Lesson 1: Basic Korean Sentences

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Jump to:
Greeting Words
Sentence Word Order
Korean Particles
To be: 이다
That thing/This thing
This thing is a book


Click here for a free PDF of this lesson.




The vocabulary is separated into nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs for the purpose of simplicity.

Click on the English word to see information and examples of that word in use (you probably won’t be able to understand the grammar within the sentences at this point, but it is good to see as you progress through your learning).

A PDF file neatly presenting these words and extra information can be found here.

Want to give your brain practice at recognizing these words? Try finding the words in this vocabulary list in a Word Search.

한국 = Korea

Common Usages:
한국 사람 = Korean person
한국어 = Korean language
한국인 = Korean person

Notes: The formal name of the country is 대한민국

저는 7년 동안 한국에서 살았어요 = I lived in Korea for seven years
저는 내년에 한국에 갈 거예요 = I will go to Korea next year
저의 어머니는 올해 한국에 올 것입니다 = My mom will come to Korea this year
저는 한국어를 한국에서 배웠어요 = I learned Korean in Korea
고등학교는 한국에서 어려워요 = High school is difficult in Korea
그 집은 한국에서 지어졌어요 = that house was built in Korea
저는 한국에서 살고 있어요 = I live in Korea

도시 = city

서울은 큰 도시예요 = Seoul is a big city
어느 도시에 갈 거예요? = What city are you going to go to?
도시는 분위기가 좋아요 = This city has a good atmosphere

이름 = name

Common Usages
이름이 뭐예요? = What is your name?
제 이름은 __이에요 = My name is__

그 사람의 이름은 뭐예요? = What is that person’s name?
저의 이름은 김한성이에요 = My name is 김한성
저는 그 사람의 이름이 기억 안 나요 = I can’t remember that person’s name
저는 그의 이름을 불렀어요 = I called his name
덕석은 흔하지 않은 이름이에요 = “덕석” is not a common name

= I, me (formal)

Common Usages:
저는 = I
제가 = I
저의 = my

Notes: When used as the subject of a sentence, 저 translates to “I,” when used as the object of a sentence, “저” translates to “me.” 저 changes to 제 when 이/가 are attached. See Lesson 2 for more information 저 is used instead of 나 in formal situations.

는 친구를 만났어요 = I met a friend
의 친구는 를 만났어요 = My friend met me
는 지난 주에 영화를 봤어요 = I saw a movie last week
는 삼일 동안 밥을 안 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat rice for 3 days

= I, me (informal)

Common Usages:
나는 = I
내가 = I
나의 = my

Notes: When used as the subject of a sentence, 나 translates to “I,” when used as the object of a sentence, “나” means “me.” 나 changes to 내 when 이/가 are attached. See Lesson 2 for more information. 나 is used instead of 저 in informal situations.

는 친구를 만났어 = I met a friend
의 친구는 를 만났어 = My friend met me
는 내년에 한국에 갈 거야 = I will go to Korea next year
는 사과 한 개를 샀어 = I bought one apple

남자 = man

Common Usages:
잘생긴 남자 = handsome man
강한 남자 = strong man
남자 친구 = boyfriend

그는 잘생긴 남자예요 = He is a handsome man
는 방에 들어왔어요 = That man came into room
저는 잘생긴 남자를 만났어요 = I met a handsome man
저의 친구는 주로 남자예요 = My friends are mostly men
그 남자가 키가 너무 커요 = That man is very tall
어떤 남자는 어제 여기에 왔어 = Some man came here yesterday

여자 = woman

Common Usages
예쁜 여자 = pretty girl
아름다운 여자 = beautiful girl
여자 친구 = girlfriend

그녀는 예쁜 여자예요 = She is a beautiful girl
여자의 머리 색깔은 자연스러워요 = That girl’s hair color is natural
저의 여자 친구는 귀엽고 예뻐요 = My girlfriend is cute and pretty
저는 그 여자를 사랑해요 = I love that girl

= that

Common Usages
그것 = that thing
그 사람 = that person

Used before a noun to have the meaning “that ___.” This is used when a noun is talked about in a previous sentence, and is being referred to in the current sentence.

