Get 31% Off With The Monster Sale. Ends Soon!
Get 31% Off With The Monster Sale. Ends Soon!
KoreanClass101.com Blog
Learn Korean with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Archive for the 'Korean Grammar' Category

Negative Sentences in Korean

Thumbnail

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.

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

Learn Korean Tenses

Thumbnail

There’s no denying that K-Pop has taken over the world and played a huge role in popularizing the Korean language. According to The Korea Herald, the King Sejong Institute is busy at work opening new Korean-language learning centers around the globe. This institute currently operates 172 branches and teaches Korean to 57,000 students in 56 different countries. 

Whether you’re learning the Korean language to understand the lyrics of your favorite K-Pop songs or to follow along with the subtitles for Korean films, you’ve come to the right place! 

Korean tenses are an essential part of the Korean language you should become familiar with early on. In today’s article, we’ll teach you about the present, past, and future tenses in Korean and show you how they’re formed. The information provided here is intended for beginners, but intermediate and advanced students can also read it to brush up on their skills. 

Let’s go!

The Word Goals and a Blank Numbered List

Having a goal is very important in learning the Korean language.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Present Tense
  2. Past Tense
  3. Future Tense
  4. Revise Your Knowledge with KoreanClass101!
  5. Why Learn with Us?

1. Present Tense

The Korean present tense is used to describe something that is happening in the present. Take the English phrases “I eat” and “I drink,” for example. There are three different ways to form the present tense in Korean. 

RULE #1

When the last syllable of the stem ends in a consonant, -는다 (-neunda) is added to the stem of the word. 

For example:

  • 먹다 (meokda) – “to eat” 
    • 먹 (meok) + 는다 (neunda) = 먹는다 (meokneunda) or “I eat”
  • 닫다 (datda) – “to close” 
    • 닫 (dat) + 는다 (neunda) = 닫는다 (datneunda) or “I close”

Example sentences:

  • 라면을 먹는다. (Ramyeoneul meokneunda.) – “I eat ramen.”
  • 문을 닫는다. (Muneul datneunda.) – “I close the door.”

RULE #2

When the last syllable of the stem ends in a vowel, -ㄴ (-n) is added to the last syllable followed by 다 (da). 

For example:

  • 배우다 (baewuda) – “to learn” 
    • 배우 (baewu) + ㄴ다 (nda) = 배운다 (baewunda) or “I learn”
  • 공부하다 (gongbuhada) – “to study” 
    • 공부하 (gongbuha) + ㄴ다 (nda) = 공부한다 (gongbuhanda) or “I study” 
  • 가다 (gada) – “to go” 
    • 가 (ga) + ㄴ다 (nda) = 간다 (ganda) or “I go” 
  • 오다 (oda) – “to come” 
    • 오 (o) + ㄴ다 (nda) = 온다 (onda) or “I come”

Example sentences:

  • 영어를 배운다. (Yeongeoreul baewunda.) – “I learn English.”
  • 한국어를 공부한다. (Hangukeoreul gongbuhanda.) – “I study Korean.”
  • 집으로 간다. (Jibeuro ganda.) – “I go home.”
  • 친구가 온다. (Chinguga onda.) – “My friend comes.”

RULE #3

This grammar rule is used to describe something happening right now, such as “I am eating” and “I am drinking” in English. 

Remove the stem and simply add -고 있어요 (-go itseoyo) to complete the sentence. 

For example:

  • 먹다 (meokda) – “to eat”
    • 먹 (meok) + 고 있어요 (go isseoyo) = 먹고 있어요 (meokgo isseoyo) or “I’m eating”
  • 마시다 (masida) – “to drink”
    • 마시 (masi) + 고 있어요 (go isseoyo) = 마시고 있어요 (masigo isseoyo) or “I’m drinking”
  • 입다 (ibda) – “to put on” or “to wear”
    • 입 (ib) + 고 있어요 (go isseoyo) = 입고 있어요 (ipgo isseoyo) or “I’m wearing”

Example sentences: 

  • 밥을 먹고 있어요. (Babeul meokgo isseoyo.) – “I am eating some rice.” 
  • 물을 마시고 있어요.  (Mureul masigo isseoyo.) – “I am drinking some water.”
  • 드레스를 입고 있어요. (Deureseureul ipgo isseoyo.) – “I am wearing a dress.”
A Swirly Clock Picture

The conversation will be a lot smoother if you can construct tenses correctly.

2. Past Tense

The past tense is used to describe actions that took place at some point in the past, which is especially important in storytelling or conveying certain types of information. There are three ways to form the Korean past tense. 

RULE #1 

When the final vowel of a verb is ㅗ (o) orㅏ(a), add -았다 (-atda).

For example:

  • 만나다 (mannada) – “to meet” 
    • 만나 (manna) + 았다 (atda) = 만났다 (manatda) or “I met”
  • 가다 (gada) – “to go” 
    • 가 (ga) + 았다 (atda) = 갔다 (gatda) or “I went”

Example sentences:

  • 친구를 만났다. (Chingureul mannatda.) – “I met a friend.”
  • 집으로 갔다. (Jibeuro gatda.) – “I went home.”

RULE #2

When the final vowel of a verb is anything but ㅗ (o) orㅏ(a), add -었다 (-eotda).

For example:

  • 먹다 (meokda) – “to eat” 
    • 먹 (meok) + ~았다 (-atda) = 먹었다 (meokatda) or “I ate”
  • 배우다 (baewuda) – “to learn” 
    • 배우 (baewu) + ~았다 (-atda) = 배웠다 (baeweotda) or “I learned”

Example sentences: 

  • 수박을 먹었다. (Subageul meogeotda.) – “I ate a watermelon.”
  • 한국어를 배웠다. (Hangugeoreul baeweotda.) – “I studied Korean.”

RULE #3

If a verb ends with the syllable 하 (ha), add -였다 (-yeotda).

