Overview[edit | edit source]

There are a fair number of free places to learn Korean online that are actually pretty good. To create lessons that could compete with those would be tough. So instead, here a place to find and give random useful tips about the language. This is the stuff that you wish somebody told you when you were starting out. The frequency of use (how often Koreans seem to actually use it) should be listed. Slang is welcome.

Beginner Stuff[edit | edit source]

Korean Curse Words[edit | edit source]

Frequently used Yeah, you know you that's what you came here for. You should be careful with these though. In Korea, language is connected to politeness in a way that many foreigners have trouble comprehending. Saying these to the wrong person could get you in a lot of trouble. Also, girls almost never find any of this stuff cool. Anyway, to spare the people who'd rather not see this kind of stuff, I've put them on a seperate page. Click here.

Saying 'you' is rude[edit | edit source]

Frequently used Very early on in your Korean learning experience you'll learn that 너 is you and 나 is me. You'll also learn about polite speech (sentences that end with 요) and casual speech. What you may not realize is that saying 나 and 너 in polite speech is bad form. It may seem odd, because in English 'you' and 'me' are such innocuous words. Furthermore, the question becomes how do we avoid using something that is so common in our native language. There are a few techniques:

  • Just leave out the subject of the sentence if it can be implied. In English sentences need subjects, but this is not so in conversational Korean. So "너 배고파요?" (are you hungry?) can be asked just as "배고파요?"
  • Substitue 저 for 나 and 제가 for 내가. 저 and 제가 are the polite versions of 나 and 내가.
  • Use the person's title instead of 'you.' If it's a teacher you can say "선생님 아침 드셨어요?" instead of "너 아침 드셨어요?" (saying the latter would be really out of whack because 드시다 is a really polite way to say 'eat'). The equivalent in English might be "Ssup. Have you breakfasted yet?"
  • If the person doesn't have a title, use words like 오빠,형,아줌마,아저씨,할머니,할아버지
  • Say the person's name. In English, if I'm talking to John and I say, "Did John eat breakfast?" it's very bizarre. But in Korean if I'm talking to Sujin and I ask "수진 아침 먹었어요?" is ok. Often you'll stick a 씨 on the end of their name, which is kind of like "Mr." or "Mrs."

Question words in statements[edit | edit source]

Frequently used By now you may have learned all the Korean question words, the who, what, when, where, why, and hows. Or in Korean the 누구, 무엇, 언제, 어디, 왜 and 어떻게s. What you may not know is that with some modifications, you can use some of these words in statements and they take on new meanings. Let's look at them:

  • 누가 somebody ex. 옆방에 누가 있다. Somebody is in the next room.
  • 무엇인가 something ex. 이안에 무엇인가 있다. There's something inside this.
  • 언제나 always ex. 언제나 배고파요. I'm always hungry.
  • 어디든지 anywhere ex. 어디든지 갑시다. Let's go anywhere. (i.e. I don't care where we go)
  • Putting 나 or 든지 after most of these words gives them the meaning of 'any'. 언제나 is anytime, 누구나 is anybody, 어디든지 is anywhere, 누구든지 is also anybody, etc.

그렇다[edit | edit source]

Very Frequently used 그렇다 is a very useful word for people who are beginning to study Korean. By memorizing its various forms not only do you learn an arsenal of very useful words, but you also indirectly learn a great deal of grammatical forms. Furthermore it's extremely common. So what is 그렇다? Frankly, English doesn't really have any words that similar to 그렇다. It translates roughly as "to be that way" or "to be like that." It allows people to connect sentences and talk about stuff that has been previously mentioned. Instead of repeating something over and over again, you can just say, "It's like that but..." or "It's like that and..." You can think of 그렇다 as a kind of generic 'base word' to attach different grammatical endings to. Also, you can use it in conversation to repond to other people. Anyways, here is a list of 그렇다's various forms and their English translation. You can roughly split them up between words that you would use to start a sentence with and words you would use to reply to somebody in conversation.

  • Sentence Starters
    • 그리고 and
    • 그래서 therefore; so
    • 그렇지만 but
    • 그런데 (or more commonly 근데) by the way; however;
    • 그러면 if
    • 그러나 however
    • 그러니까 (sometimes shortened to 그니까) because
    • 그래도 however
  • Conversational replies
    • 그래요 yes; ok
    • 그래요? really?
    • 그렇죠? right?
    • 그렇군요 I see
    • 그렇네요 Yeah, I guess so!
    • 그러자 Let's do that
    • 그러지마 don't do that
  • The adverb form
    • 그렇게 that way; like that

Memorizing this list may seem fairly tedious, but you should understand that if you do, you'll have learned a bunch of grammatical forms that you can apply to other words to connect sentences and flavor your conversations. We're not doing anything to 그렇다 that we couldn't do to another verb. It's just that 그렇다 is such a general-purpose word it is more useful to learn 그렇다's forms first.

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