남자는 저의 아버지예요 = That man is my father
여자는 나랑 결혼하고 싶었어요 = That girl wanted to marry me
저는 책을 원해요 = I want that book

= this

Common Usages
이것 = this thing
이 사람 = this person

Used before a noun to have the meaning “this ___.” This is used when a noun is within reaching distance.

차는 너무 비싸요 = This car is too expensive
저는 영화를 더 이상 보고 싶지 않아요 = I don’t want to watch this movie anymore
것은 너무 작은가요? = Is this too small?

= that (when something is far away)

Common Usages:
저것 = that thing
저 사람 = that person

Used before a noun to have the meaning “that ___.” Used when a noun is further than reaching distance away.

사람은 누구예요? = Who is that person?
저는 케이크를 먹고 싶어요 = I want to eat that cake

= thing

Common Usages
이것 = this thing
저것 = that thing
그것 = that thing
~는 것 principle (see Lesson 26)

Notes: Not only used as a simple noun, but also used as a noun that can be described by full sentences. See Lesson 26 for more information about this.
것 can be shortened to 거. 것이 can be shortened to 게

저는 비싼 만 좋아해요 = I only like expensive things
을 어떻게 해요? = How do you do that (thing)?
은 뭐야? = What is this (thing)?
은 얼마예요? = How much is this (thing)?

이것 = this (thing)

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “이걷”
이것 is often shorted to 이거 in speech.

Notes: When 이, 그 or 저 are placed before “것,” the result is a compound word. Therefore, when placing “것” after 이, 그 or 저, there should not be a space between the two.

Although it can be translated as “this thing,” 이것 itself is a pronoun and can be simplified to translate to “this.” For more information, see the explanation in Lesson 1.

이것은 뭐야? = What is this (thing)?
이것은 너무 작은가요? = Is this (thing) too small?
이것은 여권이야 = This (thing) is a passport
이것이 더 좋아요 = This (thing) is better

그것 = that (thing)

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “그걷”
그것 is often shorted to 그거 in speech.

Notes: When 이, 그 or 저 are placed before “것,” the result is a compound word. Therefore, when placing “것” after 이, 그 or 저, there should not be a space between the two.

Although it can be translated as “that thing,” 그것 itself is a pronoun and can be simplified to translate to “that.” For more information, see the explanation in Lesson 1.

저는 그것을 손으로 만들었어요 = I built that (thing) with my hands
저는 그것을 지난 번에 배웠어요 = I learned that (thing) last time
저는 그것을 처음부터 끝까지 복습했어요 = I reviewed that (thing) from start to finish
저는 그것을 영어로 할 거예요 = I will say that (thing) in English
저는 그것을 친구한테서 들었어요 = I heard that (thing) from my friend

저것 = that (thing)

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “저걷”
저것 is often shorted to 저거 in speech.

Notes: When 이, 그 or 저 are placed before “것,” the result is a compound word. Therefore, when placing “것” after 이, 그 or 저, there should not be a space between the two.

Although it can be translated as “that thing,” 저것 itself is a pronoun and can be simplified to translate to “that.” For more information, see the explanation in Lesson 1.

Examples: 저것은 사과예요 = That (thing) is an apple
우리 아빠는 저것을 싫어할 것 같아 = Dad will probably not like that (thing)

의자 = chair

Common Usages
의자에 앉다 = sit on a chair

그녀는 의자에서 일어났어요 = She rose up from her chair
고양이는 의자 밑에 있다 = The cat is under the chair
는 탁자보다 더 낮아요 = The chair is lower than the table
저는 의자를 앞으로 움직였어요 = I moved my chair forward

탁자 = table

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “탁짜”

Common Usages
탁자 위에 = on top of the table

저는 잡지를 탁자 위에 놓을 거예요 = I will put the magazine on the table
펜이 탁자에 놓여 있었어요 = The pen was (laying) on the table
의자는 탁자보다 더 낮아요 = The chair is lower than the table
밖에 나가기 전에 열쇠를 탁자에 두었어요 = Before I went outside, I put the keys on the table
탁자가 너무 낮아요 = This table is too low
병이 탁자에서 떨어졌다 = The bottle fell from the table

