Sentence Order

Please refer to Audio Recordings - Sentence Order, to listen to the sentences used in this lesson.

In regards to the order of a sentence, there are four basic types in Korean. These are:

  • S + N
  • S + V
  • S + A
  • S + O + V

* S = subject, N = noun, A = adjective, O = object and V = verb.

The tense of a sentence is determined by the last part of a sentence, namely, by a noun, verb or adjective.

In Korean, adjectives function like verbs in that they can be converted to different forms to determine the tense of a sentence.

For example,
  • In English, the past tense of "go" is "went." 
  • In Korean, the past tense of "가다" (gada, go) is "갔다" (gatta, went).
The verbs function in the same way in English and Korean.

However, in the case of adjectives, the past tense of "good" in English is not "gooded" but it is written, "was good."
Contrary to this, in Korean, "좋다" (jota, good) has a past tense form of "좋았다" (joatta, was good).


Compare:
  • In English, "good" (present) → "was good" (past)
  • In Korean, "좋다" (present) → "좋았다" (past)

Therefore, the adjectives in Korean function like verbs in that they can be converted to a past tense or future tense, or any other tense forms.

This conversion of a verb(or adjective) to its past, future, present continuous or past continuous tense forms is called a verb (or adjective) "conjugation."

Before proceeding to the explanation section below, I recommend that you read the "particles" alongside this post.


To understand Korean grammar, it is crucial that you become familiar with the concept of a distinct part of speech called, "particles." 

Particles are function words that indicate what the subject or object is in a sentence.

For example,
  • 는/은 is a topic particle
  • 가/이 is a identifier particle
  • 를/을 is an object particle
For more information and explanation on particles, please refer to (Particles - 는, 도, 를, 가, 에).


Now, let's have a look at the four main types of Korean sentences.

Note: S = Subject, N = Noun, V = Verb, A = Adjective, O = Object

1. S + N
  • 나는 학생이다 = I am a student
  • 리사는 선생님이다 = Lisa is a teacher 
  • 앤드류는 의사였다 = Andrew was a doctor 
  • 저는 중학생이에요 = I am a middle school student [polite spoken form]

For more explanations on the S + N pattern, please read Nouns - Present, Past.

나 = I
학생 = student
리사 = Lisa
선생님 = teacher
앤드류 = Andrew
의사 = doctor
저 = I (polite)
중학생 = a middle school student


2. S + V
  • 주영은 달린다 = Ju-young runs [written form]
  • 주영은 달려요 = Ju-young runs [polite spoken form]
  • 주영은 힘차게 달린다 = Ju-young vigorously runs

*An adverb comes before a verb.

주영 = Ju-Young (a Korean male name)
달리다 = run
달려 = run [spoken form]
달려요 = run [polite spoken form]
힘차게 = vigorously

For more information and explanations on verbs, please read Verbs - Present, Past and Verbs - Polite [Present, Past].


3. S + A
  • 그는 크다 = He is big
  • 그녀는 작다 = She is small
  • 앤은 예쁘다 = Anne is pretty [written form]
  • 앤은 정말 예뻐요 =  Anne is really pretty [polite spoken form]
  • 산이 아름답다 = The mountain is beautiful
  • 날씨가 정말 좋다 = The weather is very good

그 = he
크다 = big
그녀 = she
작다 = small
앤 = Anne
정말 = really, very
예쁘다 = pretty
산 = mountain
아름답다 = beautiful
날씨 = weather
좋다 = good

For more information and explanations on adjectives, please read, Adjectives - Present, Past, Adjectives - Polite [Present, Past] and Adjectives - Connective.


4. S + O + V
  • 나는 사과를 먹었다 = I ate an apple.
  • 지성은 물을 마신다 = Ji-sung drinks water.
  • 새들이 노래를 부른다 = The birds are singing songs.
  • 안나는 대학을 다닌다 = Anna attends college (university) [written form]
  • 안나는 대학을 다녀요 = Anna attends college (university) [spoken form]
  • 영희는 어제 정원에 꽃을 심었다 = Young-hee planted a flower in the garden yesterday.

*Notice that the time(어젯밤) and place(정원에) are inserted between S and O. 

나 = I
사과 = apple
먹었다 = ate
물 = water
마시다 = drink
새  = a bird
새들 = birds
노래 = song
부르다 = sing
다니다 = attend [written form]
다녀요 = attend [polite spoken form]
어제 = yesterday
정원 = garden
꽃 = flower
심다 = plant (verb)


In addition, unlike English, it is quite common to leave out the subject in a sentence in Korean. When the subject is known by the readers or speakers, it is often left out. Therefore, depending on a situation or context, it is OK to write or speak without beginning the sentence with a subject.

