Alphabet Edit

Welcome to the Korean for English speakers course!

Hangeul Edit

The Korean script, Hangeul, may seem intimidating, but don't worry; it's actually a lot like the alphabet we use in English, a small set of characters representing the sounds of the language. Of course, it's not perfect, but in general it matches spoken Korean better than English does.

Syllable Blocks Edit

Unlike English, written Korean is organized into syllable blocks. Each block represents a single syllable and consists of two to four letters. The Korean word for ‘hello,’ 안녕하세요, is composed of 12 letters organized into five syllable blocks. Annyeonghaseyo!

Both letters and syllable blocks are written from left to right and from top to bottom.

Basic Vowels Edit

We begin with the six basic vowels of Korean: ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, and ㅣ. Their names are 아, 어, 오, 우, 으, and 이, respectively, where the letter ㅇ, or ieung, remains silent, acting as a place holder. In the same way, you may just add an ㅇ to get the name of any other vowel. Note that ‘ㅏ,’ ‘ㅓ,’ and ‘ㅣ’ are written to the side of the initial consonant while ‘ㅗ,’ ‘ㅜ,’ and ‘ㅡ’ are written beneath the initial consonant.

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
a /a/ Bach
eo /ʌ/ gut
i /i/ bee
u /u/ boo
o /o/ go
eu /ɯ/ ugh

‘어’ is a short ‘o’ sound, difficult for many American English speakers, similar to the ‘u’ ‘cup’ or to the o in yogurt for British speakers.

‘으’ is also difficult, being rare in English, although it is a short ‘u’ something close to the uh in uh-oh.

Iotized Vowels Edit

By adding an additional dash we get a y-sound.

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
ya /ja/
yeo /jʌ/
yu /ju/
yo /jo/

Diphthongs Edit

Korean has two way of forming diphthongs. The first is to add an ㅣ to the base vowel.

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
ae /ɛ/ bed
e /e/ bed
ui /ɰi/ we
yae /jɛ/
ye /je/

Due to recent sound changes, 애(얘) and 에(예) are pronounced the same in most Korean dialects.

의 is usually pronounced something like "we" on its own.

The second set of diphthongs is formed by adding an ㅗ or an ㅜ.

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
wa /wa/
wae /wɛ/
oe /ø/ or /we/
wo /wʌ/
we /we/
wi /wi/

Due to sound changes, 왜, 외, and 웨 sound the same in most modern Korean dialects.

NOTE: You will sometimes be asked to translate a word or two here. Hover over the words and you will see their translations.

Alphabet 2 Edit

Basic Consonants Edit

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/ (no sound at start of syllable)
g /g/ or /k/
b /b/ or /p/
d /d/ or /t/
l/r /ɾ/or /l/
j /ʨ/ jam
s /s/ or /ɕ/

ㄱ, ㅂ, and ㄷ represent both voiced and unvoiced sounds (g/k, b/p, and d/t), depending on the surrounding sounds. With these sounds, there should be no air coming from your mouth.

ㄹ is like Spanish r, where the tip of the tongue strikes the palate very briefly. When it is a final consonant introduced below, it is pronounced like an l.

ㅅ in most situations sounds like an s, but before ㅣ or "iotized" vowels it sounds more like "sh".

Aspirants Edit

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
k /kʰ/
p /pʰ/
t /tʰ/
ch /tɕʰ/
h /h/

Aspirants are consonants followed by a puff of air. Hold a small sheet of paper in front of your mouth. Notice that the paper moves when you pronounce the English words ‘pen’ and touch’ due to the aspiration.

Tense Consonants Edit

한글 Romanization Pronunciation
kk /k͈/
pp /p͈/
tt /t͈/
jj /t͈ɕ/
ss /s͈/

Tense consonants are pronounced with extra emphasis. Sometimes regular ㄱ, ㅂ, ㅈ, ㅅ, and ㄷ sound become tense in the middle of words, especially for younger speakers.

Final Consonants Edit

Korean only have a few possible sounds at the end of a syllable, so many consonants' pronunciations change.

Final Sound Letters
ㄱ ㅋ ㄲ
ㄷ ㅌ ㅅ ㅆ ㅈ ㅊ ㅎ
ㅂ ㅍ

When two consonants appear in the final position, only one of them is pronounced:

Final Sound Letter Pairs
ㄳ ㄺ
ㄵ ㄶ
ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㅀ
ㄿ ㅄ

When followed by a vowel, final consonants (except ㅇ and ㅎ) move to the start of the next syllable. Consonants revert back to their original pronunciations and pairs are split, allowing both to be pronounced. ㅇ does not move, and ㅎ disappears before a vowel. Tense consonants (ㄲ, ㅆ) are not pairs.

Written Pronunciation
독일 도길
웃음 우슴
영어 영어
관용어 과뇽어
놓이다 노이다
닭이 달기
많이 마니
엮음 여끔

Assimilation Edit

Many consonants change their pronunciations when a consonant at the end of one syllable influences or is influenced by the consonant at the start of the next.

Situation Pronunciation Example
ㄱ ㅋ ㄲ+nasal ㅇ+nasal 국물 [궁물]
ㄱ ㅋ ㄲ+ㄹ ㅇ+ㄴ 낙뢰 [낭뇌]
ㄷ ㅌ ㅅ ㅆ ㅈ ㅊ ㅎ+nasal ㄴ+nasal 꽃말 [꼰말]
ㅂ ㅍ+nasal ㅁ+nasal 입니다 [임니다], 없는 [엄는]
ㅂ+ㄹ ㅁ+ㄴ 법률 [범뉼]
ㄹ+ㄴ ㄹ+ㄹ 실내 [실래]
ㄴ+ㄹ ㄹ+ㄹ 신라 [실라], 물난리[물랄리]
nasal (except ㄴ)+ㄹ nasal+ㄴ 성립 [성닙]

Nasal sounds: ㄴ, ㅁ, final ㅇ

Alphabet 3: Loan Words Edit

Loan Words Edit

Before we wade into Korean grammar and vocabulary, let's get some more alphabet practice with some words you should already know.

Anglicization vs Korean Edit

We introduce two of the most famous Korean companies, Samsung and Hyundai. Don't be surprised that some companies and given names don't fit the romanization we're using.

Korean has had several standard systems of romanization over the years, with Revised Romanization currently the official system in use by South Korea and in this course. It came about in the 90s, so proper nouns and words that had previously entered English often make use of one of the older systems.

This gives us Samsung and Hyundai rather than "samseong" and "hyeondae".

Transliteration Edit

Transliteration into Korean is based on Korean approximation of English pronunciation.

Sometimes sentence final 'r' is dropped, subsumed into the vowel, like in British pronunciation.

Sometimes single syllables become split since Korean doesn't really do consonant clusters, so 3 syllable United becomes 5 syllable 유나이티드.

Of course, non-English words may be transliterated based on native language pronunciation, as in 파리 for Paris.

Basics 1 Edit

To Be Edit

In this lesson we're going to learn how to make some sentences using the verb ~이다, corresponding to the English verb to be. Let's get started!

Nouns Edit

Korean nouns do not decline for number, case, or gender. The noun is the noun. Period. Simpler than English.

However, Korean is an agglutinating or agglutinativelanguage. Rather than changing the base noun depending on its use in a sentences, extra pieces called particles are added to introduce more meaning. In general these pieces are added to the end of the word.

While that may seem scary, agglutinating languages usually have very clear rules so that people don't get confused when a basic word becomes buried inside a larger piece. The same is true for Korean. This means that you don't have to worry about memorizing exceptions to the rules, like we do in English!

The and A(n) Edit

Korean does not have articles, and only context tells you whether you would need a "the" if said in English. The article "a(n)" is not used.

And Edit

One common piece is and. Unlike in English where there is one word for "and" that can function in all situations, Korean has several. We introduce two here; both of which are used with nouns.

Korean Example Usage
~하고 남자하고 Common in speaking
~와 남자와 Common in writing, after a vowel
~과 소년과 Common in writing, after a consonant

Topic and SubjectEdit

The most common, and trickiest, particles represent the topic and the subject of a sentences. These two particles represent two different, but overlapping, ideas.

  • The subject marker shows who is doing the action.
Korean Example Usage
~이 소년이 After a consonant
~가 남자가 After a vowel
  • The topic marker shows what the speaker is talking about.
Korean Example Usage
~은 소년은 After a consonant
~는 남자는 After a vowel

Note: 는 is often contracted to ㄴ in spoken language. (남자는 → 남잔)

The topic marker adds emphasis, contrast, or limits what is being talked about. 저 (meaning "I") becomes 제 before the subject particle 가.

