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Negative Sentences in Korean

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How many times a day do you answer a question with “no,” politely reject an invitation, or ask someone not to do something? Pretty often, right? 

Depending on your personality, saying no might come as naturally as breathing to you. But what about in a foreign language?

As you study Korean, one of the most important things you’ll learn is how to form negative sentences. This is a skill that will make you a more effective communicator and add depth to your day-to-day interactions with native speakers. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to construct negative sentences in Korean and become familiar with the most common words of negation. Let’s dive in.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Negate a Statement
  2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question
  3. Other Negating Words and Phrases
  4. KoreanClass101 Can Help with Your Korean Studies!

1. Negate a Statement

To begin, let’s examine how to make negative Korean sentences. There are a few different structures you can use: 

1.  안 (an) + Predicate // 못 (mot) + Predicate 

The negative 안 (an) is an abbreviation of 아니 (ani), meaning “no.” The negative 못 (mot) means “cannot.” You can easily make a negative sentence or phrase by placing either 안 (an) or 못 (mot) in front of the predicate. 

For example: 

1. 안 (an) + Verb

  • 안 (an) + 가요 (gayo) ➞ 안 가요 (an gayo) – “not going”
  • 안 (an) + 마셔요 (masyeoyo) ➞ 안 마셔요 (an masyeoyo) – “not drinking”
  • 안 (an) + 자요 (jayo) ➞ 안 자요 (an jayo) – “not sleeping”

2. 안 (an) + Adjective 

  • 안 (an) + 아파요 (apayo) ➞ 안 아파요 (an apayo) – “not painful”
  • 안 (an) + 예뻐요 (yeppoyo) ➞ 안 예뻐요 (an yeppoyo) – “not pretty”
  • 안 (an) + 바빠요 (bappayo) ➞ 안 바빠요 (an bappayo) – “not busy”

3. 못 (mot) + Verb 

  • 못 (mot) + 가요 (gayo) ➞ 못 가요 (mot gayo) – “cannot go”
  • 못 (mot) + 마셔요 (masyeoyo) ➞ 못 마셔요 (mot masyeoyo) – “cannot drink”
  • 못 (mot) + 자요 (jayo) ➞ 못 자요 (mot jayo) – “cannot sleep”

Remember that 못 (mot) is related to one’s inability to do something. You should not confuse it with the negative particle 안 (an).

For example:

  • 아파요 (apayo) ➞ 못 아파요 (mot apayo) – “cannot be painful” (X)
  • 아파요 (apayo) ➞ 안 아파요 (an apayo) – “not painful” (O)

2. Stem + ~지 않아요 (~ji anayo) // Stem + ~지 못해요 (~ji mothaeyo)

To make this Korean negative form, add 지 (ji) to the stem of the verb or adjective, followed by the negative auxiliary 않다 (anta) or 못 하다 (mot hada). 

For example: 

1. Verb stem + 지 않다 (ji anta)

  • 가다 (gada) ➞ 가지 않아요 (gaji anayo) – “(I) don’t go.” 
  • 먹다 (meokda) ➞ 먹지 않아요 (meokji anayo) – “(I) don’t eat.” 
  • 마시다 (masida) ➞ 마시지 않아요 (masiji anayo) – “(I) don’t drink.” 

2. Adjective stem + 지 않다 (ji anta)

  • 넓다 (neolbda) ➞ 넓지 않아요 (neolbji anayo) – “(It) isn’t spacious.” 
  • 싸다 (ssada) ➞ 싸지 않아요 (ssaji anayo) – “(It) isn’t cheap.” 
  • 크다 (keuda) ➞ 크지 않아요 (keuji anayo) – “(It) isn’t big.” 
  • 비싸다 (bissada) ➞ 비싸지 않아요 (bissaji anayo) – “(It) isn’t expensive.” 

3. Verb stem + 지 못 하다 (ji mot hada)

  • 팔다 (palda) ➞ 팔지 못 해요 (paji mothaeyo) – “(I) cannot sell.” 
  • 뛰다 (ttwida) ➞ 뛰지 못 해요 (ttwiji mothaeyo) – “(I) cannot run.” 
  • 읽다 (ikda) ➞ 읽지 못 해요 (ikji mothaeyo) – “(I) cannot read.” 

