Course #1 
Grammar On Bullet Points

➢ Basic Sentence Structure in Korean

  • The Korean language is often called an ‘S-O-V language,’ meaning the basic word order of a sentence is Subject-Object-Verb. However, in reality, the position of the subject and the object is not set but can be switched around. What is important is that the verb usually comes at the end and it alone is sufficient to be a complete sentence. Both sentences below means “I study Korean.” :

    “나 한국말    공부해요.” (“I- Korean – study”)
    “한국말,  나 공부해요.”  (“Korean,  – I – study”)


  • The subject and/or the object are often omitted in spoken language when they are readily understood from the context:

    “한국말  공부해요.” (“Korean – study”) : (He) studies Korean.”
    “한국말이에요.” (“Korean – is”) : (That) is the Korean language.


  • In English, switching from a statement to a question requires some change in the word order or an auxiliary verb. In Korean, the change is in the intonation, not in the word order:

    공부해요. ↓  vs. 공부해요? ↑
    They study.  vs. Do they study?한국말이에요. ↓  vs. 한국말이에요? ↑
    It’s Korean.  vs. Is it Korean?


  • As mentioned at the beginning, don’t be too concerned with the grammatical aspects of the phrases in this lesson. They are basic expressions and words that come in handy in everyday social interactions. So, for now, let us learn each expression and word by imitating the sound as accurately as we can and associating it with its USAGE. Don’t worry – we’ll learn the relevant grammar, step by step, very soon!



➢ Basic Terms to Learn: Verb Infinitive; Verb Stem (VS); and Verb Continuative Stem (VCS)


  • All infinitive verbs in Korean, both action verbs and descriptive verbs, end in ‘dah’ 다. Another way to refer to the infinitive is ‘the verb in the dictionary form’, as it is the verb form presented in the dictionary. Here are the verbs introduced in Lesson 1-1:










  • The Verb Stem (VS) is the verb infinitive minus the ‘dah’ 다 at the end. In other words, take away ‘-dah’ -다 in the dictionary form and you’ll have the verb stem (VS). Look at the table above.


  • Many of the verb conjugation rules we will learn involve either the verb stem (VS) or the verb continuative stem (VCS), a.k.a the ‘아/어 form’. Below are the general rules for creating the VCS from the dictionary form. Please note that several groups of verbs do not follow the general conjugation rules. These are called ‘irregular verbs’. Many basic verbs in Korean fall into this category and we’ll learn them as they come. For now, here are the two basic rules to learn:


1) If the last syllable of the verb stem (VS) contains a ‘bright vowel’ (ㅏor ㅗ) , add 아 to the stem to create the verb continuative stem (VCS):


Ex> 좋다 ‘joh-dah’ to be good:

좋 (ㅈ + ㅗ + ㅎ) is the verb stem (VS) whose last syllable contains a bright vowel, ㅗ;

Therefore, add 아 to the stem 좋 to create 좋아;

좋아is the VCS of the verb 좋다 ‘to be good.’

 2) If the last syllable of the verb stem (VS) contains a vowel other than ㅏor ㅗ, then add 어 to the stem to create the verb continuative stem (VCS):

Ex> 먹다 ‘muhk-dah’ to eat:

먹 (ㅁ + ㅓ + ㄱ) is the verb stem (VS) whose last syllable contains the vowel ㅓ, which is obviously not ㅏ or ㅗ;

Therefore, add 어 to the stem 먹 to create 먹어;

먹어is the VCS of the verb 먹다 ’to eat.’



➢ Informal-Polite Speech Style in Present Tense: VCS+요 = VS + (아/어)요


  • The speech style which sounds not too formal but still polite is called the “informal-polite style.” It is marked in the verb at the end of the sentence and it’s the first speech style we will learn to use. For the present tense form, we simply add ‘yo’ 요 to the verb continuative stem (VCS).

    *If you are curious about the interesting linguistic aspects in Korean, ‘speech styles’ and ‘speech levels,’ click here to read more about them. It is  not an easy concept to grasp especially for those whose native language is void of a similar linguistic feature. They’ll become clearer as we progress with the course, so don’t worry about it too much now!


