Lesson 19: Korean Comparatives and Superlatives: 더, 보다, 가장/제일

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Vocabulary
Introduction

Korean Word 더 (more)

Korean Comparatives – 보다
낫다 – Better
덜 – Less

Korean Superlatives – 가장/제일

 

 

Vocabulary

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.

Nouns:
한식 = Korean food

Common Usages:
한식당 = Korean food restaurant

Example:
한식은 너무 맛있어요 = Korean food is very delicious
저는 2주 동안 한식을 안 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat Korean food for two weeks
한식은 양식보다 더 매워 = Korean food is spicier than western food
한국에서 사는 것에 있어서 내가 가장 좋아하는 것은 한식을 매일 먹는 것이야 = My favorite part about living in Korea is eating Korean food every day

양식 = western food

Example:
한국 사람들은 양식을 보통 안 먹어요 = Korean people usually don’t eat Western food
한식은 양식보다 더 매워 = Korean food is spicier than western food

= height

Common Usages:
키가 크다 = to be tall
키가 작다 = to be short

Notes: 키 means “height” in Korean, but not the “height” of a building or some other object. It is only used when talking about the height of a person. “크다” means ‘big.’ The adjective for tall is 키가 크다, which just indicates that your height is big.

Example:
그 남자가 키가 너무 커요 = That man is very tall
저는 그보다 가 더 커요 = I am taller than him

= star

Common Usages:
별자리 = constellation

Example:
하늘에 이 많아요 = There are many stars in the sky

태도 = attitude

Common Usages:
좋은 태도 = good attitude
나쁜 태도 = bad attitude

Example:
그 학생의 태도가 나빠요 = That student’s attitude is bad

월급 = pay cheque

Common Usages:
월급을 받다 = to get paid, to receive pay cheque
월급(을 받는) 날 = the day one gets paid
월급이 오르다 = to get a raise
월급이 깎이다 = to get less money than before (a pay cut)

Example:
저는 매월 24일에 월급을 받아요 = I get paid every month on the 24th

도심 = downtown

Example:
저의 여자친구는 안산 도심에서 살아요 = My girlfriend lives in the downtown of Ansan
저는 친구들과 도심에서 영화를 봤어요= I saw a movie with friends downtown
2호선은 서울 도심 주위를 돌아요 = Line 2 goes circles around the downtown of Seoul

시내 = downtown

Example:
저는 보통 친구들과 시내에서 놀아요 = I usually play with (meet) my friends downtown

추억 = memory

Common Usages:
추억을 쌓다 = to make memories (literally, “for memories to be piled up”)
추억을 만들다 = to make memories

Example:
저는 우리 엄마와 추억이 많아요 = I have a lot of memories with my mom

후보자 = candidate

Example:
후보자들은 내일까지 와야 돼요 = Candidates have until tomorrow to come
그들은 많은 후보자들 중에서 저를 뽑았어요 = They chose me from many candidates

라면 = instant noodles (ramen)

Common Usages:
라면을 끓이다 = to boil/make ramen noodles
라면수프 = the powder that comes in a bag within a bag of ramen (“Ramen soup”)

Example:
저는 돈이 없어서 라면만 먹어요 = I only eat ramen because I have no money

주년 = anniversary

Notes: 주년is usually preceded by a number.

Example:
내일은 우리의 1주년이에요 = Tomorrow is our one year anniversary
우리 학교가 세워진 지 10주년이에요 = It is the 10th anniversary of our school opening

자세 = body position/posture

Notes: When exercising, the Konglish word “폼” (form) is often used.

Example:
자세 맞아요? = Is this posture right/correct?
운동할 때 알맞은 자세로 해야 돼요 = When you exercise, you need to do so with the correct posture

Verbs:
걱정하다 = to worry

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “걱쩡하다”

Common Usages:
~ㄹ/을 까봐 걱정되다 = to do something because one was worried about…). See Lesson 65 for more information.

걱정하지 마세요 = Don’t worry
걱정 마 = Don’t worry

Notes: More commonly used in the passive voice (걱정되다 = to be worried)

In most situations, removing ~하다 from a word and placing “마” after it is unnatural. However, in this case “걱정 마” is very common.

Examples:
많이 걱정돼요 = Are you very worried?
시험을 잘 못 볼까 봐 걱정돼요 = I’m worried that I won’t do well on the exam
비가 올까 봐 걱정돼요 = I’m worried that it will rain
저는 아이를 잃어버려서 걱정이 되었어요 = I was worried because I lost the baby
그 수술을 받았을 때 저의 엄마는 걱정했어요 = When I got that surgery, my mom was worried

씻다 = to wash

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “씯따”

Common Usages:
손을 씻다 = to wash one’s hands

Notes: When washing one’s hair, the verb “감다” must be used.

Example:
손을 잘 고 먹어요 = To wash one’s hands well, and then eat
손을 씻으세요! = Wash your hands!

확인하다 = to confirm, to check

Example:
첨부파일을 확인하세요! = See/Check the attached file
시험을 끝내기 전에 답을 확인하세요 = Check your answers before finishing the test
그것을 확인해 봐!! = Try checking that
가격을 확인해보자 = Let’s check the price

모으다 = to gather, to collect

모으다 follows the ㅡ irregular

Common Usages:
돈을 모으다 = to save money
우표를 모으다 = to collect stamps

Example:
그는 옛날 동전을 모아요 = He collects old coins

이야기하다 = to talk with, to have a conversation

Notes: “이야기” means “conversation, story,” but the verb “이야기하다” means “to have a conversation with/to talk with.” 이야기(하다) is often shortened to 얘기(하다).

