 에 서 [A friend is coming from Japan.]

---- 에서 gives the origin of "coming".
6. 에 서 [I am watching a movie at a theater tomorrow.]
---- "Watching a movie", though it may not be very 'active', is an action.

7. 에 [Where is the theater?]

---- Again, "being" is a state.

8. 에 서 [My older brother is reading a book in the room.]

---- "Reading" is an action.

9. 에 [The teacher is not in the class room.]

---- " 계시다", same as " 있다 ", is a state.

10. 에 [The book is not in this room.]

---- " 없다 (not existing)" is also a state.

11. 에 서 [Our cat sleeps in the bed.]

---- "To sleep" may not be an active thing to do, but counts as an action.

12. 나는 은행에서 일해요 .

13. 영희가 화장실에 가요 .

14. 정수가 올해 대학에 가요 .

15. 나는 한국 식당에서 저녁을먹어요 .

16. 혜선이가 베스트바이에서 라디오를사요 .