Daybreakin Things

Filed under In English/Learn Korea

Now, it's time to begin some grammar-related things. I think the most easiest part to learn in languages is nouns, so this post is about Korean nouns.

Basic Vocabulary

To make it more interesting, you need to know some basic vocabularies.

English Korean Desc.
name 이름
man 남자(男子)
woman 여자(女子)
child(ren) 어린이
food 음식(飮食)
human, people, person 사람, 인간(人間)
human race, mankind 인류(人類)
earth 땅, 지구(地球) '땅' is used being compared to the sky, and '지구' means our planet.
sky 하늘
tree 나무
sea 바다
house, home
building 건물(建物)
road, pathway
school 학교(學校)
university, college 대학교(大學校)
student 학생(學生 )
language 말, 언어(言語)
sun 해, 태양(太陽)

I will show family names in the following lecture.

Same Pronunciation with Different Meanings

Because Korean has much more simplified pronunciations than Chinese has, there are many words that have different meanings but same pronunciations. In fact, sometimes there are differences on the length of vowels which are usually ignored by Koreans. Koreans determine the meanings depending on the context.

Korean English
차(茶) tea
차(車) car, vehicle
눈ː1 snow
말ː words, speaking, language
the abdomen
배(倍) doubles/multiples of something
감(感) feeling, thought
Japanese persimmon
사과(沙果/砂果) apple
사과(謝過) making an apologize

Nouns from Foreign(Latin) Languages

We approximate2 the pronunciations of words from English, French, and other languages. Sometimes those approximation are different between North Korea and South Korea because dialects of North Korea have stronger consonants and heavily affected by Russia. Here, I will use only South Korean.

English Korean
computer 컴퓨터
program 프로그램
project 프로젝트
bus 버스
taxi 택시
hotel 호텔
casino 카지노
spaghetti 스파게티
pasta 파스타
cake 케이크
ice cream 아이스크림
sofa 소파
television 텔레비전
coffee 커피

Some words are transformed under influence by Japanese, or just "Konglish" (Korean English).

English Korean
air conditioner 에어컨
remote controller 리모콘
cell phone 핸드폰 -- came from 'hand phone' which is not standard English; many people insist that we should use a better expression, '휴대전화(携帶電話)'.

And of course, the names of many countries and regions in the world are in this category.

English Korean
Asia 아시아
America 아메리카
Europe 유럽
Sweden 스웨덴
Russia 러시아
Canada 캐나다
Mexico 멕시코
Finland 핀란드
France 프랑스
Spain 스페인
Italy 이탈리아
Egypt 이집트
Taiwan 타이완
Arab 아랍
Dubai 두바이
Beijing 베이징
Stockholm 스톡홀름
Hongkong 홍콩
Tokyo 도쿄
Amazon 아마존
Washington 워싱턴
Berlin 베를린

and many others.

But the names of some countries which were introduced by Japan or in earlier periods are used in Hanja representations.

English Korean
Republic of Korea 대한민국(大韓民國) -- The official name of South Korea. Usually an abbreviation '한국(韓國)' is used.
South Korea 남한(南韓)
North Korea 북한(北韓)
United States 미국(美國) -- Japan use 米國.
Great Britain (United Kingdoms) 영국(英國) -- 'English' is '영어(英語)'.
Japan 일본(日本)
China 중국(中國)
German 독일(獨逸)
France 불란서(佛蘭西) -- Obsolete word now, but the character '佛' is still used in newspapers as an abbreviation.

The name of our country, "Korea", is made from the name a kingdom which existed at the medieval age in the Korean peninsula, "고려(高麗)". This kingdom had very activated trades of many products with other countries including China and Arabs.

Subjective & Objective Form and Pronouns

Basically, we don't distinguish subjective and objective forms because we have postpositions that indicates the role of the words which it decorates. I will introduce postpositions later.

English Korean
I, me 나, 저 -- The later one is an honorific form that lowers the speaker compared to the listener.
You 너, 자네, 당신3
We 우리
She 그녀
They 그들 -- same to the plural form of '그'
This 이것
That 저것
It 그것

To make them adjectives, like 'my', 'your', 'his', and etc, you can just append a postposition '~의'. Exceptionally 'my' and 'your' can be also used as '내/제' and '네' respectively. To represent someone's belongings, just append another word '것' which means (some)thing, like 'mine' = '나의 것/내 것/제 것', 'yours' = '너의 것/네 것', and 'his' = '그의', '그의 것'.

Single and Plural

To make nouns plural, you may just append a suffix '들' like '-s' or '-es' in English. There is no variation of original nouns. But Korean language does not strictly distinguish single and plural nouns, so this can be omitted in many cases. Usually if a noun is decorated by adjectives or used as a subject, then the plural form is more frequently used.


Korean does not have articles such as 'a', 'an', and 'the' in English. You can just put nouns in proper positions without any articles and any pluralization. If you want to emphasize that a noun is single, you may use '한'(the attributive form of ordinal number/native cardinal one) in front of it, but this is not necessary and actually unnatural in many contexts.

There is no strict separation between uncountable and countable nouns. They are countable or uncountable only conceptually, with no grammatical differences due to absence of articles. Of course, we don't pluralize uncountable nouns such as '사랑' which means 'love'.

In fact, putting proper articles for various abstract nouns is the most difficult part for Koreans when they learn English. (Maybe this post has also many mistakes about this.)

  1. The symbol 'ː' means the vowel of the character just before it should be pronounced long, but rarely distinguished by Korean people. 

  2. This is called 'transliteration' formally. 

  3. In subjective form with some postpositions, this should be used as '네', but many Korean does not care of it.