A subject may not be used in a sentence if it is known who or what the subject is. So, the sentences below are also correct and it is common in spoken Korean (conversations).

  • 학생이다 = (am/is) a student 
  • 선생님이다 = (am/is) a teacher 
  • 의사였다 = was a doctor
  • 중학생이에요 = (am/is) a middle school student

    • 달린다 = runs
    • 힘차게 달렸다 = vigorously ran 

      • 크다 = (am/is/are) big
      • 작다 = (am/is/are) small
      • 정말 좋아 = (am/is/are) really good [spoken form]

        • 사과를 먹었다 = ate an apple
        • 물을 마셨어 = drank water  [spoken form]
        • 노래를 불렀어 = sang songs [spoken form]
        • 어제 꽃을 심었어요 = planted a flower yesterday [polite spoken form]


        For more help with the particles, please refer to the following posts:

          30 comments:

          1. Wouldn't it be better to say that Korean sentences always end in a verb.

            The difference however is that in Korean adjectives are verbs and you don't have to muck around with "to be" like you would in English.

            ReplyDelete
          2. Agreed with agent. From what I know, you start with subject and end with verb usually.

            but this is good stuff ^^

            ReplyDelete
          3. First of all let me just say, THANK YOU!

            This is an awesome online guide to learning Korean! It's what I've been looking for all along.

            I've found so many good guides for learning Japanese; I am relieved to finally find one really good site I can actually bookmark for Korean.

            Thanks for putting your time and effort into this for the public. ^_^

            ReplyDelete
          4. Thank you so much.
            I've been searching for a page where i can learn korean language and now I found.

            To ITF can you tell me one page where i can learn Japanese??? I have interest in learn Japanese, please let me know the pages to learn..

            Pd. sorry for my English I not good.

            ReplyDelete
          5. To the guy above:
            There is a good(but hard) guide to Japanese and its grammar.
            http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar

            But it seems that you are learning 3 languages or more at same time. That's a big no-no. It's better to reach advance level at one language first before you move on.

            And English is most useful, so learning that first might be a great a idea.

            ReplyDelete
          6. Hi :)
            I was wondering what spoken form is and how is it different from written form? Thank you! ^^

            ReplyDelete
          7. Hi Annabelle :)

            OK. You'd want to learn more about the spoken form if you'd like talk to people, write emails to Korean friends, have a chat with them or write messages on the internet.

            The written form is mainly used in literature like books, newspapers, articles, and news on TV and the internet.

            News anchors and reporters on TV also use the written form of Korean which is more declarative and factual. It is a monologue type of language.

            But when you're talking to people, you'd mainly use the polite spoken form of Korean so I recommend that you focus on that mainly at first. :)

            ReplyDelete
          8. I have a question. Why is it that sometimes there's a silent "s" or "ss" in a word? And what's the difference of "s" and "ss" when they're used as silent sounds?

            ReplyDelete
          9. The 'ss' is usually used in the past tense of verbs. For example, '먹었다', '갔다', '했다' and '왔다'.

            'ss' is used as a final consonant and makes the following 'ㄷ' 'dd'.

            Therefore, the verbs are pronounced '먹어따' '가따' '해따' and '와따'.

            When 'ㅅ' is used as a final consonant, it's usually pronounced as 'ㄷ' or 'ㅌ'. For example, 못 = [몯/뫁], 갓 [갇/같] and 잣[잗/잩]

            ReplyDelete
          10. I love your blog really much... this help a lot for my korean learning

            ReplyDelete
          11. Thank you! It made much more sense after I listened to the sentences again.

            ReplyDelete
          12. hmm.. I really love this grammar lessons! Now, I know more about the Korean language! but I have a question.. If attend is 다니다, how come the sentence used 다닌다?? can someone please entertain me? thanks!

            ReplyDelete
          13. "의사에요 = (am/is) a doctor"

            I'm a bit confused, is it 에요 or 예요?

            ReplyDelete
          14. 예요 is right. 예요 is a contracted form of 이에요. Words without a final consonant is usually followed by 예요, whereas word with a final consonant has 이에요 attached to them.

            For example,

            의사예요. (의사이에요)
            선생님이에요.