For example:

  • 요리하다 (yorihada) – “to cook” 
    • 요리하 (yoriha) + 였다 (yeotda) = 요리했다 (yorigatda) or “I cooked”
  • 공부하다 (gongbuhada) – “to study” 
    • 공부하 (gongbuha) + 였다 (yeotda) = 공부했다 (gongbuhaetda) or “I studied”

Example sentences:

  • 한식을 요리하다. (Hansigeul yorihada.) – “I cooked Korean dishes.”
  • 요리를 공부했다. (Yorireul gongbuhaetda.) – “I studied cooking.”
Someone Celebrating at the Top of a Big Flight of Stairs

Learning the Korean language takes time, but it’s absolutely worth it!

3. Future Tense

The future tense is used to talk about future events. There are two Korean future tenses: one that describes something that will happen in the future and one that describes what might happen

Simple Future Tense

The simple future tense is very easy to learn because all you need to do is add -겠다 (-getta) to the stem of a verb. Simple, right? 

For example:

  • 배우다 (baewuda) – “to learn” 
    • 배우 (baewu) + 겠다 (getda) = 배우겠다 (baewugetda) or “I will learn”
  • 먹다 (meokda) – “to eat” 
    • 먹 (meok) + 겠다 (getda) = 먹겠다 (meokgetda) or “I will eat” 
  • 가다 (gada) – “to go” 
    • 가 (ga) + 겠다 (getda) = 가겠다 (gagetda) or “I will go” 
  • 키우다 (kiuda) – “to raise” 
    • 키우 (kiu) + 겠다 (getda) = 키우겠다 (kiugetda) or “I will raise” 

Example sentences: 

  • 포토샵을 배우겠다. (Potosyapeul baewugetda.) – “I will learn Photoshop.”
  • 나중에 먹겠다. (Najunge meokgetda.) – “I will eat later.”
  • 저녁에 가겠다. (Jeonyuge gagetda.) – “I will go in the evening.”
  • 토끼를 키우겠다. (Tokkireul kiwugetda.) – “I will raise a rabbit.” 

Probable Future 

The probable future tense is used when you want to say, “I will probably ___.” The rule is to attach 으 (eu) or ㄹ  거에요 (r geoyeyo) to the verb stem. 

Here are the rules:

1) If the stem ends in a consonant, attach 을 거예요 (eul geoyeyo).

2) If it ends in a vowel, attach ㄹ 거예요 (r geoyeyo).

  • 먹다 (meokda) – “to eat” 
    • 먹 (meok) + 을 거예요 (eul geoyeyo) = 먹을 거예요 (meogeul geoyeyo) or “I will probably eat”
  • 가다 (gada) – “to go” 
    • 가 (ga) + ㄹ 거예요 (r geoyeyo) = 갈 거예요 (gal geoyeyo) or “I will probably go”
Students Taking an Exam in a Classroom

Revise, revise, and revise! It is the fastest way to learn Korean well.

4. Revise Your Knowledge with KoreanClass101! 

How about a quick exercise to revise everything you’ve learned today? 

Below is a table featuring words from our free list “Vocabulary for the 25 Most Commonly Used Verbs of Any Language.” You can either print out this page or get a notebook ready, and fill in the answers for the blank cells. Don’t be discouraged if you struggle to remember the correct answers! When you’re done with the exercise, simply drag each column to see the answer. 

Dictionary FormPresent TensePast TenseFuture Tense
먹다 (meokda)먹는다 (meokneunda)먹었다 (meokeotda)먹겠다 (meokgetda)
가다 (gada)간다 (ganda)갔다 (gatda)가겠다 (gagetda)
사용하다 (sayonghada)사용한다 (sayonghanda)사용했다 (sayonghaetda)사용하겠다 (sayonghageta)
보다 (boda)본다 (bonda)봤다 (bwatda)보겠다 (bogetda)
일하다 (ilhada)일한다 (ilhanda)일했다 (ilhaeta)일하겠다 (ilhageta)
말하다 (malhada)말한다 (malhanda)말했다 (malhaetda)말하겠다 (malhagetda)
오다 (oda)온다 (onda)왔다 (watda)오겠다 (ogetda)
마시다 (masida)마신다 (masinda)마셨다 (masyeotda)마시겠다 (masigetda)
자다 (jada)잔다 (janda)잤다 (jatda)자겠다 (jageta)
생각하다 (saengakhada)생각한다 (saengakhanda)생각했다 (saengakhaetda)생각하겠다(saengakhageta)
알아듣다 (aladeutda)알아듣는다 (aladeutneunda)알아들었다 (aladeuleotda)알아들겠다 (aladeulgetda)
물어보다 (mureoboda)물어본다 (mureobonda)물어봤다 (mureobwatda)물어보겠다 (mureobogetda)
주다 (juda)준다(junda)줬다 (jweotda)주겠다 (jugetda)
시작하다 (sijakhada)시작한다(sijakhanda)시작했다 (sijakhaetda)시작하겠다 (sijakhagetda)

How many did you get right? If you’re still struggling to understand Korean tenses, go back to the corresponding section from the article and try it again. Practice makes perfect! 

Here’s another list of Korean verbs from our website that you can use to practice the past, present, and future tenses:

And here are lessons that we made just for you (that is, if you’re an absolute beginner):

Did you find those too easy? Here are some pages for intermediate and advanced learners:

Check out these other pages from the web to learn more about Korean-language verbs in general: 


5. Why Learn with Us? 

KoreanClass101 offers free vocabulary lists and a free dictionary where you can learn new words and practice their pronunciation. We also have a Korean word of the day feature, which allows you to receive a free daily Korean lesson from us. We know that some Korean learners love challenging themselves by memorizing a word everyday, so we’ve also compiled the Korean Core 100 Word List so that you can challenge yourself and learn Korean words that are used every day in Korea. We also have 200-, 300-, and 2000-word lists! So do check them out if you’re up to the challenge!

Have a question? Feel free to leave a comment below or simply visit our forum page where you can learn all about Korea and practice your language skills. A lot of Korean learners share their Korean travel experiences and provide learning tips here. In addition, native Korean speakers also visit this page to help Korean learners like yourself.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, and good luck with your Korean studies!