3. The Auxiliary Verb 말다 (malda

To make an imperative sentence negative in Korean, use the auxiliary verb 말다 (malda). This word has a polite form and a casual form:

Polite: 하지 말아요 (haji marayo) – “Please don’t do…”
Casual: 하지마 (hajima) – “Don’t do…”

For example: 

1. Polite Form of 말다

  • 게임을 하지 말아요. (Geimeul haji marayo.) – “Please don’t play the game.” 
  • 뛰어 놀지 말아요. (Ttwieo nolji marayo.) – “Please don’t run around.” 
  • 소주를 많이 마시지 말아요. (Sojuleul mani masiji marayo.) – “Please don’t drink too much soju.” 
  • 집에 가지 말아요. (Jibe gaji marayo.) – “Please don’t go home.”

2. Casual Form of 말다 

  • 게임(을) 하지 마. (Geim[eul] haji ma.) “Don’t play the game.” 
  • 뛰어 놀지 마. (Ttwieo nolji ma.) – “Don’t run around.” 
  • 소주 많이 마시지 마. (Soju manh-i masiji ma.) – “Don’t drink too much soju.” 
  • 집에 가지 마. (Jibe gaji ma.) – “Don’t go home.”

Four Colleagues Having a Discussion

4. ~없다 (eopda) – “to not have”

~없다 (eopda) indicates that you don’t have something, and it’s the opposite of ~있다 (itda), which means “to have.”

For example:

  • 시간이 없어요. (Sigani eopseoyo.) – “I don’t have time.”
  • 돈이 없어요. (Doi eopseoyo.) – “I don’t have money.”
  • 애완동물이 없어요. (Aewandongmuri eopseoyo.) – “I don’t have a pet.”

 ~없다 (eopda) can also be used to mean that something was not at a particular location. 

For example:

  • 사람이 한명도 없었어요. (Sarami hanmyeongdo eopseoyo.) – “There was not even one person.” 
  • 수미는 지금 한국에 없어요. (Sumineun jigeum hanguge eopseoyo.) – “Sumi is not in Korea now.”

5. 싫어하다 (sireohada) – “to not like”

싫어하다 (sireohada) is a verb that’s used to say that one does not like something. The opposite of 싫어하다 (sireohada) is 좋아하다 (joahada), which means “to like something.”

For example:

  • 저는 동물을 좋아해요. (Jeoneun dongmureul joahaeyo.) – “I like animals.”
  • 저는 동물을 싫어해요. (Jeoneun dongmul-eul sireohaeyo.) – “I dislike animals.”
  • 저는 여름을 좋아해요. (Jeoneun yeoreumeul joahaeyo.) – “I like summer.”
  • 저는 여름을 싫어해요. (Jeoneun yeoreumeul sireohaeyo.) – “I dislike summer.”

6. ~ 기 싫다 (~gi silta) – “don’t want to”

~ 기 싫다 (~gi silta) is used to express that one doesn’t want to (or like to) do something, with that something being an action verb. To construct this type of sentence, the rule is as follows: 

Verb 기 (gi) + 싫다 (silta

Let’s practice with the verbs 걷다 (geotda) and 쓰다 (sseuda)!

We must transform these action verbs into nouns to use them in this structure:

걷다 (geotda) – “to walk” ➞ 걷기 (geotgi)
쓰다 (sseuda) – “to write” ➞ 쓰기 (sseugi)

For example: 

  • 걷기 싫어. (geodgi sireo.) – “I dislike walking.” 
  • 일기 쓰기 싫어. (ilgi sseugi sireo.) – “I dislike writing a diary.”

A Figure Standing through a Red Cancellation Symbol and Indicating No

How do you say “no” in Korean?