선생님 = teacher

Notes: This is often shorted to a more colloquial form of “쌤”

선생님 (or 쌤) is often used to broadly refer to anybody in any form of a teaching position, or anybody who works at any position in a school. For example, the maintenance people who work at a school would be referred to as “선생님” within the school

저는 선생님이 되고 싶어요 = I want to be a teacher
저는 학교에서 저의 선생님을 항상 봐요 = I always see my teacher at school
저는 선생님이에요 = I am a teacher
저는 어제 선생님을 처음 만났어요 = I met my teacher for the first time yesterday
선생님들은 다 나갔어요 = All the teachers left (went out)
선생님은 학생들과 박물관에 갔다 = The teacher went to the museum with the students
저는 선생님과 함께 공부했어요 = I studied with my teacher
들은 똑똑해요 = Teachers are smarter

침대 = bed

Common usages:
침대에 눕다 = to lay in bed
침대에서 자다 = to sleep in a bed

애기는 침대에서 자고 있어요 = The baby is sleeping in the bed
저는 침대에 누워 있어요 = I’m lying in bed
저의 사진은 침대 위에 걸려 있어요 = My picture is hanging above my bed
피곤한 사람은 침대에 누워서 잤어요 = The tired person lay on the bed and slept
저는 침대에 잠깐 눕고 싶어요 = I want to lie down in bed for just a second

= house

Common Usages:
집에 가다 = to go home
집값 = the price of houses

저는 에 돌아갈 거예요 = I am going back (returning) home
값은 비싸지고 있어 = House prices are getting expensive
저는 내일 선생님의 을 방문하겠어요 = I will visit the teacher’s house tomorrow
저는 어제 을 두 번 청소했어요 = I cleaned the house twice yesterday
엄마는 우리를 위해 점심을 에서 만들 거예요 = Mom will make lunch for us at home
우리 엄마는 에 와서 빨리 요리했습니다 = Our/my mom came home and quickly cooked
우리는 에 와서 바로 잤어요 = We came home and went to sleep immediately
에 가지 마! = Don’t go home!
저는 세탁을 에서 할 수 있어요 = I can do laundry at home

= car

Common Usages:
차를 운전하다 = to drive a car
차를 타다 = to be riding in a car

Notes: The counter for automobiles is “대”. See Lesson 10 for more information

우리 아버지는 를 항상 안전하게 운전해요= Our dad always drives his car safely
저는 두 대가 있어요 = I have two cars
어떤 종류의 차를 원해요? = What type of car do you want
는 너무 비싸요 = This car is too expensive
저는 새로운 를 샀어요 = I bought a new car

사람 = person

Common Usages:
한국 사람 = Korean person
그 사람 = that person
이 사람 = this person

The formal version of 사람 is “분”

The counter for people is “명” (informal) or “분” (formal). See Lesson 10 for more information

사람은 아주 똑똑해요 = That person is very smart
모든 아시아 사람들은 젓가락을 잘 쓴다 = All Asian people use chopsticks well
사람은 미국에서 왔어요 = That person came from the United States
저는 그 사람을 알아요 = I know that person
사람은 저의 동생이에요 = That person is my younger sibling
저는 그 사람을 싫어해요 = I don’t like that person
한국 사람들은 보통 아주 착해요 = Korean people are usually very nice

= book

Common Usages:
책을 읽다 = to read a book
만화책 = comic book

Notes: The word used to count books is “권”

저는 좋은 을 읽고 싶어요 = I want to read a good book
저는 그것에 대해 을 쓸 거예요 = I will write a book about it
저는 친구에게 을 돌려줬어요 = I gave my friend back his book
저는 두 권을 읽었어요 = I read two books
저는 그 을 읽고 싶어요 = I want to read that book
그 학생은 하루 종일 을 독서할 수 있어요 = That student can read books all day
이 박스에 이 들어가 있어요 = There are books in this box
저는 누워서 을 읽었어요 = I lied down and read a book

컴퓨터 = computer

Many new Korean words are simply English words with a Korean pronunciation pronouncing “컴퓨터” in Korean will sound like “computer”