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

How Long Does it Take to Learn Korean?

Thumbnail

Many aspiring Korean learners are plagued by a common question: How long does it take to learn Korean? 

Unfortunately, there’s no definite answer. It really depends on a number of factors, such as your native language, education, experience with languages, exposure, and motivation.

Your intended proficiency level also plays a role in determining how long it takes to learn the Korean language. Do you want to be able to… 

  • …read simple Korean words? 
  • …hold a conversation with locals? 
  • …work in South Korea? 

Each of these goals requires a different skillset and time commitment, so keep this in mind before taking the leap and beginning your studies. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to estimate how long it will take you to learn the Korean language based on your background and the proficiency level you have in mind. As a reference point, we’ll be using standards from the TOPIK proficiency test.

A Ticking Timer against a White Background

Mastering the Korean language takes time and effort.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. The Many Factors That May Impact Your Studies
  2. TOPIK Beginner’s Level
  3. TOPIK’s Intermediate Level
  4. TOPIK’s Advanced Level
  5. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You Reach Your Goals

The Many Factors That May Impact Your Studies

Before we jump right into how long it takes to reach each level, there are a few factors you need to keep in mind. 

Your Native Language vs. Korean 

Thanks to King Sejong, you don’t need to learn all the complicated Chinese characters to learn Korean! But you do need to understand that Koreans use Sino-Korean vocabulary, which refers to Korean words of Chinese origin and words directly borrowed from the Chinese language. For this reason, if your first language is Chinese or Japanese (Kanji), you’ll get the hang of Sino-Korean vocabulary a lot faster than speakers of other languages will. 

Your Language Learning Experience 

If you already speak a foreign language or have been raised in a bilingual (or even a trilingual) environment, you’ll save so much time! It’s usually faster to pick up a third or fourth language than it is to learn a second language. A new study from the University of Haifa revealed that bilinguals can pick up a third language more effectively than monolinguals can a second language. This is because bilinguals have already developed an aptitude for language learning. 

Your Motivation and Attitude

Whether you want to learn the Korean language to understand the lyrics of your favorite K-pop songs or because you want to work in South Korea, your motivation and attitude toward learning Korean will significantly affect how quickly you pick up the language. 

Learning Methods

Are you planning to study Korean casually on your own? Or are you already in a Korean-speaking country and fully immersed in the language? Maybe you want to go to a language school or learn online? There are many different learning methods out there, so make sure you choose the one that suits you best.

Businessmen Climbing Ladders and Charting Their Success

Little by little, you’ll reach the level you want.

TOPIK Beginner’s Level

Reaching the beginner level of Korean is a huge milestone and a victory that will propel you forward in your studies. But how long does this usually take? 

The TOPIK test ranks beginners as either Level 1 or Level 2, depending on how well they score. Here’s what each level means: 

Level 1
  • You can use basic survival phrases and sentences, such as those used for greeting or placing orders.
  • You can express yourself in everyday conversations on familiar topics.
  • Your vocabulary consists of about 800 basic words.

Level 2 
  • You can hold short discussions on familiar topics.
  • You can correctly distinguish between formal and informal situations.
  • Your vocabulary consists of about 1500-2000 words. 

At this level, you’ll have a very limited vocabulary but can participate in greetings or short talks about your day. It will take about three to six months to reach the beginner level, depending on your study schedule. At this point, it’s important to master Korean spelling and to build a strong fundamental grammar foundation. Without this foundation in place, it will be challenging for you to move forward.

The perfect way to study at this stage is to write each Korean character down on a piece of paper several times until you have each one memorized. To start, you can download free PDF materials from KoreanClass101.com on the page Learn the Korean Alphabet, Hangul, from A to Z!

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Korean characters, move on to learning the basic Korean grammar rules. After that, I recommend you learn basic phrases for introducing yourself, greeting people, and even ordering food at a restaurant! KoreanClass101.com has you covered with the following lesson series: 

Learning basic Korean grammar principles will help you build your vocabulary skills, too. Check out the pages below if you want to speed up your studies and learn the most important and commonly used words.

At this level, flashcards will be your best friends! We recommend you check out a few different apps that provide a flashcard function.

If you’re struggling to understand the rules of grammar or anything related to the Korean language, ask around. Our Korean forum is a great place to ask questions to other Korean students as well as native Korean speakers.

A Man Trying to Pronounce Letters that Are Foreign to Him

The more you practice the Korean language, the faster you will reach the level you want!

TOPIK’s Intermediate Level

Your next milestone will be to reach the intermediate level of Korean. But what exactly does this look like, and how long will it take to get there? The TOPIK test has two intermediate level rankings: Level 3 and Level 4. 

Level 3
  • You can maintain social relationships and carry out basic conversations while in public.
  • You understand how to speak correct Korean and use words appropriately.
  • You have a good understanding of and command over the fundamentals of the language.

Level 4
  • You can accurately comprehend news articles, social issues, and abstract topics in Korean.
  • You have good comprehension of Korean social and cultural content, and can understand essential idioms and other defining features of Korean culture.

It can take anywhere from one to two years to reach Level 3, which equates to about 600 hours of studying

At this level, you have familiarized yourself with Korean spelling and basic Korean grammar concepts. You also have the ability to hold short conversations and exchanges, such as greeting someone or buying items. Here are some KoreanClass101 lesson series you can study in conjunction with your textbooks: 

In order to achieve Level 4, you should be willing to dedicate 2 to 4 years (or about 1,000 hours) of studying. The great news is that once you reach this level, you can start learning more complex grammar rules and a variety of verb conjugations used in advanced contexts.

If you’re studying on your own, this would be a good time to get at least a few hours of private lessons or online coaching to solidify your knowledge and make sure you’re on the right track. Also, watching Korean dramas, films, or even news stations is a great way to level up your Korean language skills. Here are a few more Korean resources you can check out on KoreanClass101.com:  

This is only a snapshot of what we have to offer our learners. When you have time, explore our site to get an even better idea of how we can help you reach the intermediate level and beyond!