Usage Example Explanation
Limited topic 저는 여자입니다. (I am a woman.) Irrelevant of anyone else, I am a woman. (May imply that someone else might be as well.)
Contrasting topic 저는 여자입니다. (I am a woman.) Unlike the others, I am a woman.
Subject 제가 여자입니다. (I am a woman.) I am a woman. (May imply that out of the given options, I am the one who is a woman.)

은/는 can be used with general statements as well because you only want to talk about the notion as a group, and nothing else.

Usage Example Explanation
General topic 빵은 음식입니다. (Bread is food.) Bread, for one, is food.
General subject 빵이 음식입니다. (Bread is food.) Out of the given choices, it is bread that is food.

A sentence may have several topics. Why a topic is not considered as a special case of a subject will be explained later.

Copula Edit

The verb ~이다 is the only verb that is agglutinative.

English Korean
(It) is X. X입니다.*
Y is X. Y가/는 X입니다.

In the speech level (more about that later) we're using at this point in the course, this verb will always be realized as ~입니다 for a statement.

To Not Be Edit

Korean has a separate verb, 아니다, which means "not to be." This verb is not agglutinative, and it comes after the thing that the subject is not, or a complement. The complement particle is also 이/가. At this point, this will always be realized as 아닙니다.

English Korean
(It) is not X. X가 아닙니다.*
Y is not X. Y가/는 X가 아닙니다.


There is a plural suffix, 들, but using 들 is often optional. It can be omitted if plurality is implied within the sentence, and is otherwise necessary for animate nouns/people but uncommon with inanimate nouns.

들 is not used when making a general statement.

Korean English Usage
남자는 사람입니다. Men are people. General statement
남자들은 사람입니다. The men are people. Referring to actual, specific men


As an exception, 의 as a particle (meaning of) can also be pronounced 에.

*Where is the subject? Edit

When the subject (or any other sentence component) is well implied in the context, you may freely drop it in Korean, though you will mostly see and be asked to submit full sentences here since translation exercises do not come with any context. If you come across an incomplete sentence in this course, then the dropped component is probably people in general (often translated to one or you), or something very obvious even without context.

Basics 2 Edit

Existence Edit

Korean has a set of basic verbs that indicate existence. Two of the most common verbs, they form a class of their own and are used in many compound verbs and phrases.

있다 and 없다 Edit

The two verbs are 있다 and 없다.

Korean English
있다 there is/to exist/to be located
없다 there is not/to not exist/to not be located

In our current speech level, these verbs become 있습니다 and 없습니다.

Korean English
빵이 있습니다. There is bread.
빵이 없습니다. There is no bread.
제가 공원에 있습니다 I am in the park
제가 공원에 없습니다 I am not in the park

When used with place, the place is always marked with 에.

To Have Edit

있다 and 없다 are the most common verbs used to translate "to have" and "not to have" into Korean, respectively. There are other verbs that mean "to possess," "to own," or "to hold," but those are usually more formal and less frequently used. Instead, most Koreans use 있다 and 없다.

The basic sentence is similar to the ones above, with the item marked with 이/가, the owner marked with 은/는, and the location marked with 에.

Korean English
저는 차가 있습니다. I have a car.
저는 차가 없습니다. I do not have a car.
저는 집에 신문이 있습니다. I have a newspaper at home.
저는 집에 신문이 없습니다. I do not have a newspaper at home.

Grammatically the word order does not matter as long as proper markers are used and the verb is at the end. However, the order shown in the examples above is the most common, and what is emphasized tends to come later in the sentence when you change the order.

있다 Adjectives Edit

있다 and 없다 can be used to create a wide range of compound adjectives in Korean. This is similar to adjectives ending in -ful or -less in English.

These compound adjectives can be broken down into their respective parts and still function the same way.

Korean English Split
맛있다 delicious, tasty (flavorful) 맛이 있다
맛없다 not delicious, disgusting (flavorless) 맛이 없다

Common Phrases Edit

Phrases Edit

Here we will introduce some of the most basic pleasantries you will use while speaking the Korean language. We'll introduce more later in the course as we delve further into Korean grammar.

Speech Level Edit

Korean has 7 speech levels.

Don't let it scare you away!

Now that that fact has sunk in a little, let me alleviate your fears. Only 4 of the levels are common in daily speech today. You only hear some of the others among the older generation or in historical movies/dramas.

Unlike in some languages where different speech levels use different words, Korean speech levels mainly just affect the endings of the verbs and the pronouns that go along with them.

We'll introduce each level in due time. For now we're using 합쇼체, one of the most common levels. This is what you'd use talking to a stranger, when doing public speaking, among coworkers, to a teacher, and to customers/clients. In some dialects, including some popular in North Korea, this form is even common in more casual conversation, especially among men.

Throughout these Tips&Notes, we usually talk about verbs in the infinitive, which always ends with ~다. Everything that comes before ~다 is the verb stem.

More on this form in Verbs 1.

Chinese Loanwords Edit

Korean, like most languages in East Asia, has a lot of loanwords from Chinese.

Chinese loanwords, Sino-Korean, are very pervasive. They make up about half of the Korean vocabulary. However, similar to the overwhelming amount of Latin/French based vocabulary in English, many of these words are uniquely Korean, either because of a change in meaning or because two Chinese roots were put together to make a new Korean word.

Unlike in Japanese, where one Chinese character (한자) may have multiple pronunciations, in Korean it is more standardized. Each 한자 usually has one pronunciation and the conversions between Chinese and Korean follow a logical system. If you speak some Chinese, you may soon be able to guess the meanings of some Korean words.

안녕 for example, comes from ānníng, with 안녕하세요 meaning "be safe!" 안 has kept the Chinese pronunciation while 녕 has slightly changed. Most borrowings that include pinyin -ing have become .

It should be noted that most of these words were initially borrowed hundreds of years ago, so they don't match Mandarin pronunciation 100%. Sometimes the Korean is closer to Cantonese or Shanghainese.

Phrases Edit

Most pleasantries (hello, thank you, excuse me, etc) in Korean are a single word. You don't need to form a whole sentence when the listener knows what you mean, and so often just the verb is used

Thank You Edit

A few words on thank you. We have two versions here in Phrases 1, 고맙다 and 감사하다.

In most cases, the two are interchangeable. When there is a difference, 감사하다, a Sino-Korean word, has a more formal connotation and is used more in public speaking (with notable exceptions including the news) while 고맙다, a native Korean word, is less formal. In the speech level we're using now that's not an issue, but when you drop to a lower level 고맙다 often takes precedence.

Also 감사하다 literally means "to thank," while 고맙다 is "to be thankful," so that can also lead to some differences in usage.

Sorry and Excuse Me Edit

죄송하다 is a more formal form of apology. We'll introduce the other form later on in the course when we get to the next speech level.

실례하다 is the word you'd use if you're trying to get past someone on a crowded subway or if you bump into someone. 실례합니다 literally means "I am being rude," so in other situations there are other alternatives that we will be teaching later on.

Nice to Meet You Edit

Nice to meet you, 만나서 반갑습니다, is a set phrase that literally means "Glad to have met."

Regular Verbs Edit

Verbs Edit

It's time to learn how to make sentences using more than just "to be." We'll start off in Lesson 1 with simpler sentences and then build up to more complicated sentences.

Declarative Edit

In 합쇼체, all verbs end with -ㅂ니다/-습니다 in the declarative mood. (As you might have already noticed, you can get the stem by dropping -다, or -다 is the ending for the base form of any verb.)

Infinitive Verb 합쇼체 Explanation
가다 갑니다 Verb stem ending in a vowel + -ㅂ니다
웃다 웃습니다 Verb stem ending in a consonant + -습니다

Word Order Edit

English word order is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), while Korean is Subject-Object-Verb (SOV). SOV word order can be difficult for an English speaker at first, but eventually you get used to it.

Because of the particles that are added onto the nouns, it is sometimes possible to rearrange those parts of a sentence and still be grammatically correct, although the emphasis of the meaning may be slightly changed. The verb, however, is always at the end.

Topic Edit

If the subject is the topic (like in Basic 1), the subject disappears. Otherwise, 이/가 may still be present along with 은/는 in the same sentence. 은/는 is translated to "regarding."

Sentence Translation
저는 (topic and subject) 여자입니다. Regarding me, I am a woman. The subject and topic coincide. See Basic 1.
저는 (topic) 차가(subject) 있습니다. Regarding me/To me, a car exists. (I have a car.) See Basic 2.
저는 여자가좋습니다. To me, women are likeable. (I like women.)
저는 사과가많습니다. To me, there are many apples. (I have many apples.)
남자는 키가큽니다. To the man, the height is big. (The man is tall)

And vs With Edit

In Basic 1, we learned that 와/과 and 하고 mean "and," but they have another usage, "with."

소년하고 소녀가 같이 갑니다.

The boy and the girl go together.

소년이 소녀하고 (같이) 갑니다.

The boy goes with the girl.