Common Usages:
컴퓨터를 켜다 = turn on a computer
컴퓨터를 끄다 = turn off a computer

Examples: 컴퓨터가 꺼져 있어요 = The computer is turned off
저는 컴퓨터를 켰어요 = I turned the computer on
컴퓨터가 켜져 있어요 = The computer is (in the state of being) on
그는 고장 난 컴퓨터를 수리했어요 = He repaired the broken computer
교실에서 선생님들을 컴퓨터로 대체할 수 없어요 = You can’t replace teachers with computers in the classroom

나무 = tree/wood

저는 집을 나무로 지었어요 = I made a house out of wood
나는 우리 집을 나무로 지었어 = I built our house out of wood
대부분의 원숭이는 나무에서 살아요 = Most monkeys live in trees
아이들은 나무 주위에서 놀고 있어요 = The children are playing around the tree

소파 = sofa

그는 소파에 앉아 있어요 = He is sitting on the couch
소파는 아주 편해요 = This sofa is very comfortable
애기는 높은 소파에서 떨어졌어요 = The baby fell from the high sofa

중국 = China

Common Usages
중국인 = Chinese person
중국 사람 = Chinese person
중국어 = Chinese language

우리는 곧 중국에 갈 거예요 = We are going to China soon
그 사람은 중국에서 왔어요 = That person came from China
그 사람은 중국인이에요 = That person is Chinese
사람들은 한국사람들보다 더 가난해요 = Chinese people are poorer than Korean people
한국 사람과 중국 사람은 문화적으로 달라요 = Korean and Chinese people are culturally different

일본 = Japan

Common Usages
일본 사람 = Japanese Person
일본어 = Japanese language

그 사람은 일본에서 왔어요 = That person is from Japan
요즘에 한국 사람들은 일본에 별로 가고 싶지 않아요 = These days, Korean people don’t really want to go to Japan
한국 집값은 일본 집값보다 훨씬 높아요 = The price of Korean houses is much higher than the price of houses in Japan
일본에서 성인들은 미국 청소년보다 만화책을 더 많이 읽어요 = In Japan, adults read more comic books than young people in America

= door

Common Usages
동대문 = “east big gate” – tourist attraction in Seoul
남대문 = “south big gate” – tourist attraction and market in Seoul

을 닫아야 돼요 = You have to close the door
저는 을 잠갔어요 = I locked the door
저는 을 열 거예요 = I will open the door
너무 추워서 을 닫았어요 = I closed the door because it is too cold
이 완전히 열릴 때까지 버스에서 내리거나 문에 기대지 마세요 = Until the door is completely open, don’t get off or lean on the door

의사 = doctor

Common Usages:
치과의사 = dentist
정신과의사 = psychiatrist
내과의사 = internal medicine doctor
한의사 = Korean/oriental doctor

저는 의사가 무서워요 = I am afraid of doctors
들은 돈이 많아요 = doctors have a lot of money
저의 친구는 의사예요 = My friend is a doctor
들은 문제에 대해 과학적으로 생각했어요 = The doctors thought about the problem scientifically
저는 정신과의사가 되려고 열심히 공부하고 있어요 = I am studying hard to become a psychiatrist

학생 = student

Common Usages
대학생 = university student
초등학생 = elementary school
중학생 = middle school student
고등학생 = high school student

저는 좋은 학생이에요 = I am a good student
저는 학생이 아니에요 = I am not a student
선생님은 내일 학생들을 만날 거야 = The teacher will meet the students tomorrow
저는 학생들이 실망스러웠어요 = I was disappointed in the students
저는 학생들에게 수업을 가르쳤어요 = I taught the class to the students
선생님은 학생들과 박물관에 갔다 = The teacher went to the museum with the students

Adverbs and Other words:
이다 = to be

This is the first time you are being introduced to a word that must be conjugated in order to be used. Visit Lesson 5 for more information. Any word that ends in “” must be conjugated to be used. The conjugation of 이다 is different than other words. I introduce all of these conjugations in Lesson 9.

Common usages
제 이름은 __이에요 (My name is __)
이름이 뭐예요? (What is your name?)
저는 ____이에요 = I am a ______

“to be” can be many words in English. For example, I am, he is, they are, I was, they were. 이다 acts as all of these words.