Two Ladies Working in an Office

TOPIK’s Advanced Level

Are you shooting for the stars and hoping to attain an advanced level of Korean? Good for you—we know you can do it. But how long does it take to learn Korean fluently? 

Level 5
  • You are fluent enough in Korean to perform professional research or work-related tasks in the language.
  • You can understand and discuss less familiar topics in politics, economics, and similar fields.
  • You can appropriately use expressions, distinguishing between formal and informal as well as written and spoken Korean.

Level 6
  • You are completely fluent in Korean for professional research or work.
  • You are able to understand and express yourself with no issues (though you’re still not quite as fluent as a native speaker).

At this stage, you can use Korean fluently and accurately in academic or professional contexts.

If you want to achieve this level, be prepared. It will take at least a few years, though just how quickly you learn depends on you and your methods for studying. Nevertheless, expect to spend about 1,500 hours or more to get to this level.

Start watching Korean movies without subtitles, reading books, listening to Korean music, and most importantly, find native speakers you can interact with regularly. At this point, living in South Korea is the best option because you’ll get a massive dose of real-life Korean every day. You’ll constantly be introduced to new accents, slang terms, and idiomatic expressions you wouldn’t find in grammar books. 

Here are some additional study materials for you as you progress from intermediate to advanced:

A Young Lady Holding a Korean Flag

How KoreanClass101 Can Help You Reach Your Goals

In this article, you learned how long it takes to learn Korean for each proficiency level, reviewed the many factors involved in calculating those numbers, and received some advice on how to learn Korean effectively at each stage. Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have any questions on what we covered today! 

For many students, the ability to study Korean anywhere and anytime is a major factor in how motivated they are and how quickly they learn. Online classes are the best option in this regard, because they’re usually suitable for any level and are more affordable than attending school or paying for private lessons. There are plenty of free language learning websites that allow you to study from home at your own pace—so why choose KoreanClass101.com

We make learning both fun and effective through proven teaching methods, and we cater our lessons to learners at each level. Even without a paid subscription, you can access tons of free Korean study materials: 

We also provide the option to upgrade to a Premium or Premium PLUS account for even more learning materials, exclusive content, and additional benefits. For example, Premium PLUS members can get one-on-one coaching with their own private tutor through MyTeacher

Happy Korean learning! You can do this. 😉

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

The 11 Most Well-Known Korean Proverbs

Thumbnail

Learning Korean proverbs is not only a great way to study the language, but also a window to the unique Korean culture. To help you get the most out of your language studies, we’ve put together this useful Korean proverbs list for you to study. Who knows—you may find that you can start applying these words of wisdom to your own life!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. 꿩 먹고 알 먹는다 (kkwong meokgo al meongneunda)
  2. 보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다 (bogi joeun tteogi meokgido jota)
  3. 로마는 하루아침에 이루어진 것이 아니다 (romaneun haruachime irueojin geosi anida)
  4. 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다 (nanmareun saega deutgo bammareun jwiga deunneunda)
  5. 세 살 버릇 여든까지 간다 (se sal beoleus yeodeunkkaji ganda)
  6. 말 한마디에 천냥 빚도 갚는다 (mal hanmadie cheonnyang bijdo gapneunda)
  7. 궁하면 통한다 (gunghamyeon tonghanda)
  8. 뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다 (tteusi inneun gose giri itda)
  9. 병 주고 약 준다 (byeong jugo yak junda)
  10. 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어질 때가 있다 (wonsungido namueseo tteoreojil ttaega itda)
  11. 옷이 날개다 (osi nalgaeda)
  12. Want to Learn More? KoreanClass101 Can Help!

1. 꿩 먹고 알 먹는다 (kkwong meokgo al meongneunda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • (kkwong) – “pheasant”
  • 먹고 (meokgo) – “and eat”
  • (al) – “an egg”
  • 먹는다 (meongneunda) – “eat”

Literal Translation: Eat a pheasant and eat its egg.
Close English Proverb: Kill two birds with one stone.

This phrase is used to describe a situation where you do one action and receive two benefits at the same time.

For example, imagine that you finally decide to stop smoking to improve your health. You could use this phrase to emphasize that you would not only become healthier than before, but also spend less money on hospital visits and insurance. 

Another example would be if you were cleaning your house and found a stack of money that you had completely forgotten about. In that case, you might say: 

꿩 먹고 알도 먹고! 방 청소하다가 돈 찾았어.
Kkwong meokgo aldo meokgo! Bang cheongsohadaga don chajasseo.
“Kill two birds with one stone! I found some money while cleaning the house.”

A Person Holding a Golden Egg with Two Hands

2. 보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다 (bogi joeun tteogi meokgido jota)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 보기 (bogi) – “to see”
  • 좋은 (joeun) – “and to be good”
  • (tteok) – “rice cake”
  • 먹기도 (meokgido) – “and to eat”
  • 좋다 (jota) – “good”

Literal Translation: Good looking tteok (rice cake) tastes good too.
Close English Proverb: What looks good also tastes good.

When you see something that looks good, it will likely be of good quality. This is because the nice appearance shows that someone put a lot of effort into it. 

Example:

민수: 이 책, 내용이 주제별로 잘 분류되어 있고 사진의 질도 참 좋네.
Minsu: I chaek, naeyongi jujebyeollo jal bunryudoeeo itgo sajinui jildo cham jonne.
Minsu: “The contents of this book are well-organized by topic, and the quality of the photos is great.”

철수: 보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다는데, 한번 읽어봐.
Cheolsu: Bogi joeun tteogi meokgido jotaneunde, hanbeon ilgeobwa.
Cheolsu: “What looks good is usually good too, so read it.”

3. 로마는 하루아침에 이루어진 것이 아니다 (romaneun haruachime irueojin geosi anida)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 로마 (roma) – “Roma”
  • 하루아침 (haruachim) – “one morning”
  • 이루어지다 (irueojida) – “be achieved”

Literal Translation: Rome wasn’t made in one morning.
Close English Proverb: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

This Korean proverb is used to remind us that we cannot expect to do important tasks really quickly, because quality work takes time. For example, it takes time and effort to become 몸짱 (momzzang), meaning someone with muscle. 

