Learn Sloppy Korean
May 2008, August 2009, January 2010, December 2013
books" are quasi-legal books of musical tablature for
guitarists in a hurry, or those lacking skill, who want to learn the
basic outline of a song. I suppose this is a sort of "fake
book" website for Korean. Purists might condemn this project
with some justice, for I have simplified things greatly in order to let
you speak not grammatically perfect Korean, but Korean that is passably
good enough to make you understood as a foreigner. In short, this is
sloppy Korean, written for teachers already in Korea or planning to come to teach
English, or for anyone who wants a brief skiff of Korean for whatever
I done this when I am not myself anywhere near fluency in Korean? For several reasons. There aren’t any books or
sites like this that I know of. Most Korean books that I’ve
you an outdated form of Korean that was useful in 1952 but make you
sound like Shakespeare to a Korean now,
you a pile of preformed phrases without telling you anything about how
they fit together or how to say new things, or
jump to a skill level so high that you give up in
exasperation, go back to looking at bikini girls on the net, and never
come back to it.
book will teach you a very rough but serviceable form of Korean that
will let you get by and build confidence so that you can move on to
better books written by specialists. It will not make you sound like a
native Korean speaker, but if you’re not Korean
you’re not going to be expected to speak like one anyway.
This is a difficult language to learn, but not impossible, and the
good news is that Koreans are usually flattered by any foreigner who at
least tries. Maybe at some point a Korean will tell you sue-go
heh-say-o … good
try! That’s all I will try to accomplish on this website.
immediately cover myself by thanking my wife Ariel, who, being Korean,
will be helping by checking things and helping supply Korean
letterings. Most of these phrases have been picked up from her and from
co-workers, students, and generally from living in Korea for seven
years. As my own proficiency rises I will add to this site.
occasionally cribbed a phrase or concept from Richard Harris' Roadmap
to Korean (Hollym, 2005), a very helpful guide to the language once you outgrow this
website. The book is an exception to my complaint that there are no good Korean tutorials in print. Being the internet, I've also shamelessly borrowed from various internet sites and online forums.
A Pep Talk
I have been very lazy to learn Korean myself, partly because as a professor in an English program I am usually surrounded by students who can speak English, and because on so many occasions I was so intimidated by Korean that I stopped trying. Before living in Korea I taught in Mexico, and this spoiled me, because an English speaker can gain proficiency in Spanish quickly, but it takes years of studying Korean to get anywhere near conversational level. "Let's go to the beach," Vamos a la playa, sounds romantic, and is easy to learn because Spanish is a European language and the word order and vocabulary all feel comfortable. When you begin to learn Korean, and the words and grammar have no familiarity, it is a disconcerting project.
It doesn't help that travel books and even language books romanticize and exoticize Korea and Korean. The assumption many people are left with is that the language is impossible and the culture impenetrably different. Neither is true. Koreans are humans like anyone else with the same emotions and needs; the language has many differences but has predictable rules. Korean children learn it; they are not space aliens. At any rate, it is not an all-or-nothing project. You can learn a little Korean to get by in a few weeks, or spend years mastering it. I am not going to wax poetic about how learning Korean will open new worlds, etc., although I do think that's somewhat true. A language is a tool, and if you have confidence you can learn to use it skillfully.
I'm not fully practicing what I'm preaching, because I am still what I would call a high-level beginner. But because I'm a native English speaker and an English professor, maybe I have an insight into what basic problems most trouble new learners of Korean because I've experienced them too. As I get better I will add to this website. As ever, if you don't like it... take your money back.
Basic Differences Between Korean and English
I wish I had understood these concepts when I first came to Korea in 2003. It would have saved me a great deal of confusion.
1. Korean is a high-context language. English is a low-context language. This is not a value judgment of either tongue but a statement of grammatical difference. English sentences are long but convey a great deal of exact information as free-standing statements. The boy ate some grapes tells us there was a boy, we both understand what boy, there was only one boy, and he ate a certain amount of grapes in the past. Korean would literally say boy-grape-did-eat. English might then say He went to school. Korean would render this school-to-did-go. One certain contexts and relationships are established, extra words aren't necessary.
Korean has no articles (a, the), pronouns and plurals are usually omitted, and even verb tenses can be loosey-goosey. There is no separate preposition (to); a prepositional marker is simply connected to school. How can the language communicate meaning with so much seemingly necessary information missing? Because in spoken conversation the situation is visibly clear, and because there would be other sentences establishing and supporting what is going on. Written Korean would be perhaps (but not necessarily) more exact.
2. Korean is an agglutinative language. English is an analytical language. By this, I mean that English indicates meaning by word order. In The dog bit the man, we know that the man did not bite the dog because dog came first. This seems perfectly natural and obvious, but not all languages do this. A language such as Latin would say hominem mordet canis, and the word order would be largely irrelevant because the endings (-em and -is) tell us who bit who. Korean would say dog-subject-man-object-did-bite, with the biter and bitee marked with particle endings.
But Korean is agglutinative and Latin is something else (a synthetic language, because conjugations can change as well as add to words). Korean doesn't really make 'sentences' in the sense of linking together discrete words. Rather, it glues them (thus agglutinative) into a statement: dog-subject-man-object-did-bite.
3. The word order is not only different in that the verb is at the end, but Korean does not always even require sentences to have a verb in them like an English sentence does. For convenience, I translate a statement like shib-da as it's easy, but technically shib means easy and da is just a marker indicating that shib is acting as a completed adjective. There is no verb in the sentence! You need to let go of that English concept that every sentence needs a verb.
4. Respect. Korean is much more sensitive and nuanced to showing levels of familiarity or respect in its grammar. English used to have two grammatical levels of respect (you, formal, and thou, familiar), but these have atrophied in favor of distinctions in tone and vocabulary. Korean, being a Confucian-influenced society, does not have this easygoing flatness of western society and employs numerous levels of respect, which provides a further layer of meaning. In his book, Richard Harris gives an example of some 24 verb conjugations for respect that could theoretically be used, all in one tense. Fortunately, this site, and many Korean books, teaches only the most common familiar and polite forms which correspond loosely to dual European language forms such as du/sie and tu/usted, but do remember that there are many more levels and gradations, just in case you are addressing a king.
Some of these differences will feel weird to a non-native speaker, but with time they will feel natural, just as a German or French speaker feels that all nouns need a gender.
on to Part 1
Hangul, hawn-gull, is the written form of Korean, just like English has its own alphabet. Some
books spend their entire length just teaching you how to write Hangul,
which is useless for those who chiefly want to speak it (99% of
us)—or they don’t teach Hangul at all. This really
limits your ability to learn any Korean, firstly because you
won’t be able to read street or bus signs, and secondly
because the correspondence between English letters and Hangul
isn’t great, and sometimes it’s difficult to
represent Korean sounds. If you doubt this, try to represent musical
notes and signs in alphabetic letters!
are a few recognized systems in Korea for transliterating Hangul,
but I am going to use my own because I think it’s easier and
a better phonetic match. It sounds arrogant, but it has helped me to
use the way my brain thinks of English letter patterns to learn Korean,
and maybe it will help you as well. In my defense, Korean systems for rendering Korean into English seem to be more for the use of Koreans than for Korean learners. But do remember that English can't perfectly represent Hangul, and vice versa. It will be best in the long run for you to learn it.
was created around 1446 by the famed King Sejong and his scholars to
replace the Chinese characters then used to represent Korean words.
Although it possibly has influences from Mongolian, It is one of the
only successful artificially created writing systems in the world, and
one of the few alphabetic writing systems in Asia, as each character
represents an individual sound rather than a syllable or word or
concept. Technically the language cheats a little because
characters are lumped into threes, or occasionally fours, and these
combinations often form regularly appearing syllables, but new words
can still be made by combining individual characters. Modern Hangul is
written left to right, and some non-alphabetic marks such as
punctuation or Arabic numbers have also been added. There are exceptions such as movie subtitles, where the Hangul runs up to down.
can sometimes lay it on a little thick about how great Hangul
is. It's pretty awful at representing English words. But it is admittedly a very efficient system for
representing Korean words, and it has boosted literacy immensely in
this country over the last two centuries. It is, in fact, a better match between
symbol and sound than the English alphabet is as you won’t be so troubled
by silent letters or exceptions. Once you’ve learned it, you
can pronounce most things without needing to be taught that you
don’t pronounce the k or the gh in knight.
Korean is difficult, but the writing system is actually not so bad as
you are only memorizing 24 related characters, rather than learning a
character for each word or word-part as you would in Chinese.
also does not have stress patterns. In other words, whereas in English
people argue about how to say distributing (DISS-trib-you-ting or dis-TRIB-you-ting), all Korean syllables are
said with the same volume and emphasis. This is a mixed blessing,
because sometimes it is hard to turn off the impulse to accent
syllables, but you must do so in order to be clearly understood. Korean
also does not have pitched sounds such as Vietnamese or
Chinese (though there are a few places where Korean does cheat and inflect by pitch slightly), and so pitch is also irrelevant to pronouncing words
Spoken Korean does have its own rhythms and sentence inflection. Like English, a question ends in a raised pitch, and a command might end in a slightly dropped pitch. When children or young women have a whining, pleading tone they often have a slow vibrato sound.
Pronounce the Characters
The original script had 28 characters. Modern Korean has 24 (or so) characters, depending on whether you call
combinations discrete letters. There aren’t as many
consonants as English has, but more vowels. I haven't listed all of the
combinations, but here are the most frequently used ones that we'll
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ
ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜㅠ ㅡ ㅣ ㅔ ㅐ ㅢ ㅖ ㅟ ㅚ
in Korea for many months without being able to read Hangul, and then
one day I simply 'got it', just like Bart Simpson
who suddenly realizes he can speak fluent French after going on an
exchange program all summer. The key was when I realized that many of the characters look like the shape your
mouth makes when you are saying it. Some of Sejong's men grumbled that
perhaps Hangul was too easy to learn and was diminishing the exclusive dignity of literacy. Hangul was mockingly called 'women's letters,' because ostensibly even a woman could learn to read. It actually wasn't widely used until the Christian missionaries employed it to teach and evangelize Koreans in the nineteenth century.
first character I learned was ㅅs. When you say ‘s’,
notice that your upper lip forms a sort of tent, making the opening in
your mouth triangle-shaped.
ㅈ j is
just a variation ofㅅs. Now imagine that your tongue is a flat line.
Notice that your tongue is in the middle of your mouth when you make aㅈ
j sound. Now put the flat line on top of the character.
ㅊ ch is
a harder ㅈ j. Think of the smaller line as a short flow of air moving
over your tongue.
let’s look at a second group of consonants.
Imagine that there’s a big square space in your mouth to make
ㅂb. This is aㅁmm with puffs of air coming out of the top corners of
ㅍ p. This is a harderㅂb. And theㅍlooks like the Pillars
of the Parthenon.
another group of consonants.
Think about your mouth with a large opening to let out this sound.
ㅌ t. Think of this sound as aㄷ d with your tongue sticking in the
ㄴ n. Your tongue sort of lies on the bottom of your mouth when you say
ㄱ g. Your tongue sort of sticks to the top of your mouth when you say
ㅋ k. This is aㄱ g with your tongue sticking in the middle.
ㄹ r/l. Think about the way your tongue bends around the top of your
mouth to say r,
and then put it on top of the shape your tongue makes at the bottom of
your mouth to say l. Or else think of the zig-zag your tongue makes to create this sound,
which is halfway between r and l.
English words such as “Rachel” or "falafel" are
very difficult to render in Korean, as the language doesn’t
differentiate between r and l.
There’s an unkind stereotype about Asians saying
“roud you rike remon on your lice”, but Koreans who
learn the difference between the two English sounds can distinguish
them just fine. It’s no harder than an English speaker
learning to say Beijing or arrivaderchi,
two sounds which don’t occur in English.
nothing/ ng. When it begins a group of three characters, theㅇis like a
zero (0)—it indicates nothing more than a placeholder. At the
end of a group, it means ‘ng’, as in “she
sung very well”. Imagine this sound coming from the back of your
Air is moving out of your round throat, and the only thing modifying it
is your tongue in the middle of your mouth (the long line) as a short
bit of air flows over it (the short line on top).
Vowels were not planned by Sejong's scholars to have visual meaning but to correspond to philosophical concepts of earth, sky, and humanity, but I am attempting to give them spatial meanings in hopes that you will have a useful visual mnemonic.
(father). Here there’s a big up-and-down line because your
mouth is open the widest. Imagine your tongue in the middle of your
The same, except your tongue has to do twice as much work to make the
vowel—thus two lines.
ㅓ uh (mutt). Your mouth doesn't change position much from ㅏ ah, but the
sound comes from further back in your mouth, closer to your gut.
ㅕ yuh. The same, except your tongue has to do twice as much work.
(boat). Your tongue is on the bottom of your mouth, but it feels like
there’s a bend in your tongue upwards in the middle.
Again, the same, except your tongue has to do two movements.
(boot). Your tongue is higher in your mouth but sags down a little in
Your tongue has to do this with two movements.
(put). This is a very simple sound, with a simple character. Your
tongue is simply hanging in the middle of your mouth, doing nothing.
Korean usually doesn’t like to end a word with a consonant
sound, so this is can be a sort of subtle vowel ending. It is the
equivalent of the phonetic schwa (ə).
(meet). Imagine that you are creating a lot of airflow in your mouth by
a sort of invisible barrier in the middle.
(set). Your tongue is now getting into the action by standing before
that invisible barrier, lowering the vowel sound.
ㅐ eh! (sat). I get this sound mixed up with ㅔ eh. It is closer to ah-pple.
(water is wet). I can't think of a visual for this one. But you won't
see it all that often anyway. Even native Korean speakers have
difficulty making this sound perfectly, and if you want to approach the
right pronunciation, go very softly on the w part.
are typically grouped into threes, starting with the top left. An example is 잔 (jan,
salty). Sometimes two is enough to finish the set, such as 네 (neh,
yes). Occasionally four are necessary, but that's unusual. Don't make
the mistake of thinking that each group is a discrete word; a set may
only indicate a syllable or a conjugational ending. Beer is 맥주, mek-joo.
Again, character blocks cannot begin with a vowel, and so you will sometimes see a dummy ㅇ character beginning a block. Two other quirks (among others) recognizable in English loanwords into Korean are that native Korean avoids double consonants (Breakfast turns into buh-rek-fast) and the sound patterns of Korean discourage ending words with sounds like ch (church is often pronounced as chuch-uh or church-ee).
the next page will be about some very basic emergency expressions. Use
the English transliteration to help you, but your goal should be to
eventually read the Hangul. There are, unfortunately, a few places
where the Hangul has a pronunciation exception and my transliteration is
actually closer to the real sound, but that doesn't happen
often— certainly far more seldom than English words whose pronunciation
has drifted away from their spelling (Worcestershire, thorough).
on to Part 2
Basic Getting By
are a few basic utterances which you should just flat out memorize,
because you will be using them constantly when you speak to someone in
these two statements are used so often and sound so similar, don't
worry if you accidently say an-yong-ha-seyo as you leave.
Koreans treat it a little like aloha, a multi-purpose phrase. An-yong is a quick form, analogous to "hi!", but it is very
informal and usually only said to or between children. It is a long greeting but do not be tempted to abbreviate it.
What exactly anyong-haseyo means is controversial in Korean manuals. My wife is insistent that literally it is a question which asks, "Are you at peace?," reflecting a tumultuous past in the country. Semantically, I would translate it as "Are you doing all right?" Although it is such a formulaic statement that it can be said with straight intonation, I notice that some Koreans in fact do lift their pitch a little at the end like a question, and this explains why a common answer to anyong-haseyo is neh 네, yes. Anyong-hee-gaseyo, said in parting, is actually an imperative: go in peace.
is an example of a place where the actual pronunciation has drifted
slightly from the spelling. Technically, you should say kam-sa-hab-ni-da but normally the b and n are so fused together that
it sounds like a soft m, and so I've written it this way.
I've heard people in bars quickly say kam-sah as a slang
form, but it's also not a good habit to learn and will sound a little weird if a new speaker says it.
Americans, and particularly Canadians, are very apologetic by Asian
standards. Koreans will not say "excuse me" for minor bumps or burps,
so don't overuse this. Shil-lay-ham-nida is more likely to be used before you do something, such as nudging through a crowd to get to your seat.
is pronounced like Bugs Bunny saying, "Neehhh, what's up doc?" Koreans
will sometimes stretch out the neehhh quite a ways, and it is
often a friendly response to "thank you" in place of "you're welcome."
It can also be used to end a telephone call.
Three Levels of Respect
are numerous levels of respect in Korean, and one reason Koreans seem
to ask a lot of personal questions when introduced is so that they can
use the right level, which can vary considerably based on age and
social position. I've oversimplified things by using only
the three most common forms:
High jon-de-mal 존댓말: Formal address for introductions or special politeness
Low jon-de-mal 존댓말: Polite address for co-workers, elder family members, people you don't know
Ban-mal 반말: Familiar address for close friends or younger family members, children
These levels of address are like those found in European languages, but are perhaps used with more strictness and formality in Korean culture. Basically, if someone is older than you— even a sibling or friend— you would use jondemal unless everyone is comfortable with changing. It would be common to address one's parents in polite form, and you might need to become quite close to in-laws before switching to familiar; in very traditional households even a wife will address her husband in jondemal. A Korean student speaking to a teacher in banmal would be severely disciplined.
For a foreigner in Korea, I think a simple rule applies: Use high jondemal on a formal occasion or in introductions, but mainly use low jondemal. I list the banmal forms on this website for grammatical information, but you should never use it except with a small child, a pet, or a friend/boy-girlfriend who is comfortable with it. Otherwise it's rude and you will be
told so. You of course are a foreigner and have certain liberties, but using banmal consistently will antagonize people.
Usually you can make a phrase polite by adding the polite marker
-yo (as in yo-yo or yo! wassup!).
One problem with rendering Hangul is that English a covers a few different sounds, from ant to August to talk. The a in anie sounds like rough, and not like Annie. Where that's not obvious, I will indicate use [a] to mean a short a.
Ee-yey-yo 이에요 (polite, low jondemal) and im-nee-da 입니다 (more formal, high jondemal) mean is, are, or am. They end a statement.
My name is Ken (I am Ken.)
Think about this: in English even in rather casual situations your introductions might be more formal: May I introduce myself; ladies and gentlemen; pleased to meet you. In Korean also these day-to-day greeting phrases use more elevated styles.
My name is Ken (I am Ken.)
If you introduced yourself to someone in a soju tent you could perhaps say 켄
이다 (Ken ee-da) in banmal, but it's just not commonly used. That's
not a good Hangul rendering of Ken, but you can of course use any
name. If your western name is written in Hangul, you can see some
interesting manglings of the pronunciation. Again, because Korean doesn't usually end a word
with a consonant sound, at a doctor's office I tend to hear ken-ess-uh, Kenneth.
I am a teacher.
occupation is phrased the same way, teacher + I am. I'm going
to write 입니다 as im-nee-da on this site as it's closest to
the English, but again, there's a bit of a 'b' sound there— not really ib-nee-da, but close.
A saram is a person, so if you are asking someone if they are Korean:
한국 사람 입니다?
Hang-guk saram imnida?
Are you Korean?
Koreans call their country Hanguk. A foreigner will be called a way-gook saram (외국 사람).
Other common nations are Japan, ill-bone (일본), China, chung-gook (중국), U.S.A, mee-gook (미국)— a Japanese corruption of ah-mee-rica— and England, young-gook (영국). Canada is, well, canada (캐나다). Newer countries are less likely to have a native Korean word. Thus Germany is dok-il (독일) but The Netherlands are nedehlanduh (네덜란드). Oddly, Australia is ho-ju (호주).
is used to call a waiter or waitress to your table. It sounds awfully
impertinent to call out "here, please!" and it takes some time to conquer the feeling that you are being rude, but that's how it's done, and people
won't be offended.
Cheers! (Salut, Prosit!)
offering too many toasts, you'll need to go to the bathroom
(literally, a powder room; isn't that delicate?):
화장실 어디 있어요?
Where is the bathroom?
you forget this phrase, many Koreans will know toilet, but try to remember at
least hwah-jang-shill? (bathroom?)
Hello? (Telephone only)
Yobo is also an affectionate term similar to dear, used between
husband and wife, but to answer a telephone it has more the meaning of
"look here." Most telephone conversations I hear end not in anyong-hee-gaseyo,
but simply in a drawn-out neehh (Yes, 네).
Okay, I understand (polite)
Koreans don't really have a set way of ending a telephone conversation. I've noticed that friends and intimates usually say neehh and a business call often ends with all-get-sim-nida, which is saying, all right, I got it as a polite closure.
Here are some more short interjections or expressions.
interjection is equivalent to "Uh..." You can say this when you are
simply trying to buy time.
Well, let’s see…
need to pronounce this carefully, because up-puh (아빠 ) is "daddy." I
find it helps to pronounce aww-pahh quite slowly.
Have a good night.
once told my Korean parents-in-law anyong-ee-moo-joo-seyo,
confusing it with the phrase for "goodbye." I was telling them, "Hi,
give me a radish!" Try to get it right. I've been teased about it
Who is it?
Welcome, come in.
will hear this frequently as a greeting when you enter a shop or
(I) will eat well.
is what you (the customer) says after being served if you wish to be
(I) ate well.
can say this after the meal as a compliment if you like. Note that the guh
followed by a harsh ssss changes the meaning of the
phrase from future to past tense. More on that later.
Have you been well?
Have you been well? (Busan)
is a simple conversation starter, i.e. "How are things?" Note that the
second is Busan dialect from the south of the country, and is informal
address. Koreans, particularly those from the southern coast, will find
it amusing if you know a few dialect expressions, and for best effect
Busan dialect is a little more gutteral and steps quite hard on the naaah at the end.
괘 찮 아 (요)
(It's / I'm) Fine, okay, no problem.
This is a very useful multipurpose expression which corresponds well to English no problem, I'm fine, okay. It can reassure someone that you're not offended or hurt: I'm fine, It's alright. It is used as a question or for reassurance. You fell—are you okay? (괘찮아요?) Yes, yes, I'm fine! (괘찮아요!)
Notice that the It's and I'm are in parentheses in my translation, meaning that the statement can mean anyone. It's a high-context language, meaning that normally who it is applied to is obvious. We can all visually see who bumped their head! If necessary, there are ways of stating who, and we will get to them.
Easy Loan Words
For a confidence builder, learn these words which have been imported from English into Korean. Remember not to use word stress.
라디오, radio (rah-di-o)
스파게티, spaghetti (su-pah-geh-tee)
치즈, cheese (chi-zhuh)
토마토, tomato (toe-mah-toe)
피아노, piano (piano)
티셔츠, t-shirt (tee-shuh-tuh)
크리스마스, Christmas (kuh-riss-muh-suh)
카메라, camera (camera)
나이트 클럽, nightclub (nah-eye-tuh kuh-lub)
컴퓨터, computer (kum-pyoo-tuh)
on to Part 3
section is all noun vocabulary for people and personal relations. You need to know some nouns
if you're going to say anything beyond surface greetings, and this is a good place to begin learning because nouns aren't usually conjugated in Korean. It's possible to pluralize nouns by adding -dool, 들, but it's usually omitted, or there is a number anyway (four budgies).
Big sister (from a male)
like British English, tends to use these titles instead of actual
names, and what makes things more complicated is that these terms are
gender-marked. Thus only men say Nu-nah,
and only to older sisters, although I've had older female friends who
like being called "big sister" and find it affectionately friendly. Koreans are very family conscious, and there is a huge vocabulary of specific titles, such as 'younger brother-in-law, from man, through wife,' but I'm trying to give the basics. It's not surprising that the language usually omits pronouns!
Sister (from a younger sister)
heard foreign men say this to all women generally, but it sounds a
Say this with a bit of yuh in it, but it's not quite Yuh-juh.
Girl, teenage girl
said, it's a sexist language. Men are all ajoshis
(Mr.), but women are marked as single or married (Miss, Mrs). Ajumma also has a variety of nuances, ranging from "lady" to "auntie" to
"frumpy, meddling old chatterbox," depending on how and where you use the word,
but I've never offended women who are obviously married by using it. If you're not sure, just use zero address. It's more acceptable (and easier grammatically) in Korean than in English to simply not use any name at all.
In titles Korean doesn't distinguish between Mr. / Mrs. / Miss. If you do need to address someone in title form you can say [name] + she 씨. This seems to be done with first names, resulting in jen-ee-puh-she ee-yey-yo 제니퍼 씨 이에요? Are you Miss Jennifer?
are, obviously, kiddy terms and shouldn't be used by men except in fun.
Don't confuse uppa 아빠 with oppa 오빠. Oppa is technically what a younger girl calls an older brother but is often used for an older male friend or boyfriend. In "Gangnam Style" it has the even broader slang meaning of 'daddy' or 'dude.'
"salmon-im" is the wife of a "fisher of men"? Well, sometimes dumb
mnemomics like this will help you remember words. A salmon-im can actually be any kind of important man's wife, such as a teacher,
but I typically hear it applied to pastor's wives.
Educational titles are important in Korea. You may also hear 조교수, joe-gyoh-sue, assistant professor or 부교수, boo-gyoh-sue, associate professor. Getting those titles wrong can make for a frosty faculty meeting.
Home room teacher
last two are somewhat slangy terms, but younger people will understand
what you mean.
Boo-in (or) Jeep-saram
a "Jeep-saram" is a house-person. For some reason, these terms aren't
used to address other people's wives. This is a little odd, but Koreans will usually say
"your child's mom." If the wife you want to address has a girl named
Sun-hi, then Sun-hi ah-ma. This can be done in second person address straight to the person, and even husbands and wives might use these titles familiarly.
A nam-jah is a male person (man), and a yah-juh (여자) is a female person (woman), so you'll see these nam-
and yo-, ya-
should be easy to remember for anyone married, who some days thinks he
or she made a boo-boo.
Elder brother (from male only)
Older brother, honorific
wouldn't often use such an over-formal term to address an older brother
except in humor, but here it is. In third person people will refer to the 교수님, "honorable professor," but a professor wouldn't call him or herself this as it would sound pompous.
a unisex term. You can say 여동생 (ya-dong-seng,
younger sister) or 남동생 (nam-dong-seng,
younger brother) if you need to be specific. If the person is standing
in front of you a Korean probably wouldn't bother to differentiate.
Let's also list a few body parts:
also mean hair. If you have a headache, you can complain that mah-ree aw-pah 머리 아파!
on to Part 4
4. Slang Terms for People
Obviously you need to be careful about
where you use such terms. For some reason these were some of the first
expressions I learned in Korean, and often they just fit very well!
I remember that Mexicans get quite angry if they are called stupido,
but this word isn't quite so strong in Korean; its nuance is closer to foolish.
interesting. Sometimes insults don't translate well, but these two mean the
same thing in English.
is a half-humorous way of calling for service. It can bring a
laugh, but a male waiter probably wouldn't like it if a foreign woman
uses it. Korea is a fairly sexist culture; you're better off knowing
this in advance.
should probably not call your wife this unless you can duck fast or she
can take a joke!
백조 or 백수)
Beck-joe (or) Beck-sue
Lazy party girl (or boy)
a slacker who sleeps all day and doesn't want to work, only go to
parties (i.e. half the people I lived in dorm with in college). You
must remember that the -joe ending is a woman and the -sue ending is a man, the opposite of what the words cause you to think!
Horsefeathers! (Literally, "Goosefeet!")
are all slightly kiddy interjections, equivalent to "rats!" or "darn
it!" and "yahoo!" But no one will mind. Remember to pronounce all
syllables in Korean with equal emphasis.
careful. I thought this had the meaning of 'naughty boy' and jokingly
called my father this in front of my Korean parents-in-law, who nearly
fell over. Its nuance is closer to "bastard," "a—hole," or something else
unprintable applied to men.
Crazy bitch (vulgar)
a strong vulgarity. The nuance is closer to 'f—-d up
the phrase would almost never be used in fun. Be careful.
is less acceptable in Korea than in North America, with our 21st
century potty mouths. The nome (guy, dude) and yun (chick, bitch) can be interchanged in these two phrases to make mitch-in-nome,
etc... Again, you have some built-in forgiveness being a foreigner, but
don't abuse it by deliberately insulting someone with these
obscenities. They also sound silly when a foreigner doesn't know the exact nuance for the situation. Think of Star Trek IV where Spock is trying to use 20th-century swear words and sounds ridiculous.
Chancery yo-wong (day-wong)
Queen of nagging (king)
safe ground. These amusing epithets can be said in fun. There is a
cultural difference, though, in that the "nasty mother-in-law"
stereotype is usually the wife's and not the husband's problem, and
so Korean men wouldn't normally use such jokes with their wife's mother.
Yobo is really only used between husband and wife, where joggy is more for sweethearts.
tend to be pretty fashion-conscious, and someone whose dress is sloppy
or hopelessly out of date will be described like this: did they get
their clothes second-hand at a charity store?
like the eye-rolling, gagging feeling one gets when boyfriend and
girlfriend are wearing matching clothes and spoonfeeding each other.
Sponger (Literally, lice)
Jun-dory (rhyming with run)
A bin-deh is worse, someone who wants others to pay the bill. A jun-dory is simply a cheapskate. Note that the term is male, referring to a traditionally common Korean boy's name. A miserly woman is a jun-soony, 짠순이. Jun is salty. If someone tries to save money on food by adding salt to stretch out the flavor, they are a "salty Jack" or a "salty Jill."
a 9-to-5 man who comes straight home when the work-bell rings "deng!"
For some women this is a boast, and for others this expresses maybe a
Frumpy old woman
a little nasty; an old hag.
An immature older woman
hard to translate and sounds wooden, but describes an older, married
woman who acts and dresses like a teenage girl. It's a milder and
possibly good-natured insult, but not one to be used to someone's face.
A "country" girl (pejorative)
describes a woman, usually older, with coarse manners associated with
someone from the countryside— literally, a "country chicken." Okay,
let's try to give women a break and find a male insult. You could say chom-nome to describe a male hillbilly, but I think the term is less common.
the humorous suggestion of "old, bald guy." Like it or not, it's
usually applied to westerners as we tend to lose our hair at a younger
age than Korean men do.
Hot girl or guy (unisex)
Phony girl who pretends to be feminine
are traditionalists who value femininity in a woman, and this insult
describes a dissembling woman who acts like a helpless little girl
around men and a truck driver around other women. Women who smoke cigarettes have a definite stigma.
A dweet-boog is "playing the back drum";
that is, they're playing a drum at the back of the band and are out of
time. Use this for someone who gets the joke five minutes later or asks
the question someone just answered— "third rock from the sun!"
Outcast, "fifth wheel"
Innocent girl, Sunday girl
isn't necessarily pejorative, although more and more, I think, young
women have a touch of sarcasm in calling themselves "good girls" when they're obviously dressed for a nightclub.
remember this because the person is "good for nothing"— null.
Two left feet— Someone who can't dance.
No sense of direction — Someone who gets lost easily.
Girl with short legs
this is Konglish slang and not standard Korean it may be spelled
differently. Now we are getting a culture lesson, as Koreans
seem to think a woman with short legs is less attractive. The phrase isn't a
strong insult and
can be used humorously, though of course not directly to them. To many Koreans the taller the better, for women as well as men, and being too short makes one a 왕따 in dating!
Notice the first syllable block, 숏, shoaht. Some characters do funny things when they end blocks, and one of them is ㅅ, which takes an s sound in initial position and a t sound in final position. Notice above that 뒷북 has that character but is pronounced dweet-boog.
Busty, leggy girl
who is "stacked." This is also the sort of thing you say with other men in
the bar, and not directly to a woman!
sort of a kiddy term, but it really does have the adult nuance of tits.
A padded bra
a humorous term for a women with "false advertising." There is a growing awareness of the western obsession with cleavage. Older Koreans and North Koreans tend to think that women with large breasts are unattractive, but more westernized college students will understand the sentiment.
get bong confused with bang,
room, which is pronounced very similarly but with slightly more 'a'. A norebang (노래방) is a private singing lounge for karaoke. If someone tells you they
only went to "Bang-kok" for the weekend, it's a Korean pun meaning they
went nowhere— they were stuck in their own room.
finish this classy section of the tutorial, pyon-tay ajoshi has a strong meaning in Korean, and will make people giggle, but it
seldom has the meaning of "criminal" that it can have in English.
a "Burberry Man," named for the brand of
coats. Perverts who expose themselves are fortunately less common in
recent years, I'm told, as Korean girls
are less sheltered and aren't frightened by flashers
anymore— they tend to laugh, or even worse, take cell-phone pictures!
on to Part 5
Here is a whole page on nouns for food, because you're going to need to eat when you're
but can be used to refer to food generally.
on Married With Children calls his daughter Kelly pumpkin as an endearing term, but in Korean culture it means an ugly girl!
pretty much a no-brainer, and you can combine any of the other fruit
names with joo-suh.
Garden leaves for wrapping galbi 갈비 (roasted meat, usually marinated pork)
be careful where you use this joke if the dinner is terrible.
mean a lettuce salad, but can also mean any sort of vegetable or fruit
salad with dressing, typically a "Thousand Island" variation.
three phrases all say beef meet, pork meat, etc. If you are asked to
choose one, you could probably omit the go-gee (meat).
Red pepper sauce
like ketchup, but it is spicy pepper sauce. A gochoo is also slang for penis,
so be prepared for jokes.
Red pepper powder
that's a nosebleed. A traditional Korean coffee shop is a tah-bang, 다방, but these tend to be seedy places and often fronts for
prostitution, and so I would not use that translation. It's trendy for
university students to hang out in western-style coffee shops, and you are probably better off with caw-pee shop-uh (커피 숍).
this like the dance cha-cha. Cha can also mean car,
but the context obviously should make it clear. There will be many
types of traditional tea, from green tea, knock-cha 녹차, to Chinese jasmine-cha, to bori-cha 보리차, barley tea. If you really want western, Indian-style tea, ask for hong-cha 홍차, black tea.
like lemon in your tea, this one is easy. Just remember to say the "l"
with a little "r" in it without making it sound like the Asian
cliché remon sound.
saul-tung sounds like "salt," and so you need to remember that the
association is wrong. I suppose too much salt gives you sow-gum—"sore gums"?
haven't included a word for table pepper because you will very rarely
see it except in western restaurants, and in those places you can just
say "pepper" anyway. A menu is the same, 메뉴, but you'll find many Korean restaurants just have the
menu on the wall or on the placemat anyway. If you find you're not
adept yet with chopsticks, you might need to ask for a fork (pork-uh 레몬).
Your table setting will probably already have utinsils, but if they don't, here are some words:
젓 가 락
amusing warning: expect teasing if you talk about "chips and salsa." Sulsa 설사 in Korean means diarrhea. I once went to a supermarket and asked for salsa, and the clerk pointed to the bathrooms!
on to Part 6
6. Nouns: Things & Places
Here is one more page on nouns for places and general abstractions. To ask where something is: (place) + Odi yay-yo 어디에요? So to ask where the bank is, Un-heng odi-yay-yo? 은행 어디에요?
Convenience store (e.g. 7-11)
Note the jum 점 ending, which often marks where something is sold. A bookstore is a suh-jum 서점. But not always; won 원 often seems to indicate something institutional:
Here are more places. Note that some of the word parts also sometimes have connections to each other.
Let's learn some easy grammar here with preposition at/in eh 에:
커피 숍 에 있어요
Kohpee shob-eh issoyo
I'm at the coffee shop.
Car (or tea)
Car (or tea)
Gasoline is simply gass-uh 가스 and oil is gear-um 기름 (which makes the gears move).
won't see many Harley-Davidsons, but you will see a lot of scooters
zooming around with commuters or people delivering things, and this is
straight Konglish. For a bicycle,
you might be able to say buh-ike-uh with youngsters, but it would be better to learn jah-jang-gah 자전거.
apartments are typically not sold but a very long-term deposit ("key
money") is paid to the owner. The owner invests this deposit, which can
be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and (hopefully) pays it back when
the tenants leave.
a small key money payment might be made and then monthly rent payments
can be made.
university is a dae- "universe" school.
I suppose the hog should be more like hawk, but I think perhaps Koreans are getting used to the pronunciation used by western ESL teachers.
Many Koreans will recognize bank-uh if you need a bank machine, or even ATM, but it would be better to learn the proper words.
Jolla dialect (South-west) for some nameless object. Be aware that for
teenagers, it can be a kiddy term for penis (What Ned Flanders calls Homer's doodle).
It can also be used when you know what the word is and definitely don't
want to say it!
You can describe every language with this word. Because England is young-gook 영국, English is young-uhh 영어. French is Pu-ranss-uhh 프랑스어 and Spanish is Su-pein-uhh 스페인어.
the term for common speech between intimates, with no pesky -yos. Again, formal speech is 존댓말, jon-de-mal.
Staff party (night)
isn't a clear English term for this. It's when the staff go out
together to a restaurant in the evening to socialize and drink.
First round (ill-cha, 일차) may be a restaurant, second round (ee-cha, 이차) may be a norebang. If anyone's still standing the remaining revelers may go to a pub with food (hope-uh, 호프) or a bar (sool-jib, 술집). Very naughty men may go to a massage parlor (ahn-ma, 안마).
At the bar, you may be given soju 소주, potato liquor, and encouraged to drink with toast! (gonbey, 건배!) or one shot! (wun-shot, 원샷!) There may be small dishes of food ordered (an-joo, 안주) such as corn, potatoes, fruit, or squid. These can be expensive, but if the table is drinking a great deal it's common for the house to bring some free food as a 'service' (serbiss-uh, 서비스).
Feeling of attachment, empathy
this is difficult to translate, but suggests a kind of 'kinship' or
'karma' friends or lovers have for each other. Koreans don't believe
homosexuals have jung,
and so there will be no misunderstanding if two men (or two women) have jung for each other; it's
totally fraternal outside marriage.
Literally, eye water.
A very poetic word.
Death from overwork
associated with the Japanese, but Koreans are reported in the newspaper
sometimes of dying from work stress. Unfortunately, Ja-sal 자살, suicide, is also a phenomenon in this competitive culture.
Although pets are
increasingly popular in the country, among the many Korean expressions
formed with geh-, probably
none are complimentary. If your meal is truly awful, you might call it geh-bab (개 밥), dog food!
You might indeed feel a little gummy if you walk through a
spiderweb. It's these silly mnemonics
that will help you remember.
on to Part 7
I am going to cover some adjectives so that you can describe situations or feelings. Let's look at a simple adjective statement.
In this phrase, yup-key is the root, and the basic form of the adjective is yup-key-da— which is also the conjugation in familiar address for the word; the polite ending would be, surprise, -yo. The -da / -yo ending
corresponds loosely to "it's" in translation, but keep in mind that technically it is simply a marker ending the phrase as an adjectival statement. Korean statements do not require a verb.
It's not funny.
can say this when a joke isn't funny— the joke "bombed." The hah- class of adjective is the most common in Korean, although these words actually normally come from Chinese. The hah- is a grammatical marker and needs to be conjugated with -da or -yo. The hah- 하 will turn into heh-yo 해요.
as a rule is not a language which uses sarcasm (banap-bub, 반어법) very
much. If it's raining and you say, "Oh, nice day!" you will need to
make it very emphatic to get across the idea that you don't really
think it's a nice day, and you may still confuse some people. But this phrase is a rather snide way of saying "It's
edible... but just barely."
are rather feminine things to say ("Isn't it the most darling thing!"), but men might say them.
Sa-da (Polite: Sah-yo)
how similar these are? The bee- is here a negating prefix— i.e. it's not cheap. For fun, you can refer to a price as a rip-off: bog-uh-jee-da (바가 지다 ).
It’s childish, cheesy
doesn't really have the concept of cheesy, and you'll have a
tough time answering the question, "Why cheese?", but this
expression comes close.
It's greasy, oily
expression can be used literally for a woman's leaking car engine or
figuratively for the mechanic with the girlie posters trying to pick
(or) 맵다 (요)
Meh-wuh, mep-da (yo)
you eat a Korean meal you might be saying this a great deal. I'm told meh-wuh is slightly more "masculine," but both mean essentially the same thing.
Salty in adjective form before a noun is jan, as in the expression noted earlier, Jan-dory, 짠돌이, salty Jack.
this is for yourself, i.e. I'm hungry— literally, stomach empty. Again, the situation usually
explains who is hungry without a pronoun— "who else would be hungry,
how can you feel her stomach?" There is a formal way to form
questions in Korean, but a foreigner can usually get away with just
raising his or her intonation at the end of the statement. Thus beh-go-pah-yo?
is are you hungry?
If you're not hungry, you can say you're fine— kin-channah-yo (괘찮 아요). Or, if you want to emphasize that you are not hungry, say 배안고
파 (요) beh-ahn-go-pah-yo. The ahn (안) negates hungry. But notice that the ahn particle goes before the verb and not at the beginning of the statement: i.e. My stomach (is not) empty.
(Someone is) too questioning
is said when someone is being too persistent or pestering you with too
many questions. Other
people can see who you are looking at or pointing to! Korean does use
more pronouns in writing, where these visual clues are absent, but I'm
not teaching you to write Korean— this is quick and dirty, remember?
By the way, if you point at someone, use your entire hand. Pointing
with one finger is only for dogs and will be seen as very rude.
(Someone is) crazy like an animal
might say this to someone not there, such as when you're angry at
another driver in traffic! (Or, you could mutter, 아이씨! 이놈들아 ! aish!
ga-zah, ee-nom-dur-ah! Sheesh! Move it, buddy!) But remember that
Koreans don't generally use animal expressions with each other like
"Hey, dawg!" as endearing terms. Aish! is an all-purpose
statement of disgust, for stronger effect half-spat.
This is something mostly said by old women, to the effect of Lordy, Lordy, or oh dear, what a day, as they sink into their chair.
(Something is) light
무겁다 / 무거워요
Moo-gub-da / Moo-ga-wayo
(Something is) heavy
(Someone is) curious
(Someone is) drunk
the neh prefix indicating me/my/mine. As usual,
this suggests emphasis: keep your grubby hands off of it, it's mine!
The thing is mine.
says the same thing but is a little more polite.
It feels cool.
Gib-bun joe-ah (yo)
It feels good, it's comfortable.
Because joe-ah is a verb meaning like, you are saying you like the feeling. These
two phrases can sometimes mean the same thing— a "cool" feeling can also mean
it is refreshing (I know a Korean girl named She-wan). Note that the latter can also describe someone in a good mood — i.e. they feel good.
For someone who is angry or in a bad mood we can simply say 기분 안좋아 (요) gib-bun an-joe-ah (yo), meaning they don't like the feeling. To make the nuance stronger we need an adjective for bad, 나쁜 (nop-pun), here conjugated as an adjective phrase:
기분 나 빠 요
(Someone is) angry or in a bad mood.
Let's go on to learn some more emotion phrases.
(Someone is) sad, depressed.
(Someone is) serious.
If you want to emphasize that you mean something in earnest, you can also say 진짜, jin-cha. The statement can be an intensifier (really, truly) but can also just mean that you're not joking. It can also be used in exasperation, for Pete's sake!
장난 스 럽다
(Someone is) playful, being playful.
(Someone is) nice, thoughtful, considerate
that the root of the adjective is chalk, and chalk-hada simply completes the statement. These something-ha words are generally derived from Chinese nouns. The ha- also becomes han 한 when combined with a noun instead of forming a finished phrase: thoughtful Misan is chalk-han Misan.
1 (Something is) hot
2 I am hot (e.g. hot weather)
3 (Something is) cold
4 I am cold (it's cold outside)
four statements need to be understood correctly. Something is hot / cold, 1 and 3, means something other than you has a high or low
temperature— the hamburger, the car seat, the bath water, something
you can touch. It does not mean spicy. However, I am hot / cold, 2 and 4, mean you are hot or cold, usually because
of the weather or the room temperature; Koreans say this instead of
"It's hot / cold today."
Notice also that some adjective roots take -da, -yo in conjugation for familiar / polite address, and sometimes they take -wuh-yo or wah-yo (depending on the type of vowel that precedes the ending). This requires some explanation. These last temperature phrases are actually dig-ub-da and chub-da, but are usually shortened. Adjectives ending in a b sound (ㅂ) end in wuh-yo or wah-yo in polite address because the pronunciation of going straight from a b sound to yo is difficult. Thus 쉽다 (shib-da, it's easy), for example, becomes 쉬워요, shih-wuh-yo.
on to Part 8
Verbs are the hardest aspect of Korean for an English speaker because of the complexity of conjugations for respect and for verb tense, but it can be done and it is the most crucial subject to be learned in the language.
Let's begin discussing verbs with the very basic but important verb statement there is. We
forget that in English is is a verb. "There is a
frog" is a verb statement.
Korean also has a way of saying something exists.
There is (something)
There isn’t (something)
are two very important verbs, which are used to say there is or there
isn't something in a statement or question. They come at the end of the
phrase in either statement or question form:
Is there beer?
니, 맥주 없어요
Uh-nee, mek-joo up-soyo
No, there isn't any beer.
to go to a different bar. Alcoholic drinks usually end with -joo, such
as Korean potato liquor, soju 소주. Koreans sometimes translate iss-so literally into English as exist, and will write "beer
exists?" This isn't really the same nuance in English as "Is there any
beer?" but because it ends the sentence you can see the logic. As usual, context would indicate whether you are being specific ("There is a goose") or philosophical ("Does truth exist?")
(Someone is) sleeping
that the -da is just a marker, except that here it is indicating that the verb statement is complete instead of an adjective statement. Sleep is happening.
Try to keep the distinction clear between -da and -issoyo (cha issoyo, there is a car). Issoyo does not mark an action phrase; it is used to say that something exists or is available.
(Someone is— I am) starving to death.
The Beh-go-pah (beh, stomach, go-pah, empty) tells us,
"I'm hungry." The additional part adds emphasis. Korean uses that doing
something to death form, juk-it-seyo, quite a lot. You
can also say after dinner that your stomach is full to death. It makes
sense just fine in Korean.
My stomach is full
Beh-tuh-jee ga-seh (yo)
My stomach is bursting
I like it
I don’t like it
some ways the language is more subjective than English. You don't
usually say that something is good in Korean— only that you like or
don't like it.
I like it (more formal)
Do you like it? (more formal)
The -cah ending formally indicates a question, but again, you can
usually get away with saying the same thing and raising your voice at
the end. You might want to know this form because a lot of older
textbooks insist on it.
I hate it
I’m thirsty (i.e. My throat is dry.)
Are you crazy?
don't say this to your boss. Its meaning is stronger than it might be
in English, where we talk about insanity in a more joking way. Every culture has its own taboo insults.
I don’t know.
I got it, I understand
I already knew it.
is a fine distinction between these two. The first suggests, "Now I
understand," and the second politely indicates, "I knew that already." Remember the expression 알겠 습니다, All-get-sim-nida, which also means okay, got it, but is more polite and often used to end a telephone call.
Okay, I know!
is often spoken with a little irritation: "Okay, okay— I got the point!" It's perhaps the closest Korean gets to a sarcastic "Yes, dear!"
I’m sick of it.
a slightly humorous whine people use when their whole body is tired out.
It's really a noun and not a verb statement but I list it here because it is related.
My head aches
My stomach hurts
is just body part + hurts. Or, you could just say ay-uh, 아야 (ouch!) and point to what is bothering you!
My leg hurts.
not to say da-ree up-uh (daddy's leg?) and to elongate the aww-pahh.
The tt is putting this statement in the past— someone has farted. A popular Korean children's cartoon show has a character named
"Doctor Fart," with appropriate sound effects!
(Someone is) snoring
English snore is probably onomatopoeic, but in Korean you are
saying that someone's nose (koh) is making sound. 코피, koh-pee, is a nosebleed.
I’m leaving for work (slang)
is something a Korean husband might say to his wife quickly as he
leaves for work. Otherwise it is not very polite.
Good effort, nice try.
You did a good job.
is something you will hear often. Literally, you are saying that there
is a taste to something. Say m[a]sh like father and not like the TV show.
It's not tasty.
you could say m[a]sh-ih-up-soyo, but this is more common.
Literally, you're saying something has no taste, but the sense of the
phrase is that something tastes unpleasant, not that it is bland.
(It / You) look good.
put this here because saying someone looks pretty or handsome that day
sounds very much like saying that they are delicious! Say muh (like mutt). I once get very confused when I heard a girl tell a park ranger on a horse that he looked hunky, and it sounded to me like she was saying the horse was tasty.
Aren't you jealous?
I've thrown this in, but it's actually a little tricky as the phrase is saying, "You're jealous, aren't you?" Thus the -jee ending, which indicates a question tag. As a statement it would be burub-da. "Isn't it delicious?" would similarly be 맛있지, m[a]sh-ut-jee?
It kills me! (it’s so good)
It kills me! (Busan dialect)
is so good (a good-looking girl, a great meal) that it's killer! The
second form is another Busan (Gyung-san province) dialect expression,
and for best effect make the jee a little gutteral.
있다 (재미 있어요)
없다 (재미 없어요)
It's not fun (It's boring)
Another way of saying "I'm bored!" is shim-shim-heh (심심 해).
say pee-ga wayo, which would suggest your nose is
bleeding (blood is coming?).
terms are difficult in Korean because you can't use the same "it's
(windy, rainy, snowing)" frame you would in English; different types of
weather have different forms. But rain and snow are phrased as
something 'coming'. Some of the Hangul here is in parentheses because
these are actually particle markers. More on that later.
Okay, now that we have the basic form, let's pile on some additional words. I'll list casual and polite forms.
운동하다 / 운동 해요
Un-dong hada / Un-dong heyo
(Someone is) exercising
샤워 하다 / 샤워 해요
Showah-hada / Showah-heyo
(Someone is) showering, taking a shower
일 하다 / 일 해요
Ill-hada / Ill-heyo
(Someone is) working
공부 하다 / 공부 해요
Gong-boo hada / Gong-boo heyo
(Someone is) studying
요리 하다 / 요리 해요
Oary-hada / Oary-heyo
(Someone is) cooking
(Someone is) Speaking
Korean as a language is 한국 어 (hanguk uhh), but Korean speech is 한국 말 (hanguk mall). Note that just talking in conversation as a verb is 이야기 하다 (Ee-yagi-hada).
Not every verb has a Chinese 하 conjugation. These can have rather odd forms in polite use.
가다 / 가요
Ga-da / Gayo
(Someone is) going
오다 / 와요
Oh-da / Why-oh
(Someone is) coming
춤추다 / 춤춰요
Chum-Choo-da / Chum-choo-wayo
(Someone is) dancing
on to Part 9
Requests & Questions
need to learn how to get simple things done by asking and commanding. Grammatically, the latter is called the imperative mode in English, but we of course don't mean being imperious or arrogant, but simply requesting that someone do something.
does not have articles such as a and the,
but it does have this and that, which
often does the same job.
are choosing something, you can point to it and say "this one!" with
this already to call for service, but you might also need this phrase
to say "that's me"
or "put my dinner here,
please," or "stop
the taxi here,
dropped the -go (thing,
object) from e-go because here the noun is already supplied (bus). Korean doesn't like to
end words with a sound like sss and so the English loan word is more like bus-uh.
Go, I’m going!
Come, I’m coming!
Odie gah (yo)?
Where are you going?
Odie asks where?
(Just like Jon always asks Garfield where 'Odie' is.) Literally, you are just asking "where go?", but as usual the language assumes that the situation is visually clear. Koreans can think that English's
obsession with pronouns can be a little silly— "he's walking out the
door, isn't it perfectly obvious who is leaving?"
Where is the apartment?
A hotel 호텔 is the same in Korean. We'll talk about directing a taxi 택시 a little later. Some of these tourist words are simple Konglish, and
must greatly confuse north Korean refugees! Imagine walking straight out of the medieval period to hear people discussing the in-tuh-net (인터 넷) and all the technical vocabulary relating to it.
I'm trying to introduce the grammar of sentence order here gently. English is an analytical language, meaning that words are separate units in a sentence, and the order tells us the meaning. "The boy ate the grapes" means that the boy did the eating, not the grapes, because boy comes first. Korean is an agglutinative language, meaning that word parts stick together, like "glue." In real Korean there would not be spaces between the character blocks, but they are here for learning purposes. For our purposes right now, notice the last sentence says apartment-where-is? and the verb comes last.
Inn, love motel
Bed & breakfast
A yuh-gwan is the Korean equivalent of a "Motel 6" or some cheapie hotel. Usually what is being referred to is a love motel, which are simple hotel rooms often used for quickie affairs or for airplane or bus layovers. Usually the buildings are covered in neon. Young people might just use the word 모텔, motel. A minn-b[a]k, with the a like father, is a little nicer and will be like a B&B.
Additionally, you might also see a pension. The word is borrowed from French, and will be a hotel suite like a small apartment, often with a kitchenette.
Be quiet, please (polite)
Take a seat.
What is your name?
'moi' 뭐, what,
sounds a lot like French moi?
We covered how to answer earlier: (name) + imnida. Note again that Hangul
often has a dead ㅇcharacter as you cannot begin a character set with a
vowel. You also use this moi to ask this:
What are you doing?
do you do? (For a living)
Let me show you
Gimme! Let’s see it!
a slangy thing to say, and boja-yo is apparently a silly way to make it polite, but I seem to get away
What is it?
note that the e-go is "this thing."
How much is it?
to learn some numbers when you hear the answer, but many shopkeepers
will keep a small calculator to show you a price if fingers aren't
adequate. More on numbers later.
Come this way, please.
I want to drink water.
Something to eat?
trouble keeping eat and drink apart, and my mnemonic is that whiskey
(drink) is mashed,
and soup (food) can come in a mug.
It's dumb but you will inevitably come up with similar ways to remember
phrases such as these.
Would you like something (to eat or drink)?
more formal, somewhat akin to asking if you will "take" something at
tea-time. Say du like wood, soften the sss and don’t say dijj-ih-leho—do
you want to die?
Eat! (less formal)
Bring me more, please.
아줌마! 좀, 더 주세요!
Ajumma, chome, dah joo-seyo!
Waitress, give me a little more, please!
As we said earlier, "ajumma" is only for obviously older women. This is something for you to say in the lunch line up in the cafeteria and not in a nice restaurant!
Time to go to bed. (very casual)
Cook me something (very casual)
Do it yourself! (very casual)
The nee-ga is a very informal pronoun, here used to emphasize you— you do it, not me. If you need to identify someone else politely, the easiest way is to just use their name, even in second person address: Amani kinchenayo? Mom, are you alright?
Time to get up!
of course add -yo to make it polite, but "Get the lead out—-please" does sound a little
odd. It is an enduring Confucian quirk that two people yelling insults at each other in traffic will still use proper respect conjugations!
Let’s go! (informal)
Let’s go. (formal)
Let's go for a walk.
To do some, well, 'guh-rull watching.'
Back at you!
"reflection!", turning the word back to whoever said it: "I know you
are, but what am I?"
뽀뽀 해 주세요
Po-po heh chew-sayo.
Give me a kiss (smooch!).
Hug + give me. Here the joo in casual speech becomes joe.
can say 안아주세요 aun-ah-choo-seyo, but it sounds silly to be so polite
with a hug. Koreans are relatively hands-off and you would almost never hug someone unless they were quite close. Some of these distinctions are common sense.
Give me a hug.
Doe ha-ja (yo).
Do it again.
Ha-jima is a useful phrase, because you can tell anyone to stop doing anything
by putting the word in front:
욕 하지마 !
Ja-jang-nah geh ha-jima!
Stop irritating me!
Don’t make fun of me!
Hah-jima is a general statement meaning "don't do it" or "stop doing it." The nuance of shee-jack hah-jima is more immediate: "musn't touch!" or "get away from there!" Don't do something that you were just about to do!
hear shee-jack a lot when people are practicing a musical instrument: "1, 2, 3, shee-jack 시작 (ok, start!)."
Chum-kan man (yo)
Wait a moment.
This can mean "Wait for me!" But I also use
this when the telephone rings with a Korean speaker and I need to call
my wife to take over. "I'll be right back."
Do your homework!
Give me a discount.
You want to die?
mean "Stop it!" when you are very annoyed. You want a piece of me?
way of forming this type of sentence is to use verb + 지 마세요, jee
mah-seyo, "Don't do..
Don’t shove, please.
now you might have noticed that there are several ways to make an
imperative. There is the "stop doing something" form, -hajima,
and there are several "do something" forms: [verb] -heh,
herra, and haseyo. The
difference between these three is tone. You can say moolheh! very casually to family: pour me some water. You might say showuh-herra (rhymes with sour)
to your son: go have a shower! That's a slightly more formal command. But the hah-seyo ending is polite.
The "give me" commands are similar. You can say anajoe to your girlfriend (hug + give me) because it's obviously an intimate,
but say mekju chooseyo, please
bring some beer, to a waiter.
on to Part 10
10. Numbers & Counting
Numbers and money can be very confusing in Korean
because the language uses Chinese-derived names and Korean-derived
names. I've tried to simplify. This part is fairly short but it
requires a great deal of rote memorization. In a pinch, if you don't
have enough fingers you might have a calculator handy to display
Although is a maddening number of variations and exceptions, in general, for sloppy Korean, use Chinese-derived numbers for money and for telephone numbers, and Korean-derived numbers for most other things. If it makes you feel any better, I find as a teacher that Koreans also have trouble distinguishing between cardinal (one, two, three) and ordinal (first, second, third) numbers in English.
한 개 Hana
한 시 Han-si
이 천 E-chun
두 개 Dugeh
두 시 Du-si
삼 천 Sam-chun
세 개 Segeh
세 시 Se-si
사 천 Sah-chun
네 개 Negeh
네 시 Neh-si
오 천 O-chun
다섯 개 Dasut-geh
다섯 시 Dasut-si
육 천 Yuk-chun
여섯 개 Yeset-geh
여섯 시 Yeset-si
칠 천 Chill-chun
일곱 개 Ilgop-geh
일곱 시 Ilgop-si
팔 천 Pal-chun
여덟 개 Yodelb-geh
여덟 시 Yodelb-si
구 천 Goo-chun
아홉 개 Ahop-geh
아홉 시 Ahop-si
만 원 Man-won
열 개 Yull-geh
열 시 Yull-si
11:00 Yull han si
12:00 Yull du si
A clock or watch is a si-gyeh, 시 계.
A note about money. Korean says "two thousand won" 이천 원". But for 10,000 won, which is the most common large bill and is worth about $10, there is an expression, 만 원 man-won, rather than literally saying "ten thousand."
맥주 두병 주세요
Mekjoo doo-byung jooseyo.
Two bottles of beer, please.
I've gotten away with mekjoo doo-geh 멕주 두개,
two beers, but the situation needs to be clear.
Chill-beck, 칠백, will give us 700. 1300 will be chun sam beck,
천삼백. A 100 won coin is 백
원 beck-won, and so a 500 won coin will be 오백
원, oh-beck won.
생맥주 오백씨씨 주세요
Sang-mek-joo oh-beg see see joo-seyo
500cc draft beer, please.
Draft beer tends to be sold in metric sizes, and
there are usually 250 / 500 / 2000cc sizes. You might order
some an-joo 언주, pub grub, if you're munchy; or, you might be
given ser-biss-uh 설비사, complimentary bar snacks, if you're in
a group drinking beer. If you're drinking a lot, the snacks might be
If you run out of money, you might have to tell your
I have no money.
Pronounce doan like don't without
the t, or like Homer saying doh! with an n added. I keep using these Simpson references to keep this light. Don't
panic if you have trouble with your numbers. You can always write down
numbers, as Koreans use the same Arabic numerals North Americans do.
Numbers can be very tricky. In general, you will
probably need numbers mostly for money. If you are working in dollars,
the Korean is, of course, doll-uh 달러, but Korean also bul 블, something akin to English "bucks."
Admission is $5. oh bul 오 블, five bucks.
Admission is $10. sum bul 십 블, ten bucks.
Admission is $20. ee
ship-bul 이 십 블, twenty bucks.
(Note what happened: 2 x 10 bucks. The 2 came first,
multiplying the ten.)
Admission is $13. ship-sam bul 십 삼 블, thirteen
bucks. (Here we have 10 + 3 bucks. The 3 came second, after the ten,
and so it is added.)
Be careful when you say ship-bul 십 블 or ship-pal 십팔; they are very close to "the F-word" in
Korean, which ends in ball, not bul or pal.
It's probably not a good idea for someone named Cybil to live in Korea,
as the Korean pronunciation will sound like an obscenity!
Where do you live?
Say your address is building 103, suite 1405.
Beck sam dong, chun sah beck oh ho.
백 삼 동, 천 사 백 오 호.
The dong 동 is your apartment building and ho 호 is your suite number. Buildings go first, suites second.
Another interesting piece of trivia. Remember gwarosa, 과로사, death from overwork? That "sah" sound is a homonym for Korean four, 사. Koreans often avoid this number like westerners avoid 13 as unlucky. Elevators often use English F instead of 4, and sometimes Asian airplanes have no row four as no one wants to sit there!
on to Part 11
11. Helping Words
Verbs, nouns, and adjectives get all the girls, but
you need to know how to put things together with conjunctions and
qualifiers, the words which do all the heavy lifting. Here are some very frequently-needed ones.
Wah, Gwah, Hago
If the previous word ends with a vowel, you use the wah,
and if it ends with a consonant, gwah. Alternatively, you can
just use hago 하고 to mean and, as I do for
빵 하고 우유 주세요?
Pang hago uyu joah-yo?
Do you like bread and milk?
Literally, "bread and milk do you like?" As these
statements are becoming longer, keep noticing the word order in these short
sentences; the verb is going to the end. Bread was not native to Korean
culture, and so you might recognize the loan-word from southern Europe (pan).
Koreans are also fond of soy milk, doo-yoo 두유.
Let's use this in an example.
Pang anie-myun uyu joahyo?
Do you like bread or milk?
useful interjection is sah 서, which sounds like "so," and
means the same thing; x is true, and so y is true.
Bop-boh sah mote-gayo
I’m busy, so I can’t go.
A furry friend
I know is always hungry; Hong-song
beh-go pie-yo (항상 배고파 요).
The got 것 part means thing, and so
you can replace it with other nouns: 모든 차 — moe-den cha,
every car, etc.
A little bit
How much spice do you want? joe-gim joo-seyo.
Just a little bit.
조금 밖에 없어요.
Joe-gim bak-eh upsoyo
Not much is left.
I want a lot! Maney joo-seyo!
Very much (Busan dialect)
I really like beebimbop (mixed rice and vegetables): bee-bim-bop ox-soo-roe joe-ah-yo.
Very much (Jolla dialect)
It’s too much
It’s truly delicious!
As I said earlier, jin-cha is also used as an
interjection of exasperation: aishh... jincha! (sheesh...
파티 언제 해요?
When is your party?
방학 언제 해요?
When is your vacation?
Notice again the word order: "vacation when?"
언제 비행기 도착해요?
On-jeh bee-hen-gee doh-chack-heyo?
When does (the / your) flight arrive?
언제 비행기 떠나요?
On-jeh bee-hen-gee dan-ayo?
When does (the / your) flight leave?
Already, so soon?
What did you say?
I sometimes hear this shortened to 뭐라, morah, what was that? But this would be very casual.
Both of them.
Neither of them.
A useful particle ending to learn is 나, na, which will add the meaning ever, every, any to the question
언제 나 On-jeh-na Whenever.
어디나 Oh-dee-na Everywhere.
Coming up in a moment
Korean GPS units will (constantly) say something like this:
"coming up, highway 2."
Joe-gum eet-uh gah
A little later
Every day (informal)
You can also say men-nar, 맨날 for the same
meaning, but it is more slangy. To differentiate, Hong-song, 항상 has the
meaning more of always or constantly, whereas mail or mennar suggest daily.
왼쪽으로 가 주세요
오른쪽 으로 가 주세요
Turn left, please.
Turn right, please.
These are directions you might give a taxi driver to
tell him where to turn. Wen-joke-ee-yo 왼쪽이요 and oron-joke-ee-yo 오른쪽이요 are fine too if the context is clear, meaning "Left, please" and
"Right, please," respectively.
(Something is) near by, close by.
(Something is) far away.
Don't confuse this with mole-ayo (몰라요), I
don't know. These statements work with statements of proximity:
"Is Chicago near here?" "It's close / far away." You can also, as in
English, indicate emotional distance. "Are you close to your brother?" Ga-kah
weyo (가까워요) would then mean "We are close."
on to Part 12
12. Needs & Activities
Here are some specific ways to cover everyday speech
situations and some important 'helping' phrases and verbs to express desires or activities. By the
standards of this website, this material is a little more difficult and
it might take you some time to get the concepts and to internalize
them. Don't rush this section.
할 수 있어요
This is the basic frame for being able to do
something. There are usually two ways to do this, based on the type of
1. activity + do ability + there is
action + halsue 할 수 + issoyo 있어요
공부 할 수 있어요.
Gong-boo halsue issoyo.
I can study.
Study make ability there is: "I have the
ability to do studying."
한국말 할 수 있어요.
Hanguk-mal halsue issoyo.
I can speak Korean.
"Korean-speech" is something I have the ability to
do. Hangul is the written system and Hanguk-mal refers to Korean speech.
2. root of activity + ability + there is
root action + l-sue ㄹ수 + issoyo 있어요
갈 수 있어요.
I can go.
Remember ga-za, let's go? The root, ga 가, also gave us odie gah-yo 어디가요, where are you going? Here
the root produces ga + lsue + issoyo: go ability there is.
잘 수 없어요.
I can’t sleep.
Ja is the root for sleep; remember ja-ja,
지금 올수 있어요?
Jiggum ole-sue issoyo?
Are you coming, are you able to come?
Oseyo, "come", gives us the root o; o+lsue gives us ole-sue. Ga gives us go:
지금 갈수 있어요
Jiggum gal-sue issoyo
I'm coming, I am able to come.
Wanting something or to do something is formed
similarly: the root of the word + go-shib-da or go-ship-ah-yo.
자 고 싶어요
Jah go-ship ah-yo
I want to go to bed.
Maw go shib-ah-yo.
I want to eat something. (Polite)
호떡 먹고 싶다
Hote-duck mug go-shib-da (or shih-wayo)
I want to eat some cinnamon pancakes.
영화배우가 되고 싶어요
Yong-ha bay-o-gah day-go ship-ah-yo.
I want to be a movie star.
커피 마시고 싶다
Caw-pee muh-shee-go ship-duh
I want to drink some coffee.
커피 마시러 가고 싶다
Caw-pee muh-shuh-rah gah-go ship-duh
I want to go out for coffee.
You might be able to get away with "Dunkin' Donuts
kup-sida!" if you know the name of the cafe.
Add kah-jee-go 가지고. Usually just saying issoyo is enough, but if you need to emphasize ownership, you can put
this phrase in between.
핸드폰 가지고 있어요.
Hand-uh-pone kah-jee-go issoyo
I have a cell phone.
This is another example of "Konglish"— a 'hand
phone' is what Koreans call a cell phone.
D. Let's Do Something
우리 집에 갑시다
Uri jeep-eh gap-see-da.
Let’s go home.
Literally, we/our home to let's go.
우리 텔레비젼 봅시다
Uri telibijion bop-see-da
Let’s watch television.
Another Korean adaptation of an English word. Try to
'muddy up' your pronunciation of tele-vizz-un. The v and zz sound don't occur in Korea. If you just want to
comment that we are watching television, it's done like this:
우리 텔레비젼 봐요.
Uri telibijion bwayo.
We're watching television.
E. Lending & Borrowing
Koreans use one word for both lending and borrowing,
and find the English distinction confusing. The frame is object + lend
(bill-yuh) + give me (joo-seyo).
펜 빌려 주세요.
Pen bill-yuh jooseyo.
Lend me a pen.
F. Shopping & Buying
Another Konglish: "we're doing shopping."
We were shopping.
I’m buying shoes.
I bought some candy.
Sometimes the addition of sss-es will
indicate past-ness, such as haseyo / hesseyo. The sss in suh-ssuh-yo is quite pinched and is almost (but not
quite) a t sound. Another thing you should be aware of is that suh-yo 사요 sounds an awful lot like sah-yo 싸요, the
polite form for "it's cheap." Some sadist obviously designed things
this way as this is something you would likely say when you are shopping, and so do your best. One tip recommended by Richard Harris is
that whether Koreans admit it or not, sometimes these complex sounds do have a slight pitch marker to them, and you might try raising your
pitch as you say ssigh-o.
이 컴퓨터가 더 좋아요
Ee com-pyoo-tah-gah da joe-ah-yo
This computer is better.
Literally, I like this computer more. If you must
stress that something works better regardless of your feelings, you can
이 컴퓨터가 더 나아요
Ee com-pyoo-tah-gah da nah-ah-yo
This computer works better.
Adverbs are formed by verb + gae 게
Eat well (Eat deliciously, i.e. bon
Eat well (polite).
These two mean the same thing, but the first is for
intimates or children, and the second is more polite and what you might
hear from a restaurant server.
Jem-me eat-geh nora-yo
Have a good time ("Play interestingly").
on to Part 13
13. More Advanced Phrases & Vocabulary Quirks
I am a doctor.
In English, you might say "he is a teacher" but "I teach in a high school" in order to avoid sounding conceited. Korean does the same. As I wrote earlier, I am a teacher is san-seng im-nee-da 선생 입니다, but in third person you add nim 님.
He/she is a teacher.
He/she is a professor.
별로 안좋아 해요.
I don't like it very much.
조금 밖에 없어요
Joe-gim bach-eh up-soyo
There is not much left.
There a little bit left.
The bach-eh is only used in negative constructions: "there isn't much left." Bach is like the composer, rhyming with rock.
Do you need it?
밥 필요 없어요.
Bap peer-o up-seyo.
I don't need any rice.
고추장 필요 없어요
Go-chew jung peer-o up-seyo.
I don't need any pepper sauce.
Really, you are saying "the need doesn't exist" for these things.
D. More Past Tense
메일 받았어 요?
Did you get my mail?
You could also be asking about 이 메일, e-mail.
Have you eaten?
Here again, see how bap is used commonly for any food.
Have you seen 'Titanic'?
Some Harder Grammar
A. Particle markers
English has a great number of prepositions (over, under, at, with) and articles (a, the) and other helping words that tell you who is doing what in the sentence. Korean doesn't, but the trade-off is that Korean has markers after words to indicate subjects (who is doing it) and objects (who it's done to). Let's look at our basic English sentence again:
The boy eats the apple.
We know that the apple isn't eating the boy, not only because it's ridiculous but because of the word order. Because Korean would mush the words together, it would phrase the sentence like this with markers to indicate subject and object:
boy + subject-marker + apple + object-marker + eat:
nam-jah-noon sag-wah-rool mut-noon-da (남자는 사과를 먹는다)
The good news for foreigners is that, although getting all of these subject-object particle markers is difficult, you can often omit them when the sentence is as obvious as this one anyway. But to develop any kind of fluency in the language it is inevitable that you grasp these markers, especially ones which indicate directions (prepositions). You should at least know what's going on when you hear them used.
Simple sentences use an -ee ending if the subject ends in a consonant sound, and -gah if it is a vowel sound.
House + subject marker (consonant) + there is
Married woman + subject marker (vowel) + there is
Sentences with objects use -ul if following a consonant sound, and -rul if following a vowel sound. The rul 를 is very difficult to pronounce, and what I try to do is rhyme with pull while my mouth is shaped to say rule.
내가 밥을 해요
Nay-ga bap-ul heyo.
I am making dinner.
I + subject marker (vowel) + rice + object marker (consonant) + do + polite marker
미영이 공부를 해요.
Mi-Young-ee gong-bu-rul heyo.
Mi-Young is doing her homework.
Mi-Young + subject marker (consonant) + study + object marker (vowel) + do + polite marker
Let's go to the Norebong.
A norebang is a "singing room" where people rent booths for small groups to sing karaoke in and drink. The "ehh" is a marker indicating motion toward somewhere. Jeep-ehh guy-o is "I'm going (to) home." Don't confuse the subject ending -ee with the preposition for to, -ehh.
C. Miscellaneous Conjugations
Ja-nun gong-boo hey-yo
I'm going to study.
I + subject marker + study + do + polite marker
Because the pronoun 'I' is the subject here, it's possible to say juh-gah, but Koreans usually say ja-nun in situations where they need to emphasize that it's me doing something.
The flowers are nice.
Flower + pretty + is.
예쁜 꽃 있어요.
Yehpun got issoyo.
There are some nice flowers.
Pretty + adj. Marker + flower + there is.
This isn't a very macho sentence; feel free to say that the cigarettes, daum-beh 담, are nice, but notice how the grammar changes here. The first sentence has a different conjugation of nice, yeh-poo-da, from the second, yeh-pun, because the second is a "there is" sentence. Try to see how the two differ.
D. Making Things Polite
I've listed most of the adjectival statements with -da endings, such as shib-da, it's easy. I told you earlier that you can often make an utterance polite simply by adding -yo, but that doesn't work with -da statements. Depending on the ending sound of the root, there are two ways, one of which we covered briefly earlier.
1. Words which don't end in 'b' sounds:
The beer + subject marker (vowel) + is expensive.
Polite ending: drop da and add yo.
The garden + subject marker (consonant) + is pretty.
Adjectives ending with oo sounds become more like uuh sounds when they are made polite.
2. Words which end in 'b' sounds:
(Something) is cute.
(Something) is cute (polite).
Polite ending: change b-da suffix to wayo.
It's easy (polite).
The kimchi is spicy.
The kimchi is spicy (polite).
It's sour (polite).
There are some oddball exceptions such as this one, where the pronunciation changes in very short words. This one is difficult to pronounce and is said in two syllables: shuh-eye + yo.
By now, you might be objecting, why not use -imnida to replace -da, as we did with my name: Ken e-da, informal, Ken imnida, polite? We can. What's happening here is that these are two different conjugations based on different levels of respect. For example, a hawk-seng 학셍 is a student.
(Someone is) a student (polite).
(Someone is) a student (formal).
You might use the first form in explaining what someone else does, but in introducing yourself you would use the -imnida form. Why, if it's so overly polite? But when we think about it, we have the same unusual formality in English when we introduce ourselves. We say, "Pleased to meet you," even if it's at a keg party. We write "Dear Sir," using a word for strangers we usually use only for lovers. To remind you, put a bit of 'b' into the imnida so that it's a little like ib-nee-da.
I'm also told that men should favor the -imnida form and avoid the -way-yo one as the latter sounds a little feminine. So I think it's worth covering the conjugation in more detail, if only because you will hear more older men using it.
More on adjective statements
1. Describing the status of something (adjectives)
It's salty (formal)
Here the root (jah) takes on the adjective form (jan) and merges into -imnida. Remember to say it slightly like jubb-nee-da.
It's easy (formal).
Be aware that words ending with a hard consonant sound might take an sss sound before the -imnida to facilitate pronunciation.
2. Describing the action of something (verbs)
(Someone is) clever.
(Someone is) clever (formal).
(Someone is) depressed.
(Someone is) depressed (formal).
Here words which require the heh (do) change into han-mida. Are you sure this is easier than learning the -way-yo conjugation?
My own advice is, apart from basic statements, just use the -way-yo form. As a foreigner, you will not be accused of being a little girly-man for using -way-yo, but it might sound humorously stuffy if you insist on using -imnida where it is over-elaborately formal.
on to Part 14
close this website with some conversational sentences for everyday
situations, trusting that by now you can work out the sentence logic
used. These are among the newest sentences I've added to this project,
as I'm still learning and working out new things in Korean.
meaning is something like "this is.." but this interjection is used to
start a conversation.
Oh dear, it's too much work.
We mentioned aigo, but as a complete expression it's really something an older person would say as they sit down— "oy,
oy, oy, what a day." But you can say it. Again, aigo is a softer
expression of dismay than aissh, which suggests real disgust.
What are you doing?
I'm doing the dishes.
now you should know how to conjugate this. Are you swimming? Sue-young
heyo? Let's go swimming! Sue-young ka-za! Do you like to
swim? Sue-young joe-uh-yo?
Are you comfortable?
And how about you, mother?
How are you doing?
는 어떻게 지내요?
Ming-you auto-keh jee-ney-yo?
How is Mingyou?
How are you? (More polite)
많이 읽고 있어요
Check mahn-ee eel-go ee-sayo.
I’m reading many books now.
Toong-bo day-go iss-oyo. (bo rhymes with snow)
I’m becoming a fat slob.
Men-nar chancery hey-yo.
She nags me everyday.
Seh com-pyoo-tuh sah-go shib-ah-yo
I want to buy a new computer.
want a new (seh) computer. Remember the verb ssuy-yo,
used for shopping and buying.
Is that correct?
Bar-um mat-geh hess-oyo?
Did I pronounce it correctly?
람이 경상도여자 입니다
Jib-saram-ee kyung-san-do yo-juh im-nida.
My wife is a Gyungsan province woman.
province is in the south-east of the country, home of Busan dialect.
Women from this area have a reputation for being tomboys, and I get
teased a little about being henpecked. Correspondingly, the stereotype
about Gyungsan men is that they don't speak very much!
Jib-saram-ee han-gook saram im-nida.
My wife is Korean.
if you don't want to have a conversation, you might use these:
I don't know.. no reason!
do you think I'm fat?" "Jub." Leave me out of it, I'm not saying
anything to incriminate myself. You need to shut off the 'b' very
quickly, almost like a fast p, to suggest that your mouth is sealed.
end (for now). If you are asked, can you speak Korean? (Hanguk
mal halsue issoyo? 한국말 할 수 있어요?) you can answer:
Just a little bit.
"the tip of a mouse’s tail!"
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