저는 예쁜 여자예요 = I am a beautiful girl
저 건물은 학교입니다 = That building is a school
그것은 사진이에요 = That thing is a picture
이 사람은 저의 누나예요 = This (person) is my sister
그것은 큰 비밀이었어요 = That was a big secret
저는 의사였어요 = I was a doctor

= not

안 is placed before a verb or adjective to turn it into a negative word. The meaning is synonymous to ~지 않다. Visit Lesson 8 for more information.

그 여자는 아름다워요 = That girl is not beautiful
저는 마지막 것을 봤어요 = I didn’t see the last thing
아침식사를 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat breakfast

= yes

Notes: Informally, you can say “응” to mean “yes”

When speaking on the phone, Korean people often say this many times and pronounce it as “데”

, 저는 가고 싶어요 = Yes, I want to go

아니 = no

In formal situations, “아니요” is more respectful

아니요, 안 했어요 = No, I didn’t do it

There are 1050 vocabulary entries in Unit 1. All entries are linked to an audio file. You can download all of these files in one package here.

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.


Greeting Words

When learning a language, people always want to learn “hello,”  “how are you,” and “thank you” before anything else. I know that. However, at this stage you only know words – and have no knowledge or experience in how to use or conjugate these words. The grammar within these words is too complex for you to understand right now. However, you can just memorize these words as one unit and not worry about the grammar within them at this point.

안녕하세요 = hello

감사하다 and 고맙다 are the two words that are commonly used to say “thank you.” However, they are rarely used in those forms and are almost always conjugated. They can be conjugated in a variety of ways, which you won’t learn until Lesson 5 and Lesson 6. I will show you a list of the more commonly used forms, but I can’t stress enough that you won’t understand how this works until later lessons:



잘 지내세요?  = How are you?
Technically the appropriate expression in Korean, but not as common as “how are you” in English. I would say that using “잘 지내세요?” is an English style of greeting people in Korean.

제발 = Please

It is, of course, important for you to memorize these expressions in Korean, but you need to know that there is a reason why they are said that way. For now, don’t worry about why they are said that way, and simply memorize them. We will get back to them in  later lessons when they become important.



Sentence Word Order

One of the hardest things to wrap your head around in Korean is the alien-like sentence structure. For our purposes in Lesson 1, Korean sentences are written in the following order:

Subject – Object – Verb (for example: I hamburger eat)
Subject – Adjective (for example: I beautiful)

I am going to quickly explain what a “subject” and “object” mean, as your ability to understand later concepts depends on your understanding of this.
The subject refers to person/thing/noun/whatever that is acting. The subject does the action of the verb. For example, the subject in each sentence below is underlined:

I went to the park
I will go to the park
My mom loves me
He loves me
The dog ran fast
The clouds cleared up
In English, the subject always comes before the verb.

The object refers to whatever the verb is acting on. For example, the object in each sentence below is underlined

My mom loves me
The dog bit the mailman
He ate rice
Students studied Korean
In English, the object always comes after the verb. However, a sentence with a verb does not require an object. For example:

I slept
I ate
He died

Sometimes there is no object because it has simply been omitted from the sentence. For example, “I ate” or “I ate rice” are both correct sentences. Other verbs, by their nature, cannot act on an object. For example, you cannot place an object after the verbs “sleep” or “die:”

I sleep you
I die you

Subjects are also present in sentences with adjectives. However, there is no object in a sentence with an adjective. The subjects are underlined in the following adjective-sentences below:

School is boring
I am boring
The movie was funny
The building is big
My girlfriend is pretty
The food is delicious

It is incredibly important that you understand this from the very beginning. Every Korean sentence MUST end in either a verb (like eat, sleep or walk) or an adjective (like beautiful, pretty, and delicious). This rule is so important that I’m going to say it again: Every Korean sentence MUST end in either a verb or adjective.

It is also important to point out here that there are two ways to say “I” or “me” in Korean. Depending on how polite you need to be speaking, many things within a sentence (mostly the conjugation) can change. You won’t learn about the different honorific conjugations until Lesson 6, so you do not need to worry about understanding those until then. However, before you reach those lessons, you will see two different words for “I,” which are:

나, used in informal sentences, and
저, used in formal sentences.

As Lessons 1 – 5 make no distinction of formality, you will see both 나 and 저 arbitrarily used. Don’t worry about why one is used over the other until Lesson 6, when politeness will be explained.

Okay, now that you know all of that, we can talk about making Korean sentences.



Korean Particles (~는/은 and ~를/을)

Most words in a Korean sentence have a particle (a fancy word to say ‘something’) attached to them. These particles indicate the role of each word in a sentence – that is, specifically which word is the subject or object. Note that there is absolutely no way of translating these particles to English, as we do not use anything like them.
The following are the particles you should know for this lesson:

는 or 은 (Subject)
This is placed after a word to indicate that it is the subject of a sentence.
Use 는 when the last letter of the last syllable of the subject is a vowel. For example:
나 = 나는
저 = 저는

Use 은 when the last letter of the last syllable of the subject is a consonant. For example:
집 = 집은
책 = 책은

를 or 을 (Object)
This is placed after a word to indicate that is the object of a sentence.
Use 를 when the last letter of the last syllable is a vowel. For example:
나 = 나를
저 = 저를

Use을 when the last letter of the last syllable is a consonant. For example:
집 = 집을
책 = 책을

We can now make sentences using the Korean sentence structure and the Korean particles.

1) I speak Korean = I는 Korean을 speak
는 is attached to “I” (the subject)
을 is attached to “Korean” (the object)

2) I like you = I는 you를 like
는 is attached to “I” (the subject)
를 is attached to “you” (the object)

3) I wrote a letter = I는 letter을 wrote
는 is attached to “I” (the subject)
을 is attached to “letter” (the object)

4) I opened the door = I는 door을 opened
는 is attached to “I” (the subject)
을 is attached to “the door” (the object)

5) My mom will make pasta = My mom은 pasta를 will make
은 is attached to “my mom” (the subject)
를 is attached to “pasta” (the object)

I am sure that you will be tempted to start substituting Korean words into those constructions to make real Korean sentences. However, at this point, that is too complicated. The goal of this lesson is to familiarize yourself with the structure of Korean sentences.

The same could be done for sentences with adjectives. However, remember that sentences with adjectives will not have an object:

1) My girlfriend is pretty: My girlfriend은 is pretty
:”은” is attached to “my girlfriend” (the subject)

2) The movie was scary = The movie는 was scary
:”는” is attached to “the movie” (the subject)

There is one more particle that you should be aware of before we go any further.


에 (Place or time)
We haven’t talked about places or times yet, but if you do an action at a time, you must attach the particle “에” to the word indicating the time.
“에” is also attached to a word to indicate that it is a place in the sentence. I want to write more about what “에” does, but at this point, it would only confuse you. For now, it is sufficient to know that “에” is used to indicate a place in a sentence.
Again, it is hard to translate these particles into English, but, “에” plays the role of the underlined words in the following sentences:

1) I went at 3pm
2) I went to the park

Sentences with a place/time can also have an object in them. For example:

3) I ate hamburgers at 3pm

If I were to write those same sentence using Korean structure and particles, they would look like this:

1) I는 3pm에 went
2) I는 park에 went

3) I는 hamburgers을 3pm에 ate
In these cases, “at 3pm” or “to the park” act as adverbs (a word that tells you when, where, how, how much). There is no set place for an adverb within a sentence, and it can generally be placed anywhere (except the end). Adverbs will be discussed at length in Lesson 8.

Again, the purpose of this first part of Lesson 1 was to familiarize yourself with the different Korean particles and sentence structure. This knowledge will act as your base for upcoming lessons when you will apply yourself to make actual sentences with verbs/adjectives in Korean. While you will have to wait a little bit to create those types of sentences, we can now talk about creating actual Korean sentences with the word “to be.”


To be: 이다

Now its time to learn how to make an actual sentence using the word ‘to be.’ English speakers often don’t realize how difficult this word is in English. Look at the following examples:

I am a man
He is a man
They are men
I was a man
They were men

In each of those sentences, the word ‘to be’ is represented by a different word (is/am/are/was/were) depending on the subject and tense of the sentence. Luckily, in Korean, the same word is used to represent is, am, are, was and were. This word is 이다

이다 should not be thought of as a verb or an adjective in Korean, as in most cases it acts differently. I will teach you how 이다 differs from verbs and adjectives as it becomes important (in future lessons).