Example: 

민수: 나 헬스클럽 등록했어. 몸짱 빨리 되고 싶다.
Minsu: Na helseukeulleop deungnokaesseo. Momjjang ppalli doego sipda.
Minsu: “I registered for a health club. I want to gain muscle quickly.”

철수: 로마는 하루아침에 이루어진 것이 아닌건 알지?
Cheolsu: Romaneun haruachime irueojin geosi aningeon alji?maneun haluachim-e ilueojin geos-i aningeon alji?
Cheolsu: “You know that Rome didn’t happen overnight, right?”

Four Blue-colored Birds Lined Up on a Bench

4. 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다 (nanmareun saega deutgo bammareun jwiga deunneunda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 낮말  (nanmal) – “words spoken during daytime”
  • 새 (sae) – “bird”
  • 밤말 (bammal) – “words spoken during nighttime”
  • 쥐 (jwi) – “mouse”
  • 듣는다 (deutneunda) – “listens”

Literal Translation: “Birds hear the words spoken in the day, and mice hear the words spoken at night.”
Close English Proverb: The walls have ears.

This proverb means that no matter how secretly you say something, others are likely to hear. If you know someone who spreads rumors or says bad things about others, you should step in and quote this Korean proverb. 

Example: 

민수: 너 내가 없을때 나에 대해 나쁜 얘기 했다면서?
Minsu: Neo naega eopseulttae nae daehae nappeun yaegi haetdamyeonseo?
Minsu: “You said bad things about me when I wasn’t there?”

철수: 아니 그런적 없는데?
Cheolsu: Ani geureonjeok eomneunde?
Chulsoo: “No, I didn’t.”

민수: 낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다고, 너 말 조심하고 다녀.
Minsu: Nanmareun saega deutgo bammareun jwiga deunneundago, neo mal josimhago danyeo.
Minsu: “Birds listen during the day, and rats listen during the night. Watch your mouth.”

5. 세 살 버릇 여든까지 간다 (se sal beoleus yeodeunkkaji ganda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 세 살 (se sal) – “3 years old”
  • 버릇 (beoreut) – “habit” (usually bad habits)
  • 여든 (yeodeun) – “80 years old” 
  • 까지 (kkaji) – “until”
  • 간다 (ganda) – “to go”

Literal Translation: Habits (learned) at three last until one is eighty.
Close English Proverb: What’s learned in the cradle is carried to the grave.

This wise Korean proverb is used to warn that bad habits should be corrected early in life, since they’re very difficult to correct later in life. You could say this, for instance, when somebody keeps repeating the same mistakes. 

Example: 

민수: 세 살 버릇 여든까지 간다는 말 몰라? 그 버릇 때문에 힘들어질걸?
Minsu: Se sal beoreut yeodeunkkaji gandaneun mal molla? Geu beoreut ttaemune himdeureojilgeol?
Minsu: “Don’t you know the saying that 3-year-old habits last until you’re 80? You’re going to suffer from that habit!”

6. 말 한마디에 천냥 빚도 갚는다 (mal hanmadie cheonnyang bijdo gapneunda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • (mal) – “saying”
  • 한마디 (hanmadi) – “a single word”
  • (cheon) – “a thousand”
  • 냥: (nyang) – “an old unit of Korean coinage”
  • (bit) – “a debt”
  • (do) – “also”
  • 갚는다 (gamneunda) – “to pay back”

Literal Translation: One word can repay a thousand nyang (old Korean currency) debt.
Close English Proverb: A good tongue is a good weapon.

This proverb highlights the importance of how you speak to people. You could use this proverb in a situation where someone is trying to persuade another party to do something; it would emphasize the importance of choosing their words carefully. 

Example:

말 한마디에 천냥 빚도 갚는다고, 항상 말 조심해야해.
mal hanmadie cheonnyang bijdo gapneundago, hangsang mal josimhaeyahae.
“A good tongue is a good weapon, so be careful what you say.”

Two Puzzle Pieces Joining Together

7. 궁하면 통한다 (gunghamyeon tonghanda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 궁하면 (gunghamyeon) – “if you need something”
  • 통한다 (tonghanda) – “it will open up”

Literal Translation: If you need something, it will open up.
Close English Proverb: There is always a way out.

This is a proverb often used to motivate others to find an innovative solution to a problem that otherwise seems helpless. For example, if a friend of yours wanted to become a YouTuber, you could use this proverb to encourage them. 

Example: 

민수: 유튜버가 되고 싶다.
Minsu: Yutyubeoga doego sipda.
Minsu: “I want to be a YouTuber.”

철수: 궁하면 통한다고 한번 해봐!
Cheolsu: Gunghamyeon tonghandago hanbeon haebwa!
Chulsoo: “Try it, maybe it will work!”

8. 뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다 (tteusi inneun gose giri itda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • (tteut) – “meaning”
  • 있다 (itda) – “there is”
  • (got) – “place”
  • (gil) – “path”

Literal Translation: In the place there is a will, there is a way.
Close English Proverb: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

You can use this Korean proverb exactly the same way you would use its English equivalent. It means that a person can achieve anything, despite the difficulties, if they want it bad enough. 

Example: 

민수: 저 직장 너무 갖고 싶다.
Minsu: Jeo jigjang neomu gatgo sipda.
Minsu: “I really want that job.”

철수: 뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다고 열심히 해봐!
Cheolsu: Tteusi itneun gose giri itdago yeolsimhi haebwa!
Chulsoo: “Try hard because where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

9. 병 주고 약 준다 (byeong jugo yak junda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • (byeong) – “illness”
  • 주고 (jugo) – “and give”
  • (yak) – “medicine”
  • 준다 (junda) – “to give”

Literal Translation: Give a disease then give medicine.
Close English Proverb: To make trouble and then give help.

This proverb describes the actions of a deceptive person, who first causes harm and then offers a remedy in order to appear like the rescuer.