While 같이 means "together," it often comes after 와/과 or 하고 when it is used as "with."

Korean Usage
같이 Slightly more colloquial
함께 Slightly more written

To and From Edit

In Lesson 2 we introduce some verbs of motion along with the particles that go with them.

Korean English
~에 to (implies destination)
~에서 from
~으로 (after a consonant except ㄹ) to/toward (implies direction)
~로 (after a vowel or ㄹ)
~까지 up to (implies some sort of boundary/limit)

In general the word order with these sentences is Subject-From-To-Verb.

Direct Objects Edit

The object of the verb is marked with ~을/를.

Korean Example Usage
~을 소년을 After a consonant
~를 남자를 After a vowel

Note: 를 is often contracted to ㄹ in spoken language. (남자를 → 남잘)

Instrumental Edit

In addition to toward, ~으로/로 can also mark instrumental. When used after a place and with a verb of motion, it is "toward," but in other cases it is often translated as "with."

Korean Example Usage
~으로 손으로 (by hand) After a consonant except ㄹ
~로 영어로 (in English) After a vowel or ㄹ

At Edit

Similar to ~으로, ~에/에서 can have another meaning when not used with a verb of motion.

Both ~에/에서 in this case mean in or at.

Particle Usage
~에서 where an action takes place
~에 where something static is happening

If you are interested, you can read Ash-Fred's comment here for further explanation:


Speaking a Language Edit

When talking about speaking a language, there are two options, ~를 하다 and ~로 말하다.

Korean English
한국어를 하다 To speak Korean
한국어로 말하다 To speak in Korean

Compound Verbs Edit

A lot of verbs can be broken up into two pieces. For example, 노래 means a song, and 하다 means to do, and they form a new word "노래하다", "to sing." You can, of course, say 노래를 하다 (lit. to do a song). There are some special verbs that repeat the same things.

Verb (broken into) English
잠자다 잠을 자다 to sleep (a sleep)
춤추다 춤을 추다 to dance (a dance)
꿈꾸다 꿈을 꾸다 to dream (a dream)

자다 can stand alone without 잠, but 추다 or 꾸다 always needs an object.

Negative Edit

Korean has two ways to negate a verb.

Korean Explanation
An adverb that comes before the verb; compound verbs are usually broken, like 잠을 안 자다
-지 않다 Another verb that comes after the main verb with -지 attached to it

They are almost the same, but do not use 안 before 있다 or 없다. In other cases, you can safely ignore the differences at this level and use either at any time.

Indirect Object Edit

These particles are used as to/from in the sense of giving things to or getting things from someone.

Korean English
~에게 to
~에게서 from

Descriptive Verbs Edit

Adjectives Edit

Verbs are more dominant in Korean than they are in English. In fact, for the most part adjectives don't really exist in Korean. Instead, Korean has descriptive verbs. In the most common speech levels, including the one that we're using now, these verbs act exactly the same as all other verbs.

Korean English
갑니다 goes
나쁩니다 is bad
먹습니다 eats
좋습니다 is good

As you can see, unlike in English, where we have to add other words in order to form a full thought using an adjective, Korean descriptive verbs are already fully loaded with "is."

Adjectives Edit

But what about using adjectives without "to be?" Using the verbal roots, there is a way to transform all Korean verbs into modifiers, which we'll introduce in the Modifiers unit. Action verbs and description verbs can all undergo this process, but they do so in slightly different ways.

Height Edit

There is not really a direct translation of "tall" or "short" into Korean. However, there is an easy work around.

높다 means high and 낮다 means low. When talking about buildings, trees, mountains, and so on, it is possible to say that something is high/low rather than tall/short.

When talking about people, you reference their height directly along with big/small. This is usually done by referencing the person in question as the topic, following by 키 as the subject and then the descriptive verb, for something like this:

저는 키가 작습니다.- I am short. (Literally something like: "As for me, the height is small.")

When the meaning is understood, it is sometimes possible to drop the 키 and just say 저는 작습니다. 

Hot and Cold Edit

English has one word for hot and one for cold. Korean, on the other hand, makes a distinction between several different words.


Korean Explanation
뜨겁다 a hot thing, usually foods and drinks, but might also be anything hot to the touch
덥다 something that makes you feel hot, like a summer day, a sauna, or a fever


Korean Explanation
차갑다 a cold thing, usually foods and drinks, but might also be anything cold to the touch
춥다 something that makes you feel cold, like a winter day or a freezer

비열하다 Edit

This word means to be vulgar and ignoble. For simplicity's sake, we will translate it as to be mean here, but keep in mind that it is only used in limited circumstances; you don't usually say it in a playful way.

Demonstratives Edit

In this lesson we're going to focus on Korean demonstratives, those words we use to specify whether we're talking about this one or that one.

Three Way Split Edit

Korean has a three way split in demonstratives while English only have two, which can be confusing at first, but is easy once you get the hang of it.

Korean English
this, close to the speaker
that, close to the listener
that (over there), far from both speaker and listener

저 roughly corresponds to yonder.

This and That Edit

이, 그, and 저 are the basic demonstratives, used just like this and that in English.

Korean English
이 개 this dog
그 개 that dog (close to the listener)
저 개 that dog (over there)


Since Korean has no corresponding word for the, it is sometimes (actually very often) impossible to tell whether it is an apple or the apple that they are talking about, from the context. Then chances are it is an apple, as it is normal to use 그 in lieu of the in such cases.

Korean English
bread/the bread
그 빵 that bread (close to the listener)/the bread
저 빵 that bread (over there)

이, 그, and 저 are used in compound words to express other ideas. When combined with 것, this compound is a noun that corresponds to "this/that one" in English. It combines with particles just like any other noun.

Korean English
이것 this one
그것 that one
저것 that one (over there)

Here and There Edit

For here/there, there is a slight change in the stems, but the basic meaning stays the same.

Korean English
여기 here
거기 there (somewhere close to the listener)
저기 over there

Note 여기, 거기, and 저기 are nouns. Most of the time, you need an adverbial particle 에 after them, but it is usually omitted. When they are used as nouns, they can be translated to this place, that place, and that place (over there), respectively.

쪽 and 편 Edit

쪽 and 편 indicate "way," "side," or "direction."

Korean English
이쪽/이편 here/this way/this side/this direction
그쪽/그편 there/that way/that side/that direction
저쪽/저편 there/that way/that side/that direction

쪽 can be used both literally, as in which side of the street something is on, and figuratively, as in which side of a debate.

Note 이/그/저+쪽/편 is also a noun.

만큼 Edit

만큼 is a particle that means as much as

Korean English
이만큼 as much as this
그만큼 as much as that
저만큼 as much as that (over there)

Note 그것, 거기, 그쪽/그편, and 그만큼 can also mean the thing, the place, the way, and "as much as the thing," respectively, like the demonstrative 그.

There are a few more possible combinations that we'll introduce a little later.

Formal Moods Edit

Moods in Korean include declarative, which we have already been using, imperative, propositive, and interrogative. While English often forms these using extra words, Korean packs this information into the endings of the verbs.

Imperative Edit

The imperative mood is used to give orders. In 합쇼체, this is formed by taking the verb stem and adding -(으)십시오. There is no word corresponding to please in Korean. Both answers with or without please will be accepted, and you may ignore please in reverse translations.

Stem Ending Example
Ending in a vowel -십시오 가다 → 가십시오
Ending in ㄹ, with ㄹ deleted -십시오 만들다 → 만드십시오
Ending in a consonant bar ㄹ -으십시오 앉다 → 앉으십시오
(negative) -지 마십시오 가다 → 가지 마십시오

The negative imperative mood is formed by adding -지 말다to the verb stem before conjugation, giving us 가지 마십시오, 만들지 마십시오, and 앉지 마십시오, here in 합쇼체.

Propositive Edit

The propositive mood is used to make suggestions, similar to "Let's…" in English. In 하오체, this mood is formed by adding -(으)ㅂ시다 to the verb stem.

Stem Ending Example Ending in a vowel
-ㅂ시다 가다 → 갑시다
Ending in ㄹ, with ㄹ deleted -ㅂ시다 만들다 → 만듭시다
Ending in a consonant bar ㄹ -읍시다 앉다 → 앉읍시다
(negative) -지 맙시다 가다 → 가지 맙시다

The negative propositive mood is similar to the negative imperative.

Interrogative Edit

The Interrogative mood is used to ask questions. In 합쇼체, this mood is formed by adding -(스)ㅂ니까 to the verb stem.

Stem Ending Example
Ending in a vowel -ㅂ니까 가다 → 갑니까
Ending in ㄹ, with ㄹ deleted -ㅂ니까 만들다 → 만듭니까
Ending in a consonant -습니까 앉다 → 앉습니까
(negative) -지 않습니까 가다 → 가지 않습니까

The negative interrogative mood is not formed with -지 말다, but with -지 않다 like the negative declarative mood.