Sometimes however, 이다 is somewhat similar to adjectives. Remember that sentences ending with adjectives do not have objects in them. Whenever a sentence is predicated by an adjective, there will be no object in the sentence. Only sentences with verbs have objects. Let’s look at some examples:

I eat hamburgers (eat is a verb, the object is a hamburger)
I meet my friend (meet is a verb, the object is my friend)
I study Korean (study is a verb, the object is Korean)
I listen to music (listen is a verb, the object is music)

All of those sentences (can) have objects because the verb is the predicate of the sentence. However, in sentences that are predicated by adjectives:

I am pretty
I am beautiful
I am hungry
I am smart

This means that we can never use the particle ~을/를 in a sentence predicated by an adjective (because ~을/를 denotes that there is an object). The object particle is also not used when using the word “이다.” The basic structure for a sentence predicated by “이다” is:

[noun은/는] [another noun] [이다]

For example:
I는 man이다 = I am a man

Now substitute the words for “man” and “I:”

나 = I
남자 = man

나는 + 남자 + 이다

이다 gets attached directly to the noun. So, the above construction looks like:

나는 남자이다 = I am a man

It is very important that you remember that ~를/을 is not attached to words in sentences with “이다.” The following would be very incorrect:

나는 남자를 이다.

이다 is the only word that acts like this, and is one of the reasons why you should treat it differently than other verbs or adjectives.

The focus of this lesson (and Lessons 2 and 3) is to introduce you to simple Korean sentence structure. Until you reach Lesson 5 and Lesson 6 you will not be exposed to the conjugations and honorifics of Korean verbs, adjectives and 이다.

In reality, these words are never (or very very rarely) used without these conjugations and honorifics. Therefore, while I stress the importance of understanding the structure of the sentences presented in this Lessons 1, 2, 3 and 4 do not use the sentences in any form of communication with Korean people, as they will most likely not be understood. In order to completely understand what is presented in Lessons 5 and 6 (and for the rest of your Korean studies), it is essential that you understand what is presented in these first four lessons – even though they may be seen as “technically incorrect.”

For all of the “technically incorrect” (un-conjugated) sentences presented in Lesson 1 – 4 I will provide a correct (conjugated) version of the same sentence in parenthesis below the un-conjugated version (one formal and one informal conjugation). Note one more time that you will not understand these conjugations until Lessons 5 and 6 (for verbs and adjectives) and Lesson 9 (for 이다).

Other examples of 이다 in use:

나는 여자이다 = I am a woman
(나는 여자야 / 저는 여자예요)

나는 선생님이다 = I am a teacher
(나는 선생님이야 / 저는 선생님이에요)

나는 사람이다 = I am a person
(나는 사람이야 / 저는 사람이에요)

나는 ______이다 = I am a _______
(나는 _______ 이야 / 저는 _____이에요)
You can substitute any noun into the blank space to make these sentences.


This and That (이/그/저)

You can see in the vocabulary above that the word for “this” is 이 in Korean.
We use 이 in Korean when we are talking about something that is within touching distance (For example: this pen – i.e. the one I am holding). Just like in English “이” (this) is placed before the noun it is describing. For example:

이 사람 = This person
이 남자 = This man
이 여자 = This woman
이 차 = This car
이 탁자 = This table
이 의자 = This chair

Unfortunately, there are two words for “that”: 그 and 저. Early learners of Korean are always confused with the difference between “그” and “저.”

We use 그 when we are talking about something from a previous sentence or from previous context, regardless of if you could see it or not. Providing examples would be too difficult right now because you do not know any Korean sentences. However, if I were to say: “I don’t like that man [when your friend mentioned him in a previous sentence].” The word “that” in that sentence would be how “그” is used.

We use 저 when we are talking about something that we can see, but cannot touch because it is too far away.

We can place “그” or “저” before a noun to describe “this” or “that” thing just like we did with “이.”

이 사람 = This person
그 사람 = That person
저 사람 = That person

이 남자 = This man
그 남자 = That man
저 남자 = That man

이 여자 = This woman
그 여자 = That woman
저 여자 = That woman

이 의자 = This chair
그 의자 = That chair
저 의자 = That chair

이 탁자 = This table
그 탁자 = That table
저 탁자 = That table

Again, although the English translations of “” and “” are the same, it is important to remember that they are not the same word in Korean.

One of the most common words in Korean is “것” meaning “thing.” When 이, 그 or 저 are placed before “것,” the result is a compound word. Therefore, when placing “것” after 이, 그 or 저, there should not be a space between the two. In other words, the following are words in and within themselves, and not two separate words:

이것 = this thing
그것 = that thing
저것 = that thing

We see this same phenomenon happen with other common words that you learn in future lessons. You don’t need to worry about this now, but we see this same thing happen with the word (meaning “place”) and (meaning “time”).

With these words, the word “thing” isn’t necessary in the English translation. Let me explain.

I’ll use “that” as an example, but the same idea can be applied to the word “this.”

“That” can be placed before a noun to describe it. As we saw earlier:

That person
That man
That woman

However, it can also be a noun itself. For example:

I like that

In this type of English sentence, “that” is referring to some thing that you like. It is a noun. It is a thing.

Therefore, the sentence could just as easily be said as:

I like that thing

I don’t like to use grammatical jargon in my lessons, but if you know what these words mean, it could be helpful. In both English and Korean, “that” can be a determiner (as in, “I like that man”), and it can also be a pronoun (as in “I like that”). When used as a determiner in Korean, you should place 그 before a noun. When used as a pronoun in Korean, the word 그것 is used.

In this same respect, while “이, 그 and 저” translate to “this, that and that” respectively, and are placed before nouns to indicate “this noun, that noun and that noun,” “이것, 그것 and 저것” are nouns (they are pronouns). Therefore, they do not need to be followed by the redundant word “thing,” although their meanings would be exactly the same:

I like this
I like this thing

I like that
I like that thing

We can now use these nouns as subjects or objects in a sentence. We will look at how they can be used with “이다” next.


Using This/That with 이다

Remember, 이다 translates to “to be” and is conjugated as “am/is/are” in English. Now that we know how to use 이, 그 and 저 (and 이것, 그것 and 저것), we can now make sentences like this:

That person is a doctor

We can start by putting those words into the Korean structure:

That person는 doctor is

And then changing the English words to the appropriate Korean words:

그 사람은 +  의사 + 이다
그 사람은 의사이다
(그 사람은 의사야 / 그 사람은 의사예요)

More examples:
그 사람은 선생님이다 = That person is a teacher
(그 사람은 선생님이야 / 그 사람은 선생님이에요)

이것은 탁자이다 = This (thing) is a table
(이것은 탁자야 / 이것은 탁자예요)

저것은 침대이다 = That (thing) is a bed
(저것은 침대야 / 저것은 침대예요)

그 사람은 남자이다 = That person is a man
(그 사람은 남자야 / 그 사람은 남자예요)

그 사람은 여자이다 = That person is a woman
(그 사람은 여자야 / 그 사람은 여자예요)

그것은 차이다 = That (thing) is a car
(그것은 차야 / 그것은 차예요)

이것은 나무이다 = This (thing) is a tree
(이것은 나무야 / 이것은 나무예요)

There are 1250 example sentences in Unit 1. All entries are linked to an audio file. You can download all of these files in one package here.

Wow! That was an extremely difficult lesson. If you were to pick up another Korean text book, I am sure the first chapter would be much easier than this. Trust me though; learning this at the start will be very useful to you later on. When I was learning how to speak Korean, it took me months to realize some of these things (not because they were hard, but because I was using a text book that never taught me the reason why things are the way they are in Korean).

Before you move on, make sure you understand the simple Korean sentence structure presented in this first lesson. Also, remember that the sentences not in parentheses are technically incorrect (or very very uncommon) because they have not been conjugated.

Okay, I got it! Take me to the next lesson! Or,
Click here for a workbook to go along with this lesson.

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