2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question 

A common situation in which you might need to use negation in Korean is when giving a negative answer to a question. There are a few ways you can do this:

1. 아니다 (anida) – “not to be”

아니다 (anida) means “not to be.” Like most Korean verbs, this one is conjugated by removing ~다 (~da) to get the verb stem 아니 (ani).

For example:

  • 그릇 누가 깼어? 너야? (Geureut nuga kkaesseo? Neoya?) – “Who broke the bowl? Is it you?”
  • 아니, 나 아니야. (Ani, na aniya.) – “No, it’s not me.”
  • 혹시 수미 씨? (Hoksi sumi ssi?) – “Are you Sumi?”
  • 아니요, 수미 아니예요. (Aniyo, sumi aniyeyo.) – “No, I’m not Sumi.”

2. 아니 (ani) + ㅂ니다 (mnida) = 아닙니다 (animnida)

This negative form is also used to say “not to be,” as explained above. The only difference is that 아니야 (aniya) is casual and 아닙니다 (animnida) is more polite.

For example: 

  • 아까 도와주셔서 감사해요. (Akka dowajusyeoseo gamsahaeyo.) – “Thank you for helping me earlier.”
  • 아닙니다. (Animnida.) – “No problem.” 
    • * The direct translation is “not to be,” but in context it means “no problem” or “don’t mention it.”

3. Noun1 는 (neun) or 은 (eun) +  Noun2 가 (ga) +이 (i) + 아닙니다 (animnida)

This structure forms a complete negative sentence. We highly recommend you memorize it because it’s commonly used and you can use this sentence structure in any situation. For example, you could say that [Noun1] is not [Noun2]:

  • 저는 학생이 아닙니다. (Jeoneun haksengi animnida.) – “I am not a student.”
  • 요한은 의사가 아닙니다. (Yohaneun uisaga animnida.) – “Yohan is not a doctor.”
  • 요한은 영국사람이 아닙니다. (Yohaneun yeongguksarami animnida.) – “Yohan is not British.”

If you’re not sure whether to use 는 (neun) or 은 (eun), here’s the rule: 

  • (neun) is used after words ending in a vowel.
  • (eun) is used after words ending in a consonant.

Six Coworkers at a Round Table Doing Work

Learning negating words will help you effectively communicate with others.

3. Other Negating Words and Phrases

To conclude, let’s look at just a few more Korean negators and how to use them. 

1. 절대로 (jeoldaero) – “Never” 

절대로 그 사람들과 싸워서는 안돼.
Jeoldaelo geu saramdeulgwa ssawoseoneun andwae.
“You should never fight them.”

2. 아무도 (amudo) – “No one”

아무도 내 이름을 몰라.
Amudo nae ireumeul molla.
“Nobody knows my name.”

3. 어디에도 (eodiedo) – “Nowhere”

휴, 내가 앉을 데가 어디에도 없어.
Hyu, naega anj-eul dega eodiedo eopseo.
“Sigh, there was nowhere for me to sit.”

4. 거의…할 수가 없다 (geoui…hal suga eobsda) – “Hardly”

(너무 졸려서) 눈을 제대로 뜨고 있을 수가 없어.
(Neomu jollyeoseo) nuneul jedaero tteugo isseul suga eopseo.
“I can hardly keep my eyes open.”

5. 별로 (byeolo) – “Not particularly,” “Not especially”

별로 크지 않아. 
Byeollo keuji ana.
“It’s not particularly big.”

Here are a couple more pages on KoreanClass101.com where you can study more negative vocabulary: 


A Lady in a Blue Shirt Giving a Speech to Her Colleagues

4. KoreanClass101 Can Help with Your Korean Studies!

In this article, you’ve learned everything about negation in Korean, from basic negative expressions to more advanced rules. If you would like to continue learning with us, KoreanClass101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as free resources to keep your Korean learning entertaining! Also, you can upgrade to Premium PLUS in order to access all of our study materials and get personal 1-on-1 coaching!

To explore today’s topic further, here are study pages from KoreanClass101 and across the web where you can learn more about negation!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how confident you feel about forming Korean negative sentences now! We look forward to hearing from you, and will do our best to help if you have any questions or concerns.

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