While 않다 is simply the negation of a verb, 말다 means the speaker does not allow the listener(s) to do something. You may consider the propositive mood as the first person plural imperative mood here.

Questions Words Edit

Unlike in English, word order does not have to change when asking a question. Question words can simply go into the sentence where the word they replace would have been. Just like declarative (or any other) sentences, it is possible to move the question words for emphasis.

Korean English Note
언제 when
어디 where Unlike English, 어디 is not an adverb itself, but a pronoun. Thus it is often used with 에 or 에서.
누구 who 누구 and 가 (subject particle) are usually contracted to 누가in spoken language.
무엇 what (pronoun) 무엇 is often contracted to 뭐in spoken language. As 를 is also often contracted to ㄹ, you may say 뭘 for 무엇을.
무슨 what (determiner) As in "what animal" or "what country"; 무슨 is sometimes contracted to 뭔 in spoken language.
어떤 what kind of 어떤 replaces an adjective.
어느 which
어떻게 how Formed from 어떻다 meaning to be how

See Ash-Fred's comment here:


Forms of Address Edit

Korean has a complicated system for forms of address. You should not call a stranger, superior, or an elder only by their name. 당신 is commonly used in translations, but is not common in spoken Korean. People will usually use the title or status of the person as a form of address, followed by -님(without a space). For example, in a store, customers are often referred to as 손님 (customer/guest + -님). When the person is much older than you, you could also say 선생님 (lit. teacher; not just in a store but at any time). When speaking to someone politely in a situation where their name must be used, such as in a store or airport calling someone by name over a loudspeaker, it is common to add 님 after their name (with a space).

In short, you can't really translate you into Korean; you could be mom, teacher, driver, pastor, or anything. Furthermore, some nouns, such as singer (가수), sound weird when followed by -님. As you may or may not imagine, there are really some times when we Koreans avoid talking just because we don't know how to address someone. Anyway, since it is practically impossible for us to add every single title or status as an accepted answer for you, only title-neutral pronouns such as 당신, 선생님, 너 (introduced later), etc. will be accepted in English-to-Korean exercises. (You will eventually have to get used to how to call someone outside Duolingo or any online materials.) In Korean-to-English exercises, if a title is used in lieu of the second person pronoun, translate it as you.

Roots Edit

Korean English Character
-히 -ly
요리 food/dish/cuisine 料理

Polite Speech Edit

In this lesson we will introduce another speech level in Korean, 해요체.

해요체 Edit

해요체, which we'll translate as polite speech, is our second speech level. It's potentially the easiest. Many Korean textbooks focus on 해요체 for good reason. You can use this form in a wide variety of situations. It is less formal than 합쇼체, but still polite, so you can use it with strangers, especially those your age or younger. It is also used in conversations between classmates and coworkers, and sometimes between friends. Many travel phrasebooks use 해요체, so feel no fear using this level with taxi drivers, waiters, and tour guides.

Regular Verbs Edit

With regular verbs, start with the stem and add -아요 or -어요, and that's it!

Ending Final Vowels
-아요 ㅏ ㅑ ㅗ ㅘ ㅛ
-어요 (the rest)

Simply add the ending that matches the final vowel in the stem. Note that ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅗ, ㅘ, and ㅛ end in ㅏ or ㅗ pronunciation-wise. The other vowels (vowels that do not end in ㅏ or ㅗ) match with -어요. (No verb stem has ㅛ as its final vowel in contemporary Korean.) When the verb stem ends in a vowel, a further contraction may be needed. Final ㅏ or ㅓ does not repeat itself, and final ㅡ is dropped. When ㅡ is dropped, the second vowel from the right becomes the new final vowel and then -ㅏ요 or -ㅓ요 comes accordingly. (If the stem consists of only one syllable, -ㅓ요 is used.) Final ㅣ + -어요, final ㅗ + -아요, and final ㅜ + -어요 can be contracted to ㅕ요, ㅘ요, and ㅝ요, respectively. (오다 is always contracted to 와요.)

Verb Stem 해요체
먹다 to eat 먹- 먹어요
막다 to block 막- 막아요
가다 to go 가- 가요
잠그다 to lock 잠그- 잠가요
크다 to be big 크- 커요
내리다 to get off 내리- 내리어요/내려요
보다 to see 보- 보아요/봐요
오다 to come 오- 와요
주다 to give 주- 주어요/줘요

Irregular Verbs Edit

There are a fair number of irregular verbs in this speech level, but they are each fairly regular.

ㅂ-Irregular Verbs

When a verb stem ends with ㅂ, the ㅂ disappears and is replaced with 우. Apart from regular verbs, there are only two exceptions where ㅂ is replaced with 오, one of which is 돕다 to help. 우-/오- + -어요/-아요 is always contracted here.

Verb Stem 1 Stem 2 해요체
어둡다 to be dark 어둡- 어두우- 어두워요
돕다 to help 돕- 도오- 도와요
잡다 to hold 잡- (regular) 잡아요

ㄷ-Irregular Verbs

Only found among action verbs. When a stem ends in ㄷ, the ㄷ is replaced with ㄹ. Apart from regular verbs, there are no exceptions.

Verb Stem 1 Stem 2 해요체
듣다 to hear 듣- 들- 들어요
받다 to receive 받- (regular) 받아요

ㅅ-Irregular Verbs

When a stem ends in ㅅ, the ㅅ is replaced with 으. Remember that when ㅡ is dropped, the second vowel from the right becomes the new final vowel. Apart from regular verbs, there are no exceptions. No further contraction can be done.

Verb Stem 1 Stem 2 해요체
짓다 to build 짓- 지으- 지어요 (Not 져요)
낫다 to get well 낫- 나으- 나아요 (Not 나요)
웃다 to laugh 웃- (regular) 웃어요

ㅎ-Irregular Verbs

Only found among descriptive verbs. 좋다 is the only regular descriptive verb whose stem ends in ㅎ. The ㅎ disappears, and final ㅏ/ㅓ + -아요/-어요 becomes ㅐ요 for all verbs found in this course. Exceptions are rare.

Verb Stem 1 Stem 2 해요체
이렇다 to be like this 이렇- 이러- 이래요
좋다 to be good 좋- (regular) 좋아요

르-Irregular Verbs

When a stem ends with 르, the 르 is replaced with ㄹㄹ and the first ㄹ is attached to the end of the previous syllable. Apart from regular verbs, there are no exceptions.

Verb Stem 1 Stem 2 해요체
다르다 to be different 다르- 달ㄹ- 달라요
따르다 to follow 따르- (regular) 따라요

여-Irregular Verbs

All verbs that end in 하다 are 여-irregular verbs. -아요 becomes -여요 which gives 하여요. 하여요 is usually contracted to 해요.

Verb Stem 해요체
하다 to do 하- 하여요/해요


~이다 to be is ~이에요 in 해요체. ~이에요 can be contracted further to ~예요 if it comes right after a vowel.

Example Translation
is bread 빵이에요
is an apple 사과예요

You can technically use ~이에요 after a vowel, but no one does.

잠그다 Edit

잠그다 means to lock, but in Korean it is only used with an object that is directly locked. You cannot lock a room but a door of the room. The door can be locked, but you cannot be locked.

낫다 Edit

In English, you recover from a disease. In Soviet Korea, a disease recovers from you; the disease is the subject, and the patient is usually the topic. You can drop the subject if you don't have to specify what the disease is.

Examples Translation
저는 병이 나아요. I recover from the disease.
저는 나아요. I get well.

Transliteration Edit


Roots Edit

Korean English Character

Food Edit

Food Edit

Time to learn a little bit about the very important topic of Food!

Meals Edit

In Korean the names of meals mirror the times of day. 아침 식사 is literally the "morning meal." However, in everyday speech people drop the 식사.

A Korean Meal Edit

In Korea, meals are usually served family style in the middle of the table. Also in the center are smaller dishes of 반찬, side dishes. Kimchi is the most famous 반찬, and comes in dozens of varieties. But, side dishes can also include things like potato salad, Korean pancakes, and steamed egg.


Rice, , is a staple in Korean cuisine. In fact, it isn't uncommon to say 밥을 먹어요 to mean simply "to eat" rather than "to eat rice." Rice has been so important that Korean has multiple words for rice where English has only one. 밥 means specifically cooked rice.


Most of the fruits and vegetables popular in Korea are popular around the world. One specialty in Korea that we couldn't fail to mention here is , which can be satsuma, tangerine, or mandarin, depending on the translation. In any case, they are small, juicy oranges. In Korea you can find 귤 on many menus, as juice, as candy, in chocolate, or just fresh as dessert.

