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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Korean.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone, I'm Jaehwi!
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Korean grammar.
Word Order
"Word Order" refers to the order in which words are structured to form a sentence in a given language.
Consider the English sentence "I saw a movie." But first, let's remove the article "a" here for simplicity, so we're just left with "I saw movie."
The basic Word Order for English is subject, verb, object, or SVO for short.
If we breakdown the English sentence "I saw movie", we can see that the subject "I" is presented first, followed by the verb "saw", and then finally the object "movie" is positioned last.
This is the basic word order for sentences in English.
Now let's compare that same sentence "I saw a movie.", in Korean.
나는 영화를 봤어요. (na-neun yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo)
If we break down the Korean sentence, we get the subject '나' meaning "I", then comes the object 영화 meaning "movie", and finally we have the verb 봤어요 meaning "saw".
The word order for Korean then, is subject, object, verb, or SOV for short.
In both languages, the subject is presented first. In English though, it's followed by the verb and then the object.
Compared to the object being first, and the verb last, in Korean.
The same sentence in Korean is essentially "I movie saw" – subject first, then object, and verb last – SOV.
This is the basic word order for sentences in Korean.
Okay. Let's move on to the next section.
Topic vs. Subject Prominent Language
English is what is called a "subject-prominent" language. This simply means that the subject is slightly more important than other components in the sentence. It's the key piece of information other components in the sentence relate to.
"Who" is doing the action, is slightly more important than what is being done or which object it's been done to, in English.
If we had to slowly remove pieces of information from a sentence, while trying to keep its essence intact, logically we would do so in order of least important to most important.
If we were to omit the subject, we would get "watched a movie" – which sounds strange. On the other hand, if we were to omit the object instead, the sentence would become "I watched...".
Even though in each instance we omitted a piece of information, the reason "I watched..." sounds less strange, is because we've yet to break any grammatical rules, and so there's still potential for the sentence fragment to become a complete sentence and to become grammatically correct.
Since the latter is logical, this indicates that the subject is more important than the object in English. The same is true if we had omitted the verb. Since the subject is the integral component in the sentence, this makes English a "subject-prominent" language.
Korean on the other hand, is a "Topic-prominent" language. Unlike English, the focus of each Korean sentence is the topic, not the subject.
Essentially, the "watched a movie" portion, 영화를 봤어요(yeong-hwa-reul bwasseoyo) is the main focus of the sentence, the subject "I" can be omitted.
In fact, if it's obvious what the subject is, or if it's already been established, it's quite normal to omit the subject from the conversation altogether in Korean. Let's look at this aspect in a bit more detail.
"Omission of the Subject in Korean
More often than not, if you wanted to say "I watched a movie." in Korean, you would not say...
나는 영화를 봤어요. (na-neun yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo)
instead, you would more likely say "movie saw" in Korean...
영화를 봤어요. (yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo)
Korean is a "Topic-prominent" language, thus the information to be shared is the act of seeing a movie. The subject is 'less important' and is usually omitted altogether. Most Korean sentences are constructed and spoken like this in real life.
In most conversations in Korean, it's clear that the person who's speaking is the subject. So when the subject is obvious in a sentence, it's almost guaranteed that the subject will be omitted. And so you're left with...
영화를 봤어요. (yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo)
On the other hand, when it's unclear who or what the subject is, or if you wanted to place emphasis on the subject, like if you wanted to specify from a group of people that it was you who saw the movie, then you would include the subject.
제가 영화를 봤어요. (je-ga yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo)
But more often than not, in spoken Korean, you can omit the subject, particularly if that subject is you.
선물을 샀어요. (seon-mul-eul sa-sseo-yo)
택시를 타고 돌아왔어요. (taek-si-reul ta-go do-ra-wa-sseo-yo)
Knowing this, we can easily express any simple action in Korean using just the object and the verb.
Try to create the sentence "I ate an apple." from these sets of words:
먹었어요 (meo-geo-sseo-yo)
사과 (sagwa)
Got it?
The object goes first... so let's put "apple" here.
And the verb goes last... so let's put "ate" at the end.
Finally, we connect them using the appropriate particle – And that's it!
사과를 먹었어요 (sa-gwa-reul meo-geo-sseo-yo)
Which means 'I ate an apple' in Korean!
사과를 먹었어요 (sa-gwa-reul meo-geo-sseo-yo)
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Korean sentences are formed using a subject, object, verb, or "SOV" word order.
The most important aspect of Korean sentences is not the subject, but the topic of the sentence.
Most sentences spoken in Korean will not actually contain a subject, especially if that subject is obvious.
And lastly, you can create basic sentences in Japanese by putting the object first, and the verb last!
We've covered only the very basics of Korean grammar. If you're interested in learning more, check out our "Korean in 3 Minutes" video series. In that course, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of Korean grammar, and each lesson is only 3 minutes long!
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Korean writing.
See you in the next lesson! Bye!