Example: 

철수: 콜록콜록
Cheolsu: kollogkollog
Chulsoo: coughing

수미: 야! 너 감기 걸렸어?
Sumi: Ya! neo gamgi geollyeoss-eo?
Sumi: “Hey! Do you have a cold?”

다음날 (daeumnal) – “Next day”

수미: 콜록콜록
Sumi: kollogkollog
Sumi: coughing

철수: 미안해, 이 약 먹고 빨리 나아.
Cheolsu: Mianhae, i yag meoggo ppalli naa.
Chulsoo: “Sorry, I hope you get better with this medicine.”

수미: 지금 병 주고 약 주냐?
Sumi: Jigeum byeong jugo yag junya?
Sumi: “Are you being nice or nasty?”

A Motor Biker Falling Onto the Sand

10. 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어질 때가 있다 (wonsungido namueseo tteoreojil ttaega itda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 원숭이 (wonesungi) – “a monkey”
  • (do) – “also” / “too”
  • 나무 (namu) – “a tree”
  • 에서(eseo) – “from”
  • 떨어질 때가 (tteoreojil ttaega) – There is a time when one falls~
  • 있다 (itda) – “there is”

Literal Translation: Monkeys sometimes fall from trees.
Close English Proverb: Even Homer sometimes nods.

Use this phrase to emphasize that even an expert sometimes makes mistakes. 

Example: 

민수: 저 피겨스케이터 전세계 1위인데도 넘어질때가 있네.
Minsu: Jeo pigyeoseukeiteo jeonsegye irwiindedo neomeojilttaega itne.
Minsu: “Even though she is the number-one figure skater in the world, she sometimes falls too.”

철수: 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어질 때가 있잖아.
Cheolsu: Wonsungido namueseo tteoreojil ttaega itjana.
Chulsoo: “Even Homer sometimes nods.”

11. 옷이 날개다 (osi nalgaeda)

Vocabulary List: 

  • 옷 (ot) – “clothing”
  • 날개 (nalgae) – “wing” 

Literal Translation: Clothes are your wings.
Close English Proverb: Dress to impress.

This proverb emphasizes the importance of dressing well. 

Example: 

민수: 우와, 너 오늘따라 진짜 멋있어 보인다.
Minsu: Uwa, neo oneulttala jinjja meosisseo boinda.
Minsu: “Wow, you look really cool today.”

철수: 옷이 날개라고, 새로운 옷 좀 샀지.
Cheolsu: Osi nalgaerago, saeroun ot jom satji.
Chulsoo: “Dress to impress. I bought some new clothes.”

A Man Studying the Korean Language at a Quiet Library

12. Want to Learn More? KoreanClass101 Can Help!

In this article, you learned several unique Korean proverbs as well as a few you may recognize from English. Memorizing these proverbs is a fun way to complement your Korean studies, because you can compare them with proverbs from your country. While some of them are difficult to understand, this gives you more reason to brush up on your knowledge of Korean culture! 

If you want to learn more about Korean proverbs and other sayings, there are several pages on KoreanClass101.com (and elsewhere on the web) where you can find more proverbs. Feel free to check them out when you have time! 

KoreanClass101:

Other:

Do you have any questions about the proverbs we’ve covered? If so, leave us a comment below and we’ll be glad to help!

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

Korean Grammar Rules: Everything You Need to Know

Thumbnail

Learning a new language has many benefits, such as boosting your brain power and improving your understanding of the world. To master any language, you must have a good foundation of basic grammar knowledge. 

Once you master the basic Korean grammar rules, communication and many other aspects of the language will become a lot easier for you. Grammar is the foundation of effective communication, so let’s make sure that you gain a good understanding of the basic Korean grammar rules today! As you continue in your language studies, feel free to refer back to this Korean grammar overview to keep your skills sharp.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Before We Start: General Korean Grammar Rules
  2. Special Grammar Point 1: Word Order and Sentence Structure
  3. Special Grammar Point 2: Tenses
  4. Special Grammar Point 3: Simplifying Pronouns and Plurals
  5. Special Grammar Point 4: Korean Particles
  6. Want to Learn Even More Korean Grammar Rules? We Can Help!

1. Before We Start: General Korean Grammar Rules 

To begin, we’ll look at a couple of Korean grammar topics that are fairly simple but absolutely crucial to your language studies. We’ll be covering these a bit more throughout the article, but we wanted to introduce them to you here. 

1) Word Order 

As a Korean learner, you’ll quickly learn that English and Korean have a different word order and sentence structure. For example, English sentences follow this basic structure:

SUBJECT (S) + VERB (V) + OBJECT (O)

But in Korean grammar, sentences follow this basic structure, with the verb at the end:

SUBJECT (S) + OBJECT (O) + VERB (V)

Since the object comes right after the subject, you’ll have to listen to every word in a sentence to understand the meaning and the context.

 2) Tenses 

Did you know that Korean tenses are a lot simpler than those in English? In Korean, there are only three tenses: past, present, and future. In comparison, English has these tenses as well as the present progressive and present perfect. 

You’ll notice that many Korean students who are learning English struggle to understand the concept of present progressive and present perfect since we only use three tenses in Korea.

Learning Korean Grammar Isn't Too Difficult

2. Special Grammar Point 1: Word Order and Sentence Structure

Here’s a short list of basic sentence structures you may want to memorize. Learning these now will make the rest of your studies go a lot smoother. 

SUBJECT + NOUN

SUBJECT + VERB

SUBJECT + ADJECTIVE

SUBJECT + OBJECT + VERB

1) SUBJECT + NOUN

The S + N word order is very similar to its English counterpart, and is used to say that the subject is something. While in English, we use the word “is” to make the association, in Korean, we simply put the words next to each other and add 이다 (ida)—the Korean positive copula—to the end of the second noun.

Here are some examples.

  • 조쉬학생이다. (Joswineun hagsaengida.) – “Josh is a student.”
  • 레슬리변호사이다. (Leseullineun byeonhosaida.) – “Leslie is a lawyer.”
  • 연아한국인이다. (Yeonaneun hanguginida.) – “Yeona is Korean.”

