Get 45% off with the 6-month challenge. Hurry! Ends soon!
Get 45% off with the 6-month challenge. Hurry! Ends soon!
KoreanClass101.com Blog
Learn Korean with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Korean Learners Make

Thumbnail

Learning a new language isn’t easy; it takes time and effort. Many Korean learners are too afraid to start speaking Korean because they’re scared of making mistakes. But it’s important to understand that you can’t improve your Korean if you don’t keep trying. It’s okay to make mistakes—it’s how you become better at Korean! 

Today, we’ll introduce the five most common mistakes Korean learners make. We’ll focus on Korean language mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. In addition, we’ll give you information on how you can improve your Korean and make fewer mistakes.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Korean Pronunciation Mistakes – 합니다 (hamnida) and 같이 (gachi)
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes – 이 (i) / 가 (ga) and 은 (eun) /는 (neun)
  3. Homophones- 낳다 (nata) vs. 낫다 (natda) vs. 낮다 (natda)
  4. Korean Grammar Mistakes – Verb Stem + (는)구나 ([neun]guna)
  5. Other Mistakes – 생일 (saengil) vs. 생신 (saengsin)
  6. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Korean

1. Korean Pronunciation Mistakes – 합니다 (hamnida) and 같이 (gachi)

The two most common Korean mistakes regarding pronunciation are to mispronounce the words 합니다 (hamnida) and 같이 (gachi). Keep reading to learn how to avoid making these mistakes!

합니다 (hamnida)

Many Korean learners pronounce 합니다 (hamnida) as “hap-ni-da.” However, when you listen closely to native speakers, it’s pronounced “ham-ni-da.” It may sound strange to you because it sounds like 함니다 (hamnida), though this is incorrect. 

Just remember that this is a special case where you need to memorize the correct pronunciation. And pronouncing it correctly will make your life a lot easier. Why? Try saying “hap-ni-da” and “ham-ni-da.” Did you notice that “hamnida” is a lot easier and faster to say? 

같이 (gachi)

Now let’s look at the romanization of 같이 (gachi). Do you know what this word means? That’s right, it means “together.” 

While reading each of the following words and trying to pronounce them, it will sound like “gat-ee.” However, the correct way to pronounce this word is “ga-chi.”

Let’s practice its pronunciation with these two sentences. 


Kid Struggling with His Korean Homework

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes – 이 (i) / 가 (ga) and 은 (eun) /는 (neun)

Korean learners struggle to understand Korean particles because many of these particles do not translate directly to English. Let’s take a look at the subject markers 이 (i) and 가 (ga) and the topic markers 은 (eun) and 는 (neun).

If you want to know when you should use a subject marker versus a topic marker in a sentence, think of the topic markers (eun/neun) as meaning “as far” or “when it comes to.” This will help you construct Korean sentences. 

If the sentence makes sense in your head when you plug in “as far” or “when it comes to,” then use the topic marker. If not, then use the subject marker.

Examples: 

  • 겨울에는 딸기가 최고지. 
    Gyeoureneun ttalgiga choegoji.
    “When it comes to winter, strawberries are the best.”
  • 저는… 
    jeoneun…
    “as for me…”

Here are a couple of great resources on KoreanClass101.com to help you better understand how to use topic marking particles:


3. Homophones- 낳다 (nata) vs. 낫다 (natda) vs. 낮다 (natda)

Other common mistakes in Korean have to do with using the wrong word because it sounds similar to another one. These three words sound very similar, and a lot of Korean learners struggle to choose the right word. In fact, even native Korean speakers struggle to differentiate between 낳다 (nata) and 낫다 (natda). So let’s take a look at each word and learn when to use them. 

낳다 (nata) vs. 낫다 (natda) vs. 낮다 (natda)

Korean wordsRomanizationMeaning
낳다nata“To give birth”
낫다natda“To recover from something”
낮다natda“To be low”

Most people are able to differentiate between 낫다 (natda) and 낮다 (natda) without much of a problem. However, a lot of people—even native speakers—get confused when it comes to 낳다 (nata) and 낫다 (natda). 

The best way to remember is this: When you want to say “someone gave birth,” then the 받침 (badchim) has to be the last 받침 (badchim) in the order, which is ㅎ. 

Examples:

  • 다리의 상처가 아직 낫지 않았어.
    Dariui sangcheoga ajik natji anasseo.
    “The wound on my leg is not healed yet.”
  •  수잔은 어젯밤에 딸을 낳았다.
    Sujaneun eojetbame ttareul naatda.
    “Susan gave birth to a daughter last night.”

Practice:

Let’s say that your friend got into an accident and needs to stay in the hospital for a few days. You want to write “Get well soon ” in Korean. Which of these should you write? 

  • 빨리 낫길 바래. (Ppalli natgil barae.
  • 빨리 낳길 바래. (Ppalli nakil barae.)

The answer is: 빨리 낫길 바래. (Ppalli natgil barae.)

Many young Koreans make mistakes with these words, so I hope you don’t make the same mistakes!