Meats/Fish Edit

Unlike in English, Korean terms for meat are pretty simple. Simply take the animal name and add 고기, and you're done.

Fish is very popular in Korea, and Koreans can be very specific about what fish they are eating. In general, 물고기 is used to talk about fish as an animal and 생선 is the fish you'd find in the grocery store.

Eggs Edit

Koreans love eggs. Not just chicken eggs, but also quail eggs and fish eggs are popular in Korean dishes. Here we've taught two words, 달걀 and 계란. Both refer specifically to chicken eggs, being combinations of chicken and egg. 계란 is originally from Chinese, and there has been a push in some circles to prioritize native Korean 달걀.

Korean Foods Edit

We know that Korean food has become more internationally well known in recent years, so you'll want to know all you need to get by at your favorite Korean restaurant. This lesson serves only as the first step, so we have just introduced a few of the most common basics.

  • 라면: ramen. You can easily find instant 라면 in any grocery store, but even better is to go to a restaurant where the chef expertly creates a delicious bowl full of noodles, meats, and vegetables with a savory broth.
  • 치킨: chicken? Actually this is fried chicken, which Korea has made its own. Fried chicken in Korea is a treat to be experienced. Usually in a sauce, most commonly garlic, soy sauce, and a type of spicy bbq.
  • 치맥: chicken and beer. A common pairing. You won't find this word in the dictionary because it is just a colloquial portmanteau of 치킨 and 맥주.
  • 불고기: bulgogi, thinly sliced beef, seasoned, and often cooked at the table.
  • 김치: kimchi, preserved vegetables. Most people think of spicy fermented cabbage, but that's just one type of kimchi. Some kimchi is cabbage, but there are also radish, scallion, and cucumber kimchis. Some are spicy, but some are salty or vinegary.
  • : laver, dried seaweed sheets. In Korea you can get a small packet of 김 to eat on its own or with white rice.
  • 김밥: kimbap/gimbap, white rice and fillings rolled up inside sheets of 김. Unlike sushi, 김밥 is usually cooked and rarely includes fish, aside from canned tuna. Common ingredients include egg, daikon, carrot, cucumber, crab stick, and ham. Some more inventive 김밥 includes bulgogi, tuna salad, and spicy chicken.
  • Note Since the Korean alphabet does not match one for one with the English alphabet, it is difficult to spell some Korean foods. When multiple spellings exist, we will accept all common spellings.


The particle  means only. The topic, subject, and object particles come after it.

Hungry/Thirsty Edit

In Korea, you do not say that you are hungry or thirsty, but 저는 배가 고파요 or 저는 목이 말라요. Literally, this means "My stomach is hungry" and "My throat is dry."

과자 Edit

There is no exact translation for this word in English. Snacks are not necessarily 과자, and crackers are only a kind of 과자. So here's the definition.

Crackers will be the primary translation in this course.

English Transliteration Edit

As Korean generally does not have consonant clusters, English words with clusters have the vowel 으 added when needed. This also happens also when a word ends with a consonant, although ch and j sounds often wind up as 치 or 지 instead. See 샌드위치

Sometimes R's are simply dropped, more British style, as in 햄버거.

Roots Edit

Korean English Character

Pronouns Edit

Pronouns Edit

Let's take a closer look at Korean pronouns!

I Edit

"I" in Korean can be translated as either  or . 저 is more formal, more humble, and is commonly used with 합쇼체 and with 해요체.

나 is less formal and is sometimes used with 해요체, especially when talking politely to an acquaintance or somebody younger.

You Edit

 is the you-form of 나. It would be best to avoid using it except when being informal. In all formal scenarios, simply use somebody's title.

너희 is a plural form of 너. 너네 is also used.

당신 is

  1. you in 하오체 (Quite obsolete; this course does not cover this formality level.)
  2. you to call one's spouse, in a respectful manner
  3. you in written language, in a respectful manner
  4. you while arguing, in a disrespectful manner
  5. he or she in an extremely respectful manner

He and She Edit

Korean does not commonly use he/she in sentences. When necessary, especially in translations, Koreans will use 그는/그가 and 그녀는/그녀가 to mean he and she.

In a normal Korean conversation, once you have established the topic, you no longer need to have a subject, so you can drop the he/she completely.

서로 Edit

서로 means "each other" and usually comes right after the noun.

자기 자신 Edit

자기 and 자신 both mean "oneself," but have slightly different usages.

  • 자기 is used in general, usually as an object.
  • 자신 is used similar to 자기, but can also be used as after the subject for emphasis, as in 저(의) 자신 "I, myself" and it can means "for oneself"

The two can be used together as 자기 자신, which can be used in all of the above circumstances.

Possessives Edit

For both I and you the pronouns take a special form in two cases: possessive and with the particle 이/가.

Pronoun Possessive Subject

Since 네 and 내 sound very similar thanks thanks to sound changes, some speakers, especially younger people, say 니/니가 instead of 네/네가, though it's not the standard language.

Generally speaking, the possessive form is interchangeable with the un-contracted version. However, in most cases 제 is much more common than 저의. However, 저가 is never acceptable as a subject.

Can you say 나 in 합쇼체 (-ㅂ니다)? Edit

Definitely yes. 저 is for lowering oneself, and -ㅂ니다 is for raising the listener. If you are higher than the listener, you can raise them by using -ㅂ니다, but you don't have to lower yourself. On the other hand, it is weird to lower yourself and at the same time not raise the listener.

Animals Edit

Animals Edit

Time to learn some animal related vocab.

To Ride Edit

타다 in Korean means "to ride." This is the same for an animal as it is for a vehicle. It can also be translated as "to take" as in "I take the bus to school."

To Find Edit

찾다 can be both "to find" and "to search/to look for." Generally, it can be understood from context which of the two is meant. One hint that works some of the time is simple present vs present progressive (찾아요 vs 찾고 있어요) something like "to find" vs "to be finding."

Korean Animals Edit

We introduce two animals here that are not as well known as some of the others:까치 and 너구리.

까치 is a magpie, a type of black and white bird similar to a raven or a crow. They are fairly common throughout Korea, even in urban areas.

너구리 is a tanuki/mangut/raccoon dog, depending on the translation. They are small raccoon-like animal more closely related to the fox that can be found throughout East Asia. Sometimes 너구리 may also be used to mean simply raccoon.

~이 Edit

There are many animals in Korean that end with ~이.

This happens in part because of another piece of Korean grammar. Nouns ending with ~이 are similar to nouns ending in -er in English, meaning "the one that does X." For example 개구리 comes from 개굴+이, which would be like if the word for "frog" was "ribbit-er."

An exception is 거북이, which was formed by the 이 as from 이/가 becoming permanently attached to the original form of the noun, possibly. Both 거북 and 거북 are still in common usage.

Rat/Mouse Edit

Languages group things differently. One example in Korean is , which can mean both rat and mouse. If you want to be more specific, 생쥐 means "mouse" only.


 is a gender-neutral term for a single animal of the bovine species. Oxcow, and bull are all accepted as a translation.

부엉이 Edit

Just like rat/mouse in English, Korean has two words for owl. 부엉이 is an owl with ear tufts, like Duo. 올빼미 is an owl without tufted ears.

Fish Edit

Unlike in English, where fish can be both the animal and the meat, Korean has two different words. However, it isn't as cut and dry as the difference between "cow" and "beef".

생선, which we've already learned, means "fish" in terms of food. This may be a piece of cooked fish, a whole fish, or even a live fish waiting to be sold from a tank at a fish market.

물고기 (literally "water" + "meat") refers to a fish as a living animal, usually not as something intended to be eaten.

은/는 Edit

The topic particle 은/는 can also come after an adverb or an adverbial phrase.

Example Translation
서울에 사람이 많다. There are many people in Seoul.

은/는 still means regarding though it would be ungrammatical in English to say regarding in Seoul. Since regarding Seoul would also work fine, you may just say "서울 사람이 많다."


The word  is another way to make a negative sentence, indicating the inability to do something.

운동을 안 하다/운동을 하지 않다= Not to exercise

운동을 못 하다=To be unable to exercise/cannot exercise

못 may imply that the inability is due to the person's own inferiority, that they are simply not up to the task of completing the verb.

Often 못 is used together with 잘, as in 저는 노래를 잘 못해요. "I cannot sing well"

There is another way to say "unable" that we will introduce later.

Roots Edit

Korean English Character
개굴 croak/ribbit
부엉 hoot

Modifier: Present Edit

Verbal Modifiers Edit

Let's learn how to use verbs to create modifiers for nouns.

Modifiers Edit

As we've mentioned before, verbs play a significant role in Korean. So far we've focused on sentences like "The man goes." or "The man is bad." In this skill we'll learn how to say "The man who goes" and "The bad man."

These verbal modifiers are created using the verb stem and usually go in front of the noun, like adjectives do in English.