2) SUBJECT + VERB

You’ll learn how to use the past, present, and future tenses in the next section, so for now let’s focus on the present tense of S + V.

  • 효선요리한다. (Hyoseon-eun yorihanda.) – “Hyosun cooks.”
  • 주현먹어요. (Juhyeoneun meogeoyo.) – “Juhyung eats.”
  • 카오린자요. (Kaorineun jayo.) – “Kaorin sleeps.”
  • 달려요. (Poreun dalryeoyo.) – “Paul runs.”

Keep in mind that verbs don’t conjugate for person or number. In English, there has to be an “s” at the end of “cooks” since the subject is third person. You don’t need to think about this in Korean because we don’t have this feature. All verb forms are used the same way regardless of the subject.

3) SUBJECT + ADJECTIVE

In Korean grammar, adjectives can also be used as verbs and can therefore change depending on the tense. For example, 예뻐요 (yeoppeoyo) is a word used to say that something is “pretty,” and if you want to say that something “was pretty,” then the word changes to 예뻤어요. (yeppeotseoyo). 

You’ll learn about the tenses in the next section, so for now, let’s focus only on the present tense form of adjectives:

  • 민경예뻐요. (Mingyeongeun yeppeoyo.) – “Minkyung is pretty.”
  • 미키작아요. (Mikineun jagayo.) – “Miki is small.” 
  • 날씨 좋아요. (Nalssiga joayo.) – “The weather is nice.” 

Want to learn new adjectives to practice with? Check out our article “The Top 100 Korean Adjectives You Must Know” and practice the S + A grammar rule with your favorites! 

4) SUBJECT + OBJECT + VERB

This S + O + V grammar rule is very important because it’s used every day and mastering it will immediately make your conversations much smoother. Here are some examples of how to use this pattern in the present tense:

  • 조쉬사과먹어요. (Joswiga sagwaleul meogeoyo.) – “Josh eats an apple.”
  • 토끼건초먹어요. (Tokkiga geoncholeul meogeoyo.) – “A rabbit eats hay.”
  • 친구 설거지해요. (Chinguga seolgeojireul haeyo.) – “A friend washes dishes.”

Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday Written on Road Signs

3. Special Grammar Point 2: Tenses

Korean tenses aren’t that complicated, especially when compared to those in English. In Korean grammar,  tenses are categorized as past, present, and future. Keep in mind, though, that there are two tense systems—absolute tense and relative tense—which you might want to have a look at after mastering the basic three Korean tenses. 

1. PAST TENSE

Here’s the rule for constructing a past tense sentence in Korean:


 verb/adjective stem  + 아/어 + ㅆ + closing end

For example:

  • 먹다 (meokda), “to eat” -> 먹었다 (meogeotda) – written / 먹었어 (meogeosseo) – spoken
    • 먹 + 어 (eo) + ㅆ + 다 (da)
  • 받다 (batda), “to receive” -> 받았다 (badatda) / 받았어 (badasseo)
    • 받 + 아 (a) + ㅆ + 다 (da)
  • 앉다 (anta), “to sit” -> 앉았다 (anjatda) / 앉았어 (anjasseo).
    • 앉 +아 (a) + ㅆ + 다 (da)
  • 예쁘다 (yeppeuda), “to be pretty” -> 예뻤다 (yeppeotda) / 예뻤어요 (yeppeosseoyo) – polite form
    • 예 + 뻐 (ppeo) + ㅆ + 다 (da)
  • 있다 (itda), “to be” -> 있었다 (isseotda) / 있었어요 (isseosseoyo) – polite form
    • 있 (it) + 어 (eo) + ㅆ + 다 (da)

2) PRESENT

Here’s the rule for constructing a present tense sentence in Korean:


verb stem + ㄴ + closing end

For example:

  • 가다 (gada), “to go” -> 간다 (ganda) – written / 갔어 (gatseo) – spoken
    • 가 (ga) + ㄴ + 다 (da)
  • 먹다 (meokda), “to eat” ->먹는다 (meongneunda) / 먹어 (meogeo)
    • 먹 (meok) + ㄴ+ 다 (da)

You don’t need to change adjectives for the present tense.

  • 예쁘다 (yeppeuda), “to be pretty” -> 예쁘다 (yeppeuda)
  • 나쁘다 (nappeuda), “to be bad” -> 나쁘다 (nappeuda)
  • 무섭다. (museopda), “to be scary” -> 무섭다 (museopda)

3) FUTURE


verb/adjective stem + 겠 + closing end

For example: 

  • 가다 (gada) -> 가겠다 (gagetda) – written / 가겠어 (gagesseo) – spoken
    • 가 (ga) + 겠 (get) + 다 (da)
  • 먹다 (meokda) -> 먹겠다 (meoggessda) / 먹겠어 (meoggesseo)
    • 먹 (meok) + 겠 (get) + 다 (da)
  • 예쁘다 (yeppeuda) -> 예쁘겠다 (yeppeugetda) / 에쁘겠어 (yeppeugesseo)
    • 예쁘 (yeppeu) + 겠 (get) + 다 (da)
  • 나쁘다 (nappeuda) -> 나쁘겠다 (nappeugetda) / 나쁘겠어 (nappeugesseo)
    • 나쁘 (nappeu) + 겠 (get) + 다 (da)

1. PAST

Verb form:


verb stem + (으)ㄴ

Example:

  • 가다 (gada), “to go” -> 간 (gan)
    • 가 (ga) + ㄴ
  • 먹다 (meokda), “to eat” -> 먹은 (meogeun)
    • 먹 (meok) + ㄴ
  • 오다 (oda) “to come” -> 온 (on)
    • 오 (o) + ㄴ
  • 받다 (batda) “to receive” -> 받은 (badeun)
    • 받 (bat) + ㄴ

Adjective form:


adjective stem + (아/어)ㅆ던

Examples: 