  • Another way to look at this conjugation, the informal-polite in the present tense, is to add -아요 or -어요 to the verb stem (VS):

    • If the last syllable of the VS has a vowel ㅏ or ㅗ, add -아요 to the VS;

    • if the last syllable of the VS has a vowel other than ㅏ or ㅗ, then, in general, add -어요.
      *There are a few irregular verbs which do not follow these general rules. We’ll just learn then separately.











➢ Verb of Identification 이다 (& 아니다)

  • The verb ‘이다ee-dah’, which means “to be”, follows a noun phrase and identifies what the noun is.

  • The verb ‘아니다 ah-nee-dah’, which means “to not be,” essentially tells what something is NOT. These two verbs, 이다 and 아니다, will be referred to as the verbs of ‘identification’.  The use of the verb 아니다 will be explained further in the next Conversation section.

  • The verb ‘이다ee-dah’ is special in two ways:
    1. Unlike other verbs, it has two informal-polite styles:
       1) for a noun ending with a vowel: N예요;
       2) for a noun ending with a consonant: N이에요.


Ex 1>   nouns ending with a vowel:


햄버거: hamburger

햄버거예요.   “It is a hamburger.”


샐러드: salad

샐러드예요.  “It is a salad.”


컴퓨터: computer

컴퓨터예요.  “It is a computer.”

Ex 2>  nouns ending with a consonant:

펜: pen

펜이에요.  “It is a pen.”

베이글 : bagel

베이글이에요.  “It is a bagel.”

컵: cup

컵이에요.  “It is a cup.”

2. In writing, unlike other verbs, it immediately follows a noun it identifies without any space:


O 햄버거예요. It is a hamburger. (l a bapenputer)s, in writing,.’
X 햄버거(  )예요 .O 컴퓨터예요. It is a computer.
X 컴퓨터(  )예요.O 펜이에요. It is a pen.
X 펜(   )이에요.O 베이글이에요. It is a bagel.                
X 베이글(   )이에요.


  • The verbal ending ‘ 다dah’ (which is different from -다 in the infinitives) marks that the sentence is a statement in the formal-polite style. The verbal ending ‘ggah,’ ‘까kkah’, on the other hand, marks a question in the formal-polite style. The formal-polite of the verb ‘이다ee-dah’ is ‘입니다eem-nee-dah’ for a statement and ‘입니까eem-neek-ggah’ for a question:


햄버거입니다.  It is a hamburger.

햄버거입니까? Is it a hamburger?

컴퓨터입니다. It is a computer.

컴퓨터입니까?  Is it a computer?

펜입니다.  It is a pen.

펜입니까?  Is it a pen?

베이글입니다.  It is a bagel.

베이글입니까?  Is it a bagel?

  • Except for a few useful expressions, we’ll focus on learning the informal-polite style (a.k.a. the yo-style) for now. So, for the time being, you can set aside the formal-polite style.




➢ Verbs of Existence / Possession 있다 & 없다











  • To talk about whether something is present or absent, we use the verbs ‘있다eet-dah’ and ‘없다uhp-dah’, respectively:


커피  있어요.  There is coffee.

커피  없어요.  There is no coffee.

주스  있어요.  There is juice.

주스  없어요.  There is no juice.

택시  있어요.  There is a taxi.

택시  없어요.  There is no taxi.

버스  있어요.  There is a bus.

버스  없어요.  There is no bus.


  • To remark that someone has or possesses something or not, we use the same verbs, ‘있다eet-dah’ and ‘없다uhp-dah’:


커피  있어요.  I have coffee.

커피  없어요.  I don’t have coffee.

주스  있어요.  I have juice.

주스  없어요.  I don’t juice.

컴퓨터  있어요. I have a computer.

컴퓨터  없어요. I don’t have a computer.

  • Note the difference in usage and meaning between the verbs of identification ‘이다ee-dah’ and ‘아니다ah-nee-dah’ and the verbs of existence/possession ‘있다eet-dah’ and ‘없다uhp-dah’. English speakers often confuse these two sets of verbs due to the fact that, in English, the verb ‘to be’ is used both to identify and to express existence.