The process is similar, though slightly different, for descriptive and action verbs. Action verbs have three different forms (past, present, and future) and descriptive verbs have two (future and present). Here we'll focus on the present tense.

Descriptive Verbs Edit

First we'll tackle descriptive verbs. (있다, 없다, and verbs that end with 있다 or 없다 are exceptions. They conjugate like action verbs here; see below.)

  1. For a basic descriptive verb ending in a consonant we take the verb stem and add -은.

작다 → 작은

  1. For a basic descriptive verb ending in a vowel, you simply add -ㄴ at the end of the syllable.

나쁘다 → 나쁜

  1. For a descriptive verb ending in a ㄹ, the ㄹ is simply replaced by the ㄴ.

달다 → 단

  1. For a ㅂ-irregular descriptive verb, the ㅂ changes to 우, just as we introduced in Polite Speech skill. The ㄴ is then added to the end of the new stem.

쉽다 → 쉬운

Verbs Edit

Action verbs as well as 있다 and 없다 are much more straightforward to turn into modifiers than descriptive verbs. Simply take the verb stem and add -는.

  • 가다 → 가는
  • 먹다 → 먹는
  • 있다 → 있는
  • 맛없다 → 맛없는

A verb stem ending in ㄹ will drop the ㄹ.

  • 날다 → 나는

This modifier can be translated in multiple ways in English, often as "doing" or "who/that/which is doing."

  • 먹는 사람: The eating person/The person who is eating

However, it could be literally anything. In English we have which, who, where, when, whose, with which, etc., but they all can be translated to -(으)ㄴ or -는. If a sentence in the present tense modifies a noun, you can use it.

  • 제가 먹는 샌드위치: The sandwich which I am eating
  • 음식이 맛있는 한국: Korea where food is delicious
  • 손이 큰 남자: A man whose hand is big
  • 밥을 먹는 그릇: A bowl with which (one) eats rice (or A bowl that eats rice (?))

가장 Edit

n. having a higher or stronger degree than anything/anyone else

가장 is used to make the superlative form of a descriptive verb, and is usually translated to the most. However, there is a slight difference between English and Korean here. By definition, only one of the group can receive the honorable title "가장". If there are two tallest people in the world of the exactly same height, there is no 가장 tall person.

Roots Edit

  • ~ㅇ아지 - diminutive form (mostly for baby animals)

Conjunctions Edit

Conjunctions Edit

Conjunctions are the pieces that link two parts of a sentence together. In Korean, these linking pieces are not stand alone words, but are added to the ends of verbs.

When starting a sentence with a conjunction, the suffix is usually added to a form of 그렇다 to create a stand alone word.

And Edit

We're already learned 와/과 for and, but that pair only works to link nouns. When you want to link verbs, Korean has the suffix ~고.

~고 is attached to the stem of the verb.

저는 먹고 마셔요=> I eat and drink.

Stand alone form: 그리고.

And then Edit

Another suffix that can be translated as "and" is ~서. Unlike ~고, ~서 implies sequence of events. It can also be translated as "and so" or "and then."

To attach ~서, take the 해요 form of the verb, drop the 요 and attach ~서.

저는 먹어서 마셔요.=> I eat and drink/I eat and then I drink.

Note: This form is not attached to a verb conjugated for tense. The tense is indicated by the final verb.

Stand alone form: 그래서

If Edit

"If" in Korean is marked by ~(으)면. This suffix is added to the base verb stem. ~면 follows stems ending in a vowel or a ㄹ. ~으면 follows stems ending in a consonant.

저는 먹으면 마셔요.=> If I eat, I drink.

When Edit

"When," "while," or "as" is marked by ~(으)면서. ~(으)면서 is attached to the stem in the same way as ~(으)면 above.

In formal writing, ~(으)면서 may be realized as ~(으)며.

저는 먹으면서 마셔요.=> I drink when/while/as I eat.

But Edit

There are two ways to realize "but" in Korean. First we will discuss ~지만.

  • ~지만 is the closest the the English "but." It is attached directly to the verb stem, and indicated a contrast between the two clauses.

저는 먹지 않지만 마셔요.=>I do not eat, but I do drink.

Stand alone form: 하지만 (more colloquial)/그렇지만

  • ~는데 is a bit trickier. This conjunction is not quite like any conjunction we have in English. The basic idea is that the first clause introduces background information for the second. Often, this is a contrast, and so we translate it as "but." Sometimes, however, it is simply indicating that the two are connected, and it can be translated as "and." In its stand alone form, it may be translated as "by the way."

~는데 is attached to action verb stems and ~은데 to descriptive verbs.

저는 먹는데 안 마셔요.=> I eat, but I do not drink.

저는 한국에 갔는데, 재미있었어요=> I went to Korea and it was fun.

Stand alone form: 그런데/근데 (spoken)

Also Edit

~도 is a particle that is used most often with nouns to mean "also" or "too". It replaces the subject/object particle.

To Go To Edit

~(으)러 means "in order to" and is only used to connect an action with a verb of motion. It indicates that you are going somewhere in order to complete an action.

~으러 is attached to verb stems ending in consonants and ~러 to vowels.

저는 먹으러 식당에 가요.=> I go to the restaurant to eat.

Polite Moods Edit

Polite Moods Edit

Moods in 해요체 are much simpler than in 합쇼체. Let's get started!

Imperative Edit

To form the imperative in 해요체 you need to start with the verb stem and add (으)세요.

As you may now be used to, how this works depends on whether the stem ends with a vowel or a consonant.

  • After a vowel, add -세요: 가세요
  • After a consonant except ㄹ, add -으세요: 웃으세요
  • When the last consonant is a ㄹ, drop it and add 세요: 만드세요

By dropping the ㄹ, verbs like 살다 and 사다 have the same imperative form, 사세요. The meaning is therefore derived from context.

Note: The usual declarative ending -아요/-어요 can be used in lieu of -(으)세요, but it is less formal.

Propositive Edit

To make a proposition in 해요체 the same basic form is used as making a statement. It is common to add 같이 before the verb, basically saying "let's...together"

Note: Optionally you can say 우리 as the subject. Particles are usually not used with 우리 in this sense unless for emphasis.

Interrogative Edit

When asking a question, the verb form does not change.

다니다 Edit

The primary meaning of the verb 다니다 is "to go," but it implies the person goes to the place regularly or frequently and has something to do there. Figuratively you can say 다니다 for your workplace or school. "저는 학교에 다닙니다." would most likely mean you attend school (as opposed to you just go there frequently), and you can also say that when you are asked what your job is. This verb can be transitive and intransitive, and it takes 을(를) and 에 as a particle after the place, respectively.

원하다 Edit

The Korean word 원하다 is used specifically for wanting something, not wanting to do something. We'll teach how to say that you want to do something sooner than later.

How Much Edit

In Korean 얼마 means "how much." It can be used with the copula to ask "how much is it?" or as 얼마나 plus an adjective to mean "how much," "how long," etc.

Adverbs: Degree Edit

Adverbs of Degree Edit

As such a verb heavy language, Korean has a large number of adverbs. We've split them between several skills, here focusing on adverbs of degree.

Adverbs Edit

Korean adverbs come before the verb.

When given the option between an adjective describing a noun or an adverb on the verb, Korean will use the adverb more often than we do in English. For example, to say "He reads many books" rather than the direct translation "그는 많은 책을 읽어요," the correct sentence would be "그는 책을 많이 읽어요"

Emphasis Edit

There are various words used to give emphasis, like very in English. Here we are introducing a couple of them.

Words Translations
매우, 아주, 굉장히 verysogreatlyhighlyexceedingly
정말(로), 진짜(로), 참(으로) really, truly, indeed, (non-standard) very, so
특히 in particularparticularlyespeciallyspecially
상당히 considerablyfairlyratherquite
quite, fairly, rather, pretty
엄청 overly, too, excessively, awfully
너무 too, overly, excessively, awfully, so Read more

There aren't really one-to-one translations for these, so here we accept what's listed above.

Superlative Edit

The superlative form in Korean is formed using 가장 or 제일 plus the adjective/descriptive verb. Both can be used interchangeably, but 가장 means "the most," and 제일 means "number one."

Usually the phrase is 제일/가장 + Modifier form + Noun.

For example, 제일 맛있는 음식=the most delicious food

When forming a superlative in English, the noun is not always used, for example "This book is the best." In Korean, you would translate that as 이 책은 제일 좋은 책이에요 "This book is the best book" or 이 책은 제일 좋은 것이에요 "This book is the best one." Unlike in English where we actively seek to avoid repeating the noun, it is completely okay in Korean.


Comparative Edit

Comparative in Korean is introduced with the particle 보다. 보다 can be translated as "than" and attaches to the end of the noun to which the first noun is being compared and usually comes right before the descriptive verb.

