Characteristics of the Korean Language

Today is: 2017년 6월 4일


안녕! 오랜만 이네 (long time no see)

Today, we are covering the things that make the Korean language tick: word order, context orientation, general to specific speech, and honorifics.

Note: If you have no idea how to pronounce/read any of the Korean, go back to my lesson on Hangul) I won’t use much romanization from now on because I find that it distracts you from actually learning how to read Korean.  Exceptions will be the names of people and places.

Word Order

Unlike English, in which sentences are subject-verb-object (SVO) sentences, Korean sentences are SOV (subject-object-verb.)

This means that nouns (subjects and objects), adverbs, and numbers appear before the verbs or adjectives.

Modifiers (adverbs, demonstrative pronouns, and relative clauses) come before the modified words.

Verbs and adjectives are always at the end.


Peter eats ramen at the store.//피터 가게에서 라면 먹어요.

Andrew reads a book at home.//앤두류에서 읽어요.

Instead of having prepositions, Korean has particles that always come after the noun. In this case, 가 is a subject marker, 에서 is a location marker (meaning “at” in this situation,) and 을 is an object marker.

Because of particles, nouns (both subject and object) don’t always stay in place. They can move around the sentence freely (as long as they stay in front of the verb/adjective.) This changes the meaning of a sentence just like tone does in English.

Context-Oriented Language

In Korean, the most important parts of a sentence tend to be near the end of a sentence. So, the closer to the beginning a word is, the more likely it is to be dropped. That being said, verbs/adjectives are the most important part of a Korean sentence.

The context of a sentence determines omission and if the subject is understood, it is omitted more often than not.


안녕하십니까? = “How are you?” but its literal translation is “Are peaceful?” There is no subject because it is implied.

The same goes for “What do you study?” ( 공부하새요? “What study?”), “Thank you” (감사합니다 “Thanks do”) and any other Korean sentence.

General-to-Specific Speech

Korean is general to specific, big to small. This means that Koreans write/say general things before they say small, specific things. This is evident in names, addresses, and dates.


Jungmin Kim

given name: “Jungmin” (정민)

surname “Kim” (김) and there are a lot of Kims so it will go first:

Kim Jungmin/김정민


Republic of Korea (South Korea), Kyeonggi Province, Seoul, Gumchan/Kumchan   District, Toksan 113, Kim Jungmin

대한민국, 경기도, 서울시, 금찬구, 독산동 113김정민

So, in South Korea, in the province of Kyeonggi, in the city of Seoul, in the Gumchan district, on Toksan Street, in house 113 lives Kim Jungmin.


2017년 6월 4일 = 2017  year, 6 month, 4 day

Honorific Language

Finally, we have one of the most important parts about speaking the Korean language. Koreans use hierarchical titles and various speech levels to speak with politeness, intimacy, and to show the formality level of discourse when interacting.

They also use humble person pronouns such as 저 (that’s “I” but, like in a polite way) and 저희 (“we”, in the same sense) to show humility. (Informal is 나 and 우리, respectively, just an fyi)

Koreans use the honorific suffix -(으)시 and euphemistic words to show respect toward a subject of higher social status.

어제 우리 모임에 와 (주어서) 고마워.

어제 저희 모임에 와 (주어서) 고맙습니다다.

The sentences both mean the same thing: “(I) appreciated that you came to our meeting yesterday.” but the first one is more informal than the second.

This can be seen with the changing of “we” from the informal 우리 to a polite 저희 and the change of “thank you” from the informal 고마워 to a polite 고맙습니다다.

The honorific suffix 시 was also added to the verb 주어서, making 주어서. (There will be more on verb/adjective conjugation later. For now, you can use verbix or dongsa.)

That’s pretty much it for today’s lesson on the characteristics of the Korean language. Feel free to comment any questions you have and I can help and/or direct you to another source!

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!


오늘의 노래:



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