From Jonathan Gardner's Korean Notebook
Jump to: navigation, search

English to Korean

See English to Korean to get familiar with English grammar in relation to Korean grammar.

Types of Words

  • 어휘 (語彙): Vocabulary, glossary
  • 초성: The first (초) sound in a syllable, an initial consonant in Korean.
  • 중성: The middle (중) sound in a syllable, the vowel sounds in Korean.
  • 종성: The final (종) sound in a syllable, the final consonant in Korean.
  • 고유어: Native Korean words.
  • 한자어: Words that come from Chinese writing.
  • 외래어: Foreign words.
  • 의성어: Onomatopeia, words that represent a sound directly. ex: 쿵쿵 (stomp, stomp)
  • 의태어: Mimic word, words that represent a shape or appearance. ex: 반짝반짝 (twinkle twinkle)

  • 품사: Part of speech
  • 체언: Substantives: nouns and number.
  • 명사: Naming words, nouns
    • 의존 명사: Dependent Noun
    • 인칭 명사: Personal pronoun
    • 지시 명사: Demonstrative noun
  • 수사: Numeral
  • 부사: Adverb
  • 접미사: Suffix
  • 동사: Verb
    • 자동사: Intransitive Verb
    • 불완전 자동사: Imperfect Intransitive Verb
    • 피동사: Passive Verb
    • 사동사: Causative Verb
    • 보조 동사: Helping Verb
    • 불완전 보조 동사: Imperfect Helping Verb
  • 형용사: Adjective (behaves a lot like a verb)
    • 보조 형용사: Helping Adjective
  • 관형사: Adjectives that come before the noun, like as in 신발.
    • irregular, regular form.
  • 감탄사:
  • 조사: Particle
  • 준말: Abbreviation
  • 접두사:
  • 접미사:
  • 선어말 어미: Non-final verb ending
  • 어말 어미: Final ending
  • 관용어
  • 관용구
  • 자음: A consonant.
  • 모음: A vowel.
  • 용언: Literally "use-word". Describes the subject of the sentence, is declined, and independent. Includes 동사 (verbs) and 형용사 (adjectives).
  • 문장: Sentence.
  • 주체: The subject of a sentence.
  • 주체: Subject

Parts of Speech

The basic parts of speech are:


체언 (Substantives) do not decline and require a 조사 (particle) to show how they fit into the sentence -- whether they are the subject, object, or something else.

Substantives play a back-seat role in Korean. If they are implied, they are not spoken.


Korean verbs steal the spotlight. Every sentence needs a verb. The simplest sentence is simply a verb.

Korean verbs (용언) come in two kinds:

You'll need to know which kind a verb is, because they behave slightly differently.

Generally, the 형용사 show up in English as "to be X", while the action verbs do not.

See 용언 for more details.

Verb Endings

Korean verbs are not conjugated, at least not in the way you are familiar with.

To use Korean verbs, simply take the Verb stem and apply appropriate 어미 (Verb Endings). The last ending of all must be a 종결어미 (Final Ending).

Glue (-어)

A number of 어미 (Verb Endings) start with 어. These will vary the first vowel and may even combine with the verb stem in interesting ways. See Glue for all the details. You must master glue early on.

Adjective Phrases

The most difficult aspect of Korean are the 관형사형 전성 어미 (Adjective endings). Although there are only a handful, the resulting phrases can be quite complicated. Refer to 관형사형 전성 어미 for details of how to understand this grammatical feature.

(Personally, I find the adjective phrases in Korean to be quite simple and liberating, compared to other languages.)


There are only a handful of "pure" adjectives in Korean. Usually, the Adjective Verbs are simply converted into a simple Adjective Phrase to work as the adjective. You may, in fact, be better off memorizing the Adjective Verbs with the Adjective Ending applied!


There are a ton of proper adverbs in Korean. In addition, many Adjective Verbs can have the Adverb ending applied to act as the adverb in the sentence.


There are numerous particles in Korean, since substantives require them and they play an important role in describing how the substantive fits in.

Many of the particles act as prepositions in English. However, Korean particles do not mirror them very well. Many particles could be translated into many English prepositions, and vice-versa. I think you will find the Korean particles more clearly applied and more consistent.

Sentence Patterns

Although Korean follows topic - subject - phrases - adverb - verb, the details of how specific verbs work may change the overall sentence pattern. These verbs need to be learned separately. They do not follow the English pattern necessarily.

Throughout the vocabulary, I try to provide examples of how specific verbs are used in Korean. However, this is likely not enough to get you well-acquainted with Korean as it is spoken and written. To truly understand the common sentence patterns, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the language by listening and reading as much as possible.

However, there are some general rules of thumb. See Sentence Patterns for a description of the most obvious ones.


My grammar comes mostly from 뉴에이스 國語辭典 Kumsung New Ace Korean-Language Dictionary.

This dictionary has a good selection of words, up to the mid 1990's. It includes all the words you might hear every day, including a lot of historical words you don't see anymore but might read about in older books, and many technical terms.