이 사과는 바나나보다 맛있어요.

This apple is more delicious than the banana.

Just using 보다 is enough to indicate the comparative form, but 더 is sometimes added before the descriptive verb for emphasis. Like English, the 보다 part can be omitted and simply adding 더 before the descriptive verb is enough.

이 사과가 더 맛있어요.

This apple is more delicious.

Note: Of course, you can change the word order. Since the topic normally comes first, when 보다 comes first instead, the other noun is usually followed by 이(가) rather than 은(는). Whether the word order is changed or not, 이(가) emphasizes the noun before it.

*Negative Edit

There are some interesting adverbs that have a negative meaning in Korean that deserve special mention.

  • 별로 means "not really/not particularly" and is usually used alongside the negated form of the verb.

별로 안 좋아요.=It is not too good/It is not very good.

별로 없어요.=There is not much.

  • 거의 means "almost" and can be used either negatively or positively. It is mentioned here to contrast with 별로 above.

거의 없어요=There is almost nothing.

  • 그리 means "so" or "that" and is used with negated or interrogative forms.

그녀는 그리 안 나빠요.=She is not [so/that] bad. 그게 그리 나빠요?=Is it that bad?

Roots Edit

  • 제일 - number one (第一)
  • 특 - special (特)
  • 상당 - quite (相当)
  • 굉장 - imposing (宏壯)
  • -히 - -ly

Numbers 1: Native Korean Edit

Korean has two sets of numbers, Native Korean and Sino-Korean. Before that scares you away, let's take a closer look at Native Korean Numbers.

Usage Edit

Native Korean numbers are used for numbering things, just as you would any number system. In contrast, Sino-Korean numbers are used in specific cases, such as dates, telephone numbers, addresses, and counting money.

Native Korean can be used for counting as well. When taking pictures, you may hear Koreans say "하나, 둘, 셋!" before snapping the photo.

Native Korean has the numbers 1-10, then 11-19 simply combine 10 and the small number, so 11 would be "ten-one." There are separate words for each of the tens, which are used to create compounds the same way that 10 is.

Some of the tens are derived from their "base" as in English, 여덟/eight=> 여든/eighty, but others have no obvious relationship.

Irregulars Edit

Native Korean has five numbers that take a "short" form before a counter.

Number Base Form Short Form
1 하나
20 스물 스무

Counters Edit

What are these counters we've mentioned? Think of words in English like paper or milk. Usually we cannot say "a paper" or "a milk," except in some limited circumstances. We have to be specific, "a sheet/piece/pack of paper" or "a cup/glass/carton/jug of milk." Now apply that to every noun in Korean.

The most common counter is 개 and can be used in most situations. As a non-native Korean speaker, you can often get away with using 개 in cases where Koreans would use a specific counter. Exceptions include 명 for people, 마리 for animals, and some food terms where more specificity is required.

The general usage is Noun+Number+Counter+Particle in a sentence.

  • 사람 한 명이 있어요=There is one person

Particles can sometimes be attached to the noun instead of the counter.

Usually in writing the number and counter are written separately, with a space, but without a space when using a numeral (두 명 vs 2명).

Other word orders are also possible in some circumstances, but less popular:

  • Number+Noun (한 사람)
  • Number+Counter+의+Noun (한 명의 사람)
  • Noun+Number (사람 하나)

Age Edit

Age in Korean is marked with the counter 살. 저는 스무 살이에요=I am twenty

In Korea, age is calculated differently than in most other countries. It is based on the traditional Asian lunar cycle. A baby is one when it is born and turns two on New Year's Day. Depending on who you are talking to, this may be either January 1st or Lunar New Year. Therefore, most of us are 1 or 2 years older in Korea than we are at home.

Large Numbers Edit

Although Native Korean was the original number system, it now only goes up to 99 in regular language. Larger numbers are said in Sino-Korean except in some more academic cases, mostly poetry, as the large Native Korean numbers are fairly archaic.

For these numbers of 100, some people may mix the two forms. 150, for example, could be said with 100 in Sino-Korean and 50 in Native Korean. This is more common in speaking than in writing.

It is not uncommon for numbers over 19 to be said in Sino-Korean, especially by children who do not yet have the trickier Native Korean digits memorized.

Number Native Korean
20 스물
30 서른
40 마흔
60 예순
70 일흔
80 여든
90 아흔

Ordinal Numbers Edit

Ordinal Numbers (first, second, third) are created by combining the Native Korean number with 번째. This uses the short form for those numbers that have one, except for 1, which uses 첫 instead of 한, giving us 첫 번째 for "first."

Roots Edit

  • 명 - name (名)

Phrases2 Edit

Phrases Part Two Edit

In this lesson we'll learn a few more set phrases, some words common in conversations, and some exclamations.

Please Edit

As we've already seen, Korean doesn't need a separate word for please, you can just politely ask someone to do something using ~주세요. However, there is 제발, which is the literal translation of please. It's use is much more limited than the English, as it seems a bit like you're pleading.

There is also 부탁하다 which means to "request" or to "ask a favor."

Cheers Edit

There are two popular toasts in Korean.

  • 건배: Cheers, the usual thing to say when clinking together your glasses.
  • 위하여: "Here's to", more of a toast. It's common to just say 위하여, but you can add whatever you're toasting to before the 위하여. This comes from the verb 위하다 "to do for the sake of"

Goodbye Edit

안녕 can mean "hi" or "bye", but if you want to say a more formal "goodbye" there are two different ways, depending on who's going and who's staying.

  • 안녕히 가세요: Both are based on 안녕히 "safely." 안녕히 가세요 is said to someone who is leaving, literally "go safely"
  • 안녕히 계세요: This is said to someone who is staying behind, literally "stay safely"

처음 뵙겠습니다 Edit

A common way of saying that you're glad to have met someone, this literally means something along the lines of "I saw you first."

뵈다 is a formal way of saying "to see" and can also be used in a formal "see you later" as 나중에 봬요.

Later Edit

We introduce here two ways of saying "later"

  • 나중에: This is a more generic word for "later" and is used much the same as in English.
  • 이따가: This could be "later" but also "in a little while." It cannot be used with past tense. It usually indicates something that will be done within the next few hours.

Exclamations Edit

Korean English
아싸 yeah!
대박 great! often said with the 대 extended
아이고 ah! I've heard little old ladies going down the stairs saying this with every step
우아 wow!
그냥 just because
화이팅 good luck! you can do it! literally "fighting"
진짜 really

Occupations Edit

Jobs Edit

Let's get to work!

Work Edit

Think about all the different meanings of "work" in English. It can be you job, the things you do at your job, or the place where you do your job.

Korean is a little more discrete. All of the below words could be "work" or "job" in English, but have more concrete meanings in Korean. Not all are taught in this lesson, but we include them in this list for completeness.

Korean English
work, a thing to be done. also used in 집안 일 "housework"
직업 career/profession
직장 place of work
업무 task
일자리 position


적 is a noun that doesn't translate well into English on its own, but is used in phrases to talk about having done something.

The phrase is constructed as follows:

Past modifier of verb + 적이 + 있다


Past modifier of verb + 적이 + 없다

For example:

저는 고래를 본 적이 있습니다=I have seen a whale.

저는 한국에 간 적이 없습니다=I have not been to Korea.

Already Edit

Korean has two words that both mean already, 이미 and 벌써.

What is the different between the two? 이미 is more generic, while 벌써 indicates an aspect of surprise.

Going to Work Edit

We have three verbs here with the root 근.

  • 출근하다 is to go in to work for the day
  • 퇴근하다 is to finish work for the day
  • 근무하다 is to work. This verb may be used with ~에 instead of ~에서 as it means more closely "to be on duty" than "to work." It is more formal, and therefore used most frequently in writing, but also in the military.

Roots Edit

Korean English Character
노동 labor 劳动
건축 architecture 建築
근무 service 勤務
withdraw 退

School Edit

School Edit

School is in session!

In this skill we introduce some of the basic vocabulary needed to talk about school. The course currently doesn't include much about college, but we have some of that planned for our eventual Tree 2.0

Schools and Students Edit

English Korean
유치원 kindergarten/preschool
초등학교 elementary school
중학교 middle school
고등학교 high school

We introduce here the names of four levels of school, with translations based (more or less) on the American school system. Different countries, and sometimes different school districts within a country, use different names for these, so please report missing translations.

To talk about the students going to one of these schools, replace ~교 with ~생. For kindergarteners, you can just add ~생 to the end of 유치원.

Teachers Edit

We've already seen 선생님, the general term for teacher, with the honorific ~님 built right in.

You can add the school, the subject, or other descriptors before 선생님 to specify type of teacher. For example, 초등학교 선생님 would be an elementary school teacher, while 영어 선생님 would be an English teacher.