  • For example, the verb used in the English sentences “there is a bagel” and “it is a bagel” is the same: ‘to be’. On the other hand, the Korean equivalent sentence for “there is a bagel” would be “베이글 있어요” (inflected from있다, the verb of existence) and for “it is a bagel” would be “베이글이에요” (inflected from –이다, the verb of identification).


➢ Questions with Question-Words

  • You can ask what, where, when, who, how much (price), how, and why by simply attaching ‘-(yeh)yo’ -(예)요 to these question-words. Review the question-words (a.k.a. WH-words) under the Key Vocabulary section and look at the following questions and listen to the recording on CD 1, Track 4, Essential Korean:


  • Questions with WH-words:



➢ Verb of Identification 아니다

  • While the verb 이다 identifies what something is, the verb 아니다 states what something is NOT.


  • Unlike the verb 이다, which cannot stand alone but always has to follow a noun phrase, the verb 아니다can be said by itself, or with a noun, as in the following dialogues:


    Q: 컴퓨터예요?            
    A: 컴퓨터 아니에요.

    Q: Is it a computer?    
    A: It’s not a computer.

    Q: 오렌지 주스예요?   
    A: 오렌지 주스 아니에요.

    Q: Is it orange juice?   
    A: It’s not orange juice.

    Q: 브라이언이에요?  
    A: 브라이언 아니에요.

    Q: Is it Brian?             
    A: It’s not Brian.

    Q: 한국이에요?          
    A: 한국 아니에요.

    Q: Is it Korea?       
    A: It’s not Korea.


  • In writing, there is a space between the verb and the noun it follows. (Remember: 이다 is the only verb which follows a noun phrase without a space in writing.)




➢ Conjunctions “and”: 그리고 & 하고

  • Both g-ree-go 그리고 and ha-go 하고 are ‘and’ in English.  However, their usages are distinctly separate. The former, g-ree-go 그리고, is used when connecting sentences and, sometimes, nouns when one wants to have an obvious break or express emphasis. On the other hand, the latter, ha-go하고, is used exclusively to connect nouns. In writing, there is no space between the word ha-go하고 and the noun it follows, whereas the word g-ree-go그리고 is written with a space before and after it:

Ex 1>

a notebook and a pencil (‘gong-chek’ 공책 : a notebook  ‘yeon-peel’ 연필 : a pencil):

공책하고 연필   vs.   공책 그리고 연필

Ex 2>

Pointing at objects, one at a time: (It’s) a notebook.

And, (it’s) a pencil.

공책이에요.  그리고 연필이에요 .   vs
X  공책이에요. 하고 연필이에요.



➢ “(Noun), please”; “I/You mean (noun)” : “N요.”

  • “(Noun), please”: When asking for a thing, we use the sentence, “(Noun), please.” In Korean, you can simply add ‘요’ after the noun:

    오렌지 주스요.  “Orange juice, please.”
    커피요. “Coffee, please.”
    한국말요. “Korean language, please.”
    택시요. “Taxi, please.


  • “I/You mean/meant (noun)”: You can also say “I/you mean/meant (noun)” in Korean by simply adding ‘요’ after the noun:

    Ex> With nouns
    오렌지 주스요.  “I mean/meant orange juice.”
    커피요. “I mean/meant coffee.”
    한국말요. “I mean/meant Korean language.”
    택시요. “I mean/meant taxi.”

    Ex> With question words
    뭐요? “What do you mean?”
    언제요? “When do you mean?”
    누구요? “Whom do you mean?”


  • “N요” is also used to replace the verb phrase in a complete response to a question as shown in A2 in the examples below:

Q: 뭐예요?
A1: 커피예요.   / A2: 커피요.

Q: What is it?
A1: It’s coffee.   / A2: Coffee.

Q: 뭐 먹어요?
A1: 피자 먹어요.   / A2: 피자요.

Q: What are you eating?
A1: I’m eating pizza.  / A2: Pizza.

Q: 뭐 봐요?
A1: 신문 봐요.  / A2: 뉴스요.

Q: What are you watching?
A1: I’m watching the news.  / A2: The news.

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