            However, when pronounced, 의사예요 sounds more like "의사에요" and many Koreans make a mistake when they write '의사예요' by writing '의사에요' instead as it is pronounced closer to '의사에요' rather than 의사예요.

            Therefore, grammatically, 의사예요 is right.
            When pronounced, 의사예요 sounds more like 의사에요.

            I hope this helps.

            ReplyDelete
          15. Also, 다니다 is the most basic form a verb and it is usually only found in the dictionary.

            다니다 is changed to 다닌다 which means "attend" and it is a written form of a verb.

            For more help, refer to http://parksguide.blogspot.com/2006/11/very-useful-verbs.html

            ReplyDelete
          16. thank you very much for your answer, yes it helps a lot (:

            ReplyDelete
          17. Nice blog. This is so much better than most text books who just want you to memorize phrases.

            ReplyDelete
          18. when i firstly search on the internet and then i saw this website i am very happy.Do you know why i'm very happy because it is my intention for a long time that i want to learn korean language online.especially grammar and spoken form of korean.Now i want to ask you how to use 에 an ㅇㅔ서.Finally i hope you explain about grammar and spoken form better.and i hope i will get much knowledge from your website.

            ReplyDelete
          19. i want to ask you about korean grammar how to use 에 and 에서 and their difference.

            ReplyDelete
          20. Hi Jacky,

            Please refer to:
            ● Particles - 도, 를, 에
            ● Particles - 에서, 까지

            for more detailed explanations.

            Here are a few examples:
            학교에 갔다 = I went to school
            학교에서 공부했다 = I studied at school

            에 was attached to 학교 to mean "to school = 학교에"

            에서 means "at/in"
            e.g.
            집에서 at home
            부엌에서 있었어
            = I was in the kitchen

            ReplyDelete
          21. Also please read
            ● Nouns - Present, Past

            for more detailed explanations about the written form and spoken form.

            ReplyDelete
          22. So if you don't need to write the subject when it is known to both reader or speaker, how about Korean books? Do they have to repeat the name for grammar's sake or do they leave it out as well?

            These are very good lessons! I'm actually writing notes on these things, thanks!

            ReplyDelete
            Replies
            1. Hi Anonymous,

              Yes, even books sometimes leave out subjects, if the subject being talked about is obvious, especially the conversation types that use "".

              However, subjects are not essential in Korean grammar as for example,

              그리고 그 책을 한번 더 읽었다 = And read that book one more time.

              There's no subject in this sentence but if the preceding sentence was "연수는 연금술사를 읽었다 = Yeon-su read 'Alchemist'"

              Hope this helps! cheers

              Delete
          23. I have a question, Which is correct 달린다 or 달리다 ?
            Please let me know, I also have another question 달려 is the past or present of run?
            Since when I looked up the meaning on the internet, I found that was ran, Please help me

            ReplyDelete
            Replies
            1. Hi,

              달리다 is a plain form, and 달린다 is a present tense.

              When you look up a Korean dictionary, you should look for 달리다.

              달린다 is a present tense of "run" in written Korean.

              달려 is a present tense of "run" in spoken Korean.

              Hope this helps with your question.

              Cheers.

              Delete
          24. it is really use full so thanks a lots.....

            ReplyDelete
          25. Thank you so much for this!
            I'm trying to figure more rules with sentence order. With the sentence, "The awkward Anne's Scandinavian nose strangely protrudes," would the order be:
            Subject (Anne) + Subject's adjective (awkward) + Object (nose) + Object's adjective (Scandinavian) + Adverb (strangely) + Verb (protrudes)?
            PS. Anne is a fictional character.

            ReplyDelete
            Replies
            1. Actually, the subject of the sentence is "The awkward Anne's Scandinavian nose." There's no object in this sentence.

              Subject (The awkward Anne's Scandinavian nose) + Adverb (strangely) + Verb (protrudes)

              So the sentence order would be the same as the one you've written.

              One with the object would be if you had this sentence.

              In English, Awkward Anne (S) touched(v) her Scandinavian nose(o).

              But in Korean,
              Subject (Awkward Anne) + Object (her Scandinavian nose) + Verb (touched)

              = 어색한 앤은 그녀의 스캔디나비아 코를 만졌다.

              Hope this helps.

              Delete
          26. hey Luke I just wanted to thank you! Thanks so much for sharing so much useful content! Thanks so much for your time and dedication!
            greetings from Spain!

            ReplyDelete

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