Two common descriptors followed by 선생님 are 담임 and 교장.

  • 담임 comes from 한자 that mean "to be in charge" and refers to the "homeroom" or "head teacher", often in contrast to administrators, aides, or special subject teachers that do not oversee a specific group of young learners.
  • 교장 comes from 한자 that mean "school" and "leader", referring to the principal or headmaster.

Classes Edit

English can be very vague when we use the word "class." Is it the space? the time period? the material being learned? or the people?

Korean is not vague. Let's take a look at some of the words that may be difficult to parse at first.

Korean English
학년 grade/year in school
학급 class/group of students
교시 class period
교실 classroom
수업 lesson

Each school has several 학년, numbered 1학년 and up. (The numbers start over again from 1 in middle and high school). At anything other than a very small school, each 학년 will have several 반, numbered 1반 and up, of students in different homerooms with different 담임 선생님.

학급 is more abstract, but the best to describe it would be "collection of students."

For the other words, each day has several 교시, each 교시 you have a 수업 in a 교실.

Roots Edit

Korean English Character

Future Tense Edit

Future Edit

The time has finally come to learn the last of Korean's three verb tenses, the future tense.

Forming the Future Edit

Unlike present and past, the future tense in Korean is a compound tense, formed using more than one word.

The basic idea is that the future tense is formed by taking the future verbal modifier (explanation below) and then adding 것 and the copula ~이다.

As we've seen before, 것 has various forms and contractions. With the future tense, the two most common are 것 and 거. While 할 것입니다 (will do) might be more common in writing, 할 겁니다 is common in speaking without necessarily decreasing the politeness or formality of your sentence.

Future Verbal Modifier Edit

Future tense verbal modifiers have several forms, all of which end with ~ㄹ.

  1. For verb stems ending with a vowel, simply add ㄹ to the final syllable. 하다=>할
  2. For verb stems ending with a consonant, add 을. 먹다=>먹을
  3. For verb stems ending with a ㄹ, do nothing, just use the stem. 만들다=>만들
  4. For ㄷ special case verbs, those where the final ㄷ becomes a ㄹ, add 을 to the end of the stem. 듣다=>들을

It's as simple as that.

저는 한국어를 공부할 것입니다=I will study Korean.

Honorific Edit

If you're wondering where to add the honorific in the future tense, it is always on the future tense verbal modifier. You do not need to add the honorific ~시다 to the copula following 것.

Planned Future Edit

There is a second form of the future, using 예정. This is formed much the same way as the main form of the future tense, although 것 is replaced with 예정.

This form of the future is for something you are planning to do, somewhere along the lines of "I'm going to..." in English.

저는 편의점에 갈 예정입니다=I'm going to go to the convenience store.

Calendar Edit

Calendar Edit

Talking about dates in Korean is a mixture of some pretty straightforward, easy vocabulary and some that will take some getting used to. It'll make more sense with practice, so don't worry

Dates Edit

Korean dates start with the year, then the month, then the day. A good rule of thumb when telling time or giving an address in Korean is that start with the biggest and work your way down to the smallest unit.

For dates, it is common to add 년, 월, and 일 after the numbers:

2015년 10월 22일


Koreans often have a hard time memorizing the names of the months in English. Thankfully the Korean is much easier!

Simply use the Sino-Korean number plus 월 (month), and you're done! However, there are two exceptions.

English Korean
June 6월 (
October 10월 (월)

Note that 6 and 10 in 6월 and 10월 are not pronounced as would be expected. Instead the final consonant, the 받침, is dropped.

Days Edit

Earlier, in the Time skill, we learned how to count days in native Korean words. They can also be used for dates, usually in the lunar calendar.

English Korean
First (of a month) 하루
Second 이틀
Third 사흘
Fifteenth 보름(날), 열닷새
Twentieth 스무날
Twenty-first 스무하루
Thirtieth 그믐(날)

Note that the first day is 초하루 rather than 하루, being the only exception. Just for reference, 보름달 and 그믐달 mean the full moon and the old moon, respectively.

다음 Edit

Earlier we learned that 다음 means the next. When paired with the copula ~이다 and following a noun, 다음 takes the meaning "comes after".

Example Translation
다음 주 the next week
화요일은 월요일 다음이에요. Tuesday comes after Monday

Days of the Week Edit

Korean days of the week can be a little tricky, but they make sense eventually.

Basically, all the days are formed as X요일. The 7 days are then composed of different elements or substances. Signs in Korean will drop the ~요일 so a store open Monday-Friday would say 월-금.

When asking "what day of the week" you would simply ask 무슨 요일 or "which 요일".

English Korean Element
Monday 월요일 Moon
Tuesday 화요일 Fire
Wednesday 수요일 Water
Thursday 목요일 Wood
Friday 금요일 Fire
Saturday 토요일 Ground
Sunday 일요일 Sun

Do Monday and Sunday, moon and sun, look familiar? That's because both English and Korean names are originally descended from the Latin, named after the gods/heavenly bodies. The other 5 are also related to the names of planets in Korean. 화요일? dies Martis. 화성. Mars.

매 and 마다 Edit

Korean has two ways of saying "each" or "every", although their uses are slightly different.

  • 매 appears before a noun, usually a time related noun that comes from Sino-Korean. It fuse with some nouns as one word, such as 매일/every day , 매주/every week, 매월/every month, 매년/every year.
  • 마다 appears after a noun, usually a time noun, but not necessarily. It always attaches to the noun it follows. Rather than 일 or 월, it prefers the native Korean 날 or 달. 마다 can also attach to a person, 학생마다/each student.
  • Both 매 and 마다 can be used with a number to indicate every X amount of time. 매 4주/4주마다 "every 4 weeks"
  • Sometimes both are used at once, as emphasis. 매 주마다 "every week"

Koreans have a lot of traditional celebrations based on time, which we'll briefly introduce here.

  • 백일 The 100 days celebration is to commemorate the 100th day after a child's birth. This was a day to celebrate that a new baby had officially survived the most dangerous first 100 days of life. This often marked the time that a baby and its mother would rejoin society after recuperating following the birth.
  •  The 1st anniversary of a child's birth. Living in a time without modern medicine, infancy was difficult. The 1st anniversary of birth was a huge milestone, celebrated with a feast, prayers, and ritual.
  • 환갑 Koreans traditionally used the same calendar as China, with a zodiac featuring 12 years. Everyone knows that. But there are also 5 elements, so every 12 years is a cycle under one element. It takes 60 years to go through all 12 cycles of the zodiac under all 5 elements, do you're 60th birthday is an important one, celebrating going full circle through the entire zodiac.
  • 동갑 Age is important to Koreans. It can determine your social status and the speech level you use with someone. One aspect used to refer to age, that is unfamiliar to most English speakers, is 동갑. The best translation is "same age". People who are truly 동갑 are usually born in the same lunar year, so they are the same age under the Korean system of counting. As a reminder, you are one at birth and two at the next Lunar New Year. Koreans will often say that two people who are 동갑 are "friends" because of the ties this creates, even if they've never actually met.

Medicine Edit

Medicine Edit

The doctor is in!

This lesson teaches some vocab related to getting sick and getting treated.

In this lessons we have two words for pain, 아픔 and 고통.

  • 아픔 is a general native Korean word for "pain" or "soreness" or even "sickness"
  • 고통 is a more specific Sino-Korean word, that means "pain" or "agony." It may be more formal or place more emphasis.

~음 Edit

아픔 might look familiar. That's because it's related to the adjective 아프다 (to be sick/to be in pain). Many nouns may be formed from adding ~음 or ~ㅁ to the end of a verb or verbal adjective.

Another example is 죽음 "death", from the verb 죽다 "to die".

A lot of times, these form nouns that may be used independently. However, sometimes this forms part of a grammar pattern without an easy to translate noun. We won't see any of that here though now.

~과 Edit

The ending ~과 serves a dual purpose when talking about medicine. Usually formed from Sino-Korean roots, much like Latin roots in English medical terms, much medical terminology ends with ~과.

This may be translated as a field of medicine, such as 치과 "dentistry". However, this may also be translated as "department of dentistry." All medical terms ending with ~과 function the same way.

We can also add ~학 at the end of one of these words. Usually adding ~학 doesn't change the English meaning, but it can be understood as "the study of X"

So a 내과의사 (doctor of internal medicine) works in the 내과 (department of internal medicine) and studied 내과학 (internal medicine).

Roots Edit

Korean English Character
심장 early 心臟
마비 level 痲痺

Home Edit

마루 Edit

We will translate 마루 as floor in the course, but it refers to a specific kind of wooden floor usually found in traditional Korean houses.

Sports Edit

Sports Edit

Sports! From the beautiful game of football/soccer to the European sport of tennis, this skill will cover many of the sports enjoyed by people around the world.

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