A Korean Man Covering His Mouth with Both Hands

Oops, I keep making the same mistakes again

4. Korean Grammar Mistakes – Verb Stem + (는)구나 ([neun]guna)

Let’s say that you and your friend are trying to solve mathematical questions. While marking your friend’s paper, you notice that your friend made a lot of the same mistakes over and over. How do you say “You just made a mistake again” in this situation? 

When you’re certain about what you’re saying, there’s a grammatical structure that you need to learn. 

Grammar rule:

Verb Stem + (는)구나 ([neun]guna) establishes a speaker’s certainty.

Rule #1: We attach 구나 (guna) to the past verb stem.
Rule #2: We attach 는구나 (neunguna) to the present verb stem.

Let’s do some exercises: 

Do you know the meaning of 틀렸다 (teullyeotda)? It means “was wrong” or “made a mistake.” To say “(You) made a mistake,” you need to remove 다 (da) and attach 구나 (guna). The whole sentence becomes: 너 틀렸구나 (teulryeottguna). 

Here’s another example:

걸렸다 (geollyeotda) means “to be busted.” To say “(You) are busted,” remove 다 (da) and attach 구나 (guna). The whole sentence becomes: (너) 걸렸구나! ([Neo] geollyeotguna!). This expression is commonly used among friends. 

Examples:

  • 이번에 네 계산은 틀렸구나! 
    틀렸 (teullyeot) + 구나 (guna) => 틀렸구나 (teullyeotguna)
    Ibeone ne gyesaneun teullyeotguna!
    “Your calculations are off this time!”
  • 너 도둑질하다가 걸렸구나! 
    걸렸 (geollyeot) + 구나 (guna) => 걸렸구나 (geollyeotguna)
    Neo dodukjilhadaga geollyeotguna!
    “You got caught while you were stealing something!”

We also use it with the pattern: noun + 이구나 (iguna), as in 팀이구나! (Timiguna!) meaning “You are Tim!”

Example:

  • 존이구나! 
    존 (Jon) + 이구나 (iguna) => 존이구나 (Joniguna)
    Joniguna!
    “You are John!”

There’s another very similar expression: VST + 군(요)’ (gun[yo]). It also expresses the speaker’s certainty, but we use it in formal situations.

Example: 

  • 그렇군요. 알겠습니다. 
    그렇다 (geureota) + 군요 (gunyo) => 그렇군요 (geureokunyo)
    Geureokunyo. Algetseumnida.
    “I see. I understand.”
A Cupcake with a Sparkler on Top

Happy birthday, Grandma!

5. Other Mistakes – 생일 (saengil) vs. 생신 (saengsin

Social rank is very important in Korean culture. As a result, it’s deeply ingrained in the Korean language. 

You’ve already studied the different politeness levels of speech in Korean. In this section, we’ll focus on specific words you should use depending on social rank. Koreans use different words for people of varying social ranks, and depending on who you’re talking to, there are many words for expressing respect. 

Let’s take a look at the word “birthday.” You’ve probably learned that it’s 생일 (saengil) in Korean. But did you know that there’s another word for “birthday” that you should use for people who are older than you or of a higher rank? 

Let’s say that you want to say “happy birthday” to your mother. The polite form of 생일 (sangil) is 생신 (sangsin); therefore, 생신 축하드립니다. (Saengsin chukadeurimnida.) is the correct way to wish your mother a happy birthday.

Let’s take a look at different ways to wish someone a happy birthday:

  • [To your friends] 축하해! (Chukahae!) – “Congratulations!”
  • [To your friends] 생일 축하해! (Saengil chukahae!) – “Happy birthday!”
  • [To elders] 생신 축하드립니다. (Saengsin chukadeurimnida.) – “Happy birthday!”
  • [Casual-formal] 생신 축하드려요. (Saengsin chukadeuryeoyo.) – “Happy birthday!”

If you’re not familiar with the different levels of politeness in Korean, check out “Polite, Conversational Korean for Beginners.” It includes 130 free lessons that will teach you how to introduce yourself in a polite and casual way to native speakers. 

KoreanClass101 also has a blog post that dives into different honorific titles. Check out “Honorific Titles: Oppa, Unni, Hyung, Nuna & More” to understand different ways you can address someone, and to gain some cultural insights.

A Man Journaling on a Bus

Study at your own pace with KoreanClass101

6. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Korean

Being fluent in a language takes time and requires your long-term effort. Most language-learners feel embarrassed when they make mistakes, but it’s important to understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Also, native speakers are more than happy to correct your mistakes, so be brave! 

In this article, we looked at five of the most common mistakes Korean learners make. Want to read more about how to learn Korean faster? Here are three pages that you can check out in your spare time: 

Have you recently made Korean mistakes? Share your story and what kind of Korean mistake you made. It will help us understand more about what kind of Korean mistakes people make, and it will also help other Korean learners.

Good luck with your Korean studies. Feel free to check out our website, KoreanClass101.com, for more free study materials and more!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean