Lesson 3: Korean Verbs/Adjectives

Lesson 3: Korean Verbs/Adjectives


The vocabulary is separated into nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs for the purpose of simplicity.

Click on the English word to see information and examples of that word in use (you probably won’t be able to understand the grammar within the sentences at this point, but it is good to see as you progress through your learning).

A PDF file neatly presenting all of these words and example sentences in addition to common usages and specific notes can be found here.

Want to give your brain practice at recognizing these words? Try finding the words in this vocabulary list in a Word Search.

음식 = food

케이크 = cake

공항 = airport

병원 = hospital

공원 = park

한국어 = Korean (language)

머리 = head

다리 = leg

손가락 = finger

귀 = ear

팔 = arm

눈 = eye

입 = mouth

배 = stomach

버스 = bus

배 = boat

우리 = us/we

먹다 = to eat

가다 = to go

만나다 = to meet

닫다 = to close

열다 = to open

원하다 = to want (an object)

만들다 = to make

하다 = to do

말하다 = to speak

이해하다 = to understand

좋아하다 = to like

크다 = to be big

작다 = to be small

새롭다 = to be new

낡다 = to be old (not age)

비싸다 = to be expensive

싸다 = to not not expensive, to be cheap

아름답다 = to be beautiful

뚱뚱하다 = to be fat, to be chubby

길다 = to be long

좋다 = to be good

아주 = very

매우 = very

너무 = too (often used to mean ‘very’)

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.

Some Quick Notes about Korean Verbs and Adjectives

Okay, now it is time to get serious. Now it is time to start learning things that you can apply to any verb or any adjective. There are a few things you need to know about Korean verbs and adjectives:

I said this before (twice) but I’m going to say it again. Every Korean sentence must end in either a verb or an adjective (this includes 이다 and 있다). Every sentence absolutely must have a verb or adjective at the end of the sentence.
You should notice (it took me months to notice) that every Korean verb and adjective ends with the syllable ‘다.’ 100% of the time, the last syllable in a verb or adjective must be ‘다.’ Look up at the vocabulary from this lesson if you don’t believe me.
In addition to ending in ‘다’ many verbs and adjectives end with the two syllables ‘하다.’ ‘하다’ means ‘do.’ Verbs ending in 하다 are amazing, because you can simply eliminate the ‘하다’ to make the noun form of that verb/adjective.
Confused? I was at first too. In fact, I don’t think I knew this until 3 months after I started studying Korean – but it is something so essential to learning the language. It is confusing to English speakers because we don’t realize that words can have a verb/adjective form AND a noun form.
For example:
행복하다 = happy
행복 = happiness

성공하다 = succeed
성공 = success

말하다 = speak
말 = speech/words

성취하다 = achieve
성취 = achievement

취득하다 = acquire
취득 = acquisition

You don’t need to memorize those words yet (they are difficult), but it is important for you to realize that ‘하다’ can be removed from words in order to create nouns.

Verbs/adjectives that end in “~하다” are typically of Chinese origin and have an equivalent Hanja (한자) form. Verbs that do not end in “~하다” are of Korean origin and do not have a Hanja form. If you can speak Chinese, you will probably have an advantage at learning more difficult Korean vocabulary, as a lot of difficult Korean words have a Chinese origin.

Korean Verbs

We have already talked about verbs a little bit in previous lessons, but nothing has been formally taught. You learned the basic verb sentence structure in Lesson 1. Let’s look at this again. If you want to say “I eat food” you should know how to use the particles 는/은 and 를/을:

I eat food
I는 food를 eat
To make a sentence, you simply need to substitute the English words with Korean words:
저는 + 음식을 + 먹다
저는 음식을 먹다 = I eat food

*Note – Although the structure of the sentences presented in this lesson is perfect, the verbs are not conjugated, and thus, not perfect. You will learn about conjugating in Lesson 5 and Lesson 6. Before learning how to conjugate, however, it is essential that you understand the word-order of these sentences. However, because of some strange Korean grammatical rules, the sentences provided in the “Adjectives” section are technically perfect but are presented in an uncommon (but simplest) conjugation pattern.

As with the previous lessons, we have attached audio recordings only to sentences that are grammatically correct. Incorrect sentences (due to not being conjugated) do not have audio recordings. Again, you will learn about these conjugations in Lesson 5 and Lesson 6. For now, try to understand the word order of the sentences and how the verbs/adjectives are being used.

As with previous lessons, conjugated examples (one formal and one informal) are provided beneath the un-conjugated examples. Use these only for reference at this point.

Let’s look at some examples:

나는 케이크를 만들다 = I make a cake
(나는 케이크를 만들어 / 저는 케이크를 만들어요)

나는 배를 원하다 = I want a boat
(나는 배를 원해 / 저는 배를 원해요)

나는 한국어를 말하다 = I speak Korean
(나는 한국어를 말해 / 저는 한국어를 말해요)

나는 공원에 가다 = I go to the park (notice the particle 에)
(나는 공원에 가 / 저는 공원에 가요)

나는 문을 닫다 = I close the door
(나는 문을 닫아 / 저는 문을 닫아요)

나는 창문을 열다 = I open the window
(나는 창문을 열어 / 저는 창문을 열어요)

Remember that sentences with verbs don’t necessarily need to have an object in them if the context allows for it.

나는 이해하다 = I understand
(나는 이해해 / 저는 이해해요)

Some verbs by default cannot act on an object. Words like: sleep, go, die, etc. You cannot say something like “I slept home”, or “I went restaurant”, or “I died her.” You can use nouns in sentences with those verbs, but only with the use of other particles – some of which you have learned already (~에) and some that you will learn in later lessons. With the use of other particles you can say things like:

I slept at home
I went to the restaurant
I died with her

We will get into more complicated particles in later lessons, but here I want to focus on the purpose of ~를/을 and its function as an object particle.

Korean Adjectives

Korean adjectives, just like Korean verbs are placed at the end of a sentence. The main difference between verbs and adjectives is that an adjective can never act on an object. Notice, in the sentences below that there is no object being acted on.
Adjectives are very easy to use. Just put them into the sentence with your subject. (Remember that the examples in parentheses show sentences that have been conjugated which you have not learned yet.)

Note that due to weird Korean grammatical rules regarding adjectives, the un-conjugated sentences below are actually grammatically correct as they are. Therefore, we provided audio examples for the un-conjugated sentences and not the conjugated sentences (although all are correct). You will learn about this weird rule and how to conjugate adjectives in Lesson 5.

나는 아름답다 = I am beautiful
(나는 아름다워 / 저는 아름다워요)

나는 작다 = I am small
(나는 작아 / 저는 작아요)

이 버스는 크다 = This bus is big
(이 버스는 커 / 이 버스는 커요)

그 병원은 새롭다 = That hospital is new
(그 병원은 새로워 / 그 병원은 새로워요)

이 공원은 매우 작다 = This park is very small
(이 공원은 매우 작아 / 이 공원은 매우 작아요)

그 사람은 뚱뚱하다 = That person is fat
(그 사람은 뚱뚱해 / 그 사람은 뚱뚱해요)

There is one confusing thing about translating sentences with Korean adjectives to English. Notice that in all examples above, the words “am/is/are/etc…” are used. In English, these words need to be used when using an adjective:

I am fat
He is fat
They are fat

Remember, the translation for “am/is/are” to Korean is “이다.” However, you do not use “이다” when writing a sentence like this in Korean. Within the meaning of Korean adjective is “is/am/are.” Early learners are always confused by this. The confusion stems from the fact that it is done differently in English and Korean. Please, from here on, abandon what you know of grammar based on English – it will only hold you back.

의 Possessive Particle

You already know that ‘I’ in Korean is 저/나. You also know the translation for various objects in Korean.

“의” is a particle that indicates that one is the owner/possessor of another object. It has the same role as ” ‘s” in English (for most examples). For example:

저 = I
책 = book
저의 책 = my book

저의 차 = My car
그 사람의 차 = That person’s car
의사의 탁자 = The doctor’s table
선생님의 차 = the teacher’s car
저의 손가락 = my finger

You can use these words in sentences you are familiar with (with verbs and adjectives):
선생님의 차는 크다 = The teacher’s car is big
(선생님의 차는 커 / 선생님의 차는 커요)

나는 선생님의 차를 원하다 = I want the teacher’s car
(나는 선생님의 차를 원해 / 저는 선생님의 차를 원해요)

나의 손가락은 길다 = my finger is long
(나의 손가락은 길어 / 저의 손가락은 길어요)

그 여자의 눈은 아름답다 = That woman’s eyes are beautiful
(그 여자의 눈은 아름다워 / 그 여자의 눈은 아름다워요)

You will find that words like “my/our/their/his/her” are often omitted from sentences. As you will learn continuously throughout your Korean studies, Korean people love shortening their sentences wherever possible. Whenever something can be assumed by context, words are often omitted from sentences to make them more simple. For example:

나는 나의 친구를 만나다 = I meet my friend
(나는 나의 친구를 만나 / 저는 저의 친구를 만나요)

Can be written as the following:

나는 친구를 만나다 = I meet (my/a) friend
(나는 친구를 만나 / 저는 친구를 만나요)

In this case (and many others like it) you are clearly meeting “your” friend, so the word “my” can be omitted from the sentence.

Always try to stay away from translating sentences directly, and try to focus more on translating sentences based on context as done above.

좋다 and 좋아하다

The word 좋다 in Korean is an adjective that means “good.” Because 좋다 is an adjective we can use it just like any other adjective:

이 음식은 좋다 = this food is good
(이 음식은 좋아 / 이 음식은 좋아요)

그 선생님은 좋다 = that teacher is good
(그 선생님은 좋아 / 그 선생님은 좋아요)

이 학교는 좋다 = This school is good
(이 학교는 좋아 / 이 학교는 좋아요)

There is also 좋아하다 which is a verb meaning ‘to like.’ Because 좋아하다 is a verb, can use it just like any other verb:

나는 이 음식을 좋아하다 = I like this food
(나는 이 음식을 좋아해 / 저는 이 음식을 좋아해요)

나는 그 선생님을 좋아하다 = I like that teacher
(나는 그 선생님을 좋아해 / 저는 그 선생님을 좋아해요)

좋아하다 gets formed by removing ‘다’ from 좋다 and adding 아 + 하다. There is a reason for why this is done, and there is an explanation for how it is done – but you do not need to know this yet. For now, just understand that:

좋다 is an adjective which cannot act on an object
좋아하다 is a verb which can act on an object

We, Us, and Our (우리)

At this point I would also like to introduce you to the word “우리” which you can see from the vocabulary list of this lesson translates to “us” or “we.” In English, even though they are technically the same word, the usage of “us” or “we” depends on its location within the sentence it is used in. Just like “I” and “me”, if the word is the subject of a sentence, “we” is used. For example:

I like you
We like you

However, if the word is the object in a sentence, the word “us” is used. For example:

He likes me
He likes us

In Korean, they do not make this distinction, and “우리” is used in both situations. For example:

우리는 너를 좋아하다 = We like you
(우리는 너를 좋아해)
I deliberately didn’t include a formal version of the conjugated sentence above because it is usually awkward to say the word “you” politely in Korean. We’ll get to this in a later lesson.

선생님은 우리를 좋아하다 = The teacher likes us
(선생님은 우리를 좋아해 / 선생님은 우리를 좋아해요)

By placing the possessive particle “의” after “우리” we can create the meaning of “our”. While this can be done, I feel it is much more common to omit this particle when it is used with “우리.” In fact, the particle “의” is very commonly omitted from words other than “우리” as well. However, I don’t suggest thinking about doing this until you have a better grasp of the language. At this point, I only suggest that you do this with “우리.” For example:

우리 선생님은 남자이다 = Our teacher is a man
(우리 선생님은 남자야 | 우리 선생님은 남자예요)

우리 집은 크다 = Our house is big
(우리 집은 커 | 우리 집은 커요)

A formal version of “우리” is “저희”. However, even in formal situations it is acceptable to use “우리”. At this point, you haven’t even begun to learn about the different levels of formality of Korean, so I don’t want you to get too worried about this word.

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