  • 예쁘다 (yeppeuda), “to be pretty” -> 예뻤던 (yeppeutdeon)
    • 예 (ye) + 뻐 (ppeo) + ㅆ + 던 (deon)
  • 나쁘다 (nappeuda), “to be bad” -> 나빴던 (nappattdeon)
    •  나 (na) + 빠 (ppa) + ㅆ + 던 (deon

Phrase examples: 

  • 철수먹은 사과 (Cheolsuga meogeun sagwa) – “An apple that Cheolsu ate
  • 수미받은 소포 (Sumiga badeun sopo) – “A parcel that Sumi received” 

2. PRESENT

Verb form:


verb stem + 는

Examples:

  • 가다 (gada), “to go” -> 가는 (ganeun)
    • 가 (ga) + 는 (neun)
  • 먹다 (meokda), “to eat” -> 먹는 (meogneun)
    • 먹 (meok) + 는 (neun)
  • 자다 (jada), “to sleep” -> 자는 (janeun)
    • 자 (ja)  + 는 (neun)

Adjective form:


adjective stem + (으)ㄴ

Examples: 

  • 예쁘다 (yeppeuda), “to be pretty” -> 예쁜 (yeppeun)
    • 예 (ye) + 쁘 (peu) + ㄴ 
  • 좋다 (jota), “to be good” -> 좋은 (joeun)
    • 좋 (joh) + ㄴ
  • 나쁘다 (nappeuda), “to be bad” -> 나쁜 (nappeun)
    • 나쁘 (nappeu) + ㄴ

Phrase examples:

  • 지금오는 음악 (jigeum naoneun eumak) – “The music that plays now
  • 수미듣는 음악 (sumiga deudneun eumak) – “The music that Sumi is listening to

3. FUTURE

Verb and adjective form:

verb/adjective stem + (으)ㄹ

Example: 

  • 가다 (gada), “to go” -> 갈 (gal)
    • 가 (ga) + ㄹ
  • 먹다 (meokda), “to eat” -> 먹을 (meogeul)
    • 먹 (meok) + ㄹ
  • 예쁘다  (yeppeuda), “to be pretty” -> 예쁠 (yeppeul)
    • 예쁘 (yeppeu) + ㄹ
  • 좋다 (jota), “to be good” -> 좋을 (joeul)
    •   좋 (joh) + ㄹ
  • 나쁘다 (nappeuda), “to be bad” -> 나쁠 (nappeul)
    • 나쁘 (nappeu) + ㄹ

Phrase examples: 

  • 내가 먹을 라면 (naega meogeul ramyeon) – “The ramen that I will eat
  • 내가 학교 (naega gal hakgyo) – “The school I will go to

Learning Basic Korean grammar Will Help You in Many Situations.

4. Special Grammar Point 3: Simplifying Pronouns and Plurals 

Now let’s take a look at how to make a singular noun plural:

  • 국가 (gukga), “a country” / 국가 (gukga), “countries” 
  • 호수 (hosu), “a lake” /  호수들 (hosudeul), “lakes”
  • 언어 (eoneo), “a language” / 언어들 (eoneodeul), “languages” 
  • 여자 (yeoja), “woman” / 여자들 (yeojadeul), “women” 
  • 남자 (namja), “man” /  남자들 (namjadeul), “men”  

While some plural forms are the same as the singular forms, most words require that you add 들 (deul) to the end. 

By the way, Wikipedia has some useful information on how to use 들 (deul) with personal pronouns. Check it out!

5. Special Grammar Point 4: Korean Particles

You may find Korean particles tricky because there is nothing like them in the English language, and they therefore cannot be translated. But the good news is that they’re easy to learn! Here are the basic particles that you must master. 

Subject: 는 (neun) or 은 (eun)

These particles are placed after a word to indicate that it is the subject of a sentence. The rule that you need to remember is very simple: 

  • If the subject’s last syllable ends in a vowel, use 는 (neun).
  • If the subject’s last syllable ends in a consonant, use 은 (eun).

Examples:

1. Subject’s last syllable ends in a vowel: 

토끼 바나나를 먹는다. (Tokkineun bananaleul meogneunda.) – “A rabbit eats a banana.”
철수 사과를 먹는다. (Cheolsuneun sagwaleul meogneunda.) – “Cheolsu eats an apple.”

2. Subject’s last syllable ends in a consonant:

소연 밥을 먹는다. (Soyeoneun babeul meogneunda.) – “Soyeon eats some rice.”
효선 청소를 한다. (Hyoseoneun cheongsoreul handa.) – “Hyosun cleans the house.”

Check out our forum on the topic and read what others have said about it. 

Object: 를 (reul) or 을 (eul) 

These particles are placed after a word to indicate that it is the object of a sentence. The rule that you need to remember is: 

  • If the last syllable of the object ends in a vowel, use 를 (reul).
  • If the last syllable of the object ends in a consonant, use 을 (eul).

Examples:

1. Object’s last syllable ends in a vowel:

토끼는 바나나 먹는다. (Tokkineun bananaleul meogneunda.) – “A rabbit eats a banana.”
철수는 사과 먹는다. (Cheolsuneun sagwareul meogneunda.) – “Cheolsu eats an apple.”

2. Object’s last syllable ends in a consonant:

소연은 먹는다. (Soyeoneun babeul meogneunda.) – “Soyeon eats some rice.”
강아지는 마신다. (Gangajineun mureul masinda.) – A dog drinks water.”

Check out our forum page “About OBJECT PARTICLE – 을 [eul] / 를 [reul]” and learn more. 

Want to practice using more particles and conjunctions? Check out our article “Korean Conjunctions List: Essential Korean Conjunctions“!

KoreanClass101 Is Here to Help You with Your Learning!

6. Want to Learn Even More Korean Grammar Rules? We Can Help!

You learned a lot of Korean grammar rules in this article. I hope you’re not too overwhelmed! Learning a language takes time, so don’t pressure yourself by trying to learn everything in one go. Take your time to understand each grammar rule and practice it by writing a Korean diary or talking with a native Korean speaker. 

Here are some recommendations for your further studies:

Do you have a question about anything we covered today? Feel free to leave us a comment or contact us

Good luck with your studies!

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