Example:
저는 어제 여자친구랑 이야기했어요 = I talked with my girlfriend yesterday
저는 그녀랑 개인적으로 얘기하고 싶어요 = I want to talk to her personally
엄마는 저랑 얘기하기 싫은 것 같아요 = It seems that mom doesn’t want to talk with me
그 문제에 대해 담임선생님과 함께 얘기했어요 = I talked about that problem with my homeroom teacher

수집하다 = to collect

The noun form of this word translates to “collection”

Example:
실험을 하기 전에 자료를 수집해요 = To collect data before doing an experiment

추천하다 = to recommend

The noun form of this word translates to “recommendation”

Common Usages:
추천서 = recommendation letter/reference

Example:
좋은 영화를 추천해 주세요 = Recommend a good movie, please!

Adjectives:
키가 크다 = to be tall

Notes: In English, “tall” is one word. In Korean, they use a word to refer to height (키) and then indicate if one’s height is “big” or “small” using “크다” and “작다.”

Example:
저는 그보다 키가커요 = I am taller than him

좁다 = to be narrow

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “좁따”

Notes: Korean people would use the word “좁다” in make cases where English people would use the word “small.” Especially if an apartment or room is small, Korean people would say “방이 좁다.” The direct English translation of “this room is narrow” is unnatural in English.

Example:
이 길이 너무 아서 저는 못 들어가요 = I can’t go onto this road because it is so narrow
저의 방은 너무 좁아요 = My room is too small/narrow

넓다 = to be wide

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “널따”

Notes: 넓다 means “wide” but Korean people often say “넓다” when in English we would say “big.” Usually when they talk about how ‘big’ a room/house is, they will say that it is very “넓어.” In English, it would be awkward to say “This place is so wide!!”

Example:
우리 집은 매우 넓어요 = Our house is very big (wide)
그 차는 넓은 공간을 차지하고 있어요 = That car takes up a lot of room/space

특별하다 = to be special

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “특뼐하다”

Example:
그 박물관은 특별해요 = That museum is special
그 식당은 특별하지 않아요 = That restaurant isn’t special
그 사람은 특별한 개성이 있어요 = That person has a special personality

게으르다 = to be lazy

게으르다 follows the 르 irregular

Example:
저의 남자 친구는 아주 게을러요 = My boyfriend is very lazy
저의 게으른 남동생은 하루 종일 아무것도 안 해요 = My lazy brother doesn’t do anything all day

편하다 = to be comfortable

Common Usages:
마음이 편하다 = to be relaxed/at ease
옷이 편하다 = for clothes to be comfortable

Example:
이 소파는 아주 편해요 = This sofa is very comfortable

안락하다 = to be comfortable

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “알라카다”

Notes: Essentially the same meaning as “편하다,” but much less common. 안락하다 would be more related to abstract things like the mood of a place or one’s life, whereas 편하다 would be more related to physical things that you can feel (like a bed being comfortable)

Example:
스타벅스의 내부 분위기가 매우 안락해요 = The atmosphere inside Starbucks is very comfortable

Adverbs and Other words:
= more

Notes: This can be used to indicate that one does something more with a noun, for example:
저는 밥을 더 먹고 싶어요 = I want to eat more rice
우리는 다음 시간에 더 배울 거예요 = We will learn more next time

It can also be used with an adjective. For example:
그 여자가 더 예뻐요 = That girl is prettier (more pretty)

It can also be used with an adverb. For example:
저는 더 빨리 가고 싶어요 = I want to go faster (more fast)

See below in this lesson for more information.

More Examples:
저는 평소보다 공부하고 있어요 = I am studying more than usual
나는 내일 사람 두 명을 만날 거야 = I will meet two more people tomorrow
나는 내일 어제보다 사람 두 명을 만날 거야 = I will meet two more people than yesterday tomorrow
저는 남동생보다 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate more than by brother
저는 어제보다 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate more than yesterday
오늘은 어제보다 더워 = Today is hotter than yesterday

= less

Example:
나는 남동생보다 덜 잘생겼어 = I’m less handsome than my brother
한국에서 대학교는 고등학교보다 어려워요 = In Korea, University is not as hard as high school

가장 = the most (superlative)

Notes: Very similar (if not identical) to 제일

Example:
나는 그 여자를 가장 좋아해 = I like that girl most (that girl is my favorite)
나는 수학을 가장 좋아해 = I like math most (math is my favorite)
저의 여자 친구는 한국에서 가장 예쁜 여자예요 = My girlfriend is the prettiest girl in Korea
가족은 가장 중요해요 = Family is the most important

제일 = the most (superlative)

Notes: Very similar (if not identical) to 가장

Placed in a sentence with an adverb or adjective to indicate that something is (done) “most.”

For example, with an adjective:
그 여자가 제일 예뻐요 = that girl is the prettiest (the most pretty)

With an adverb:
저는 달리기를 제일 빨리 할 수 있어요 = I can run the fastest (the most fast)

In most cases, it can’t be used without an adjective or adverb. For example:
저는 제일 운동해요 = I exercise most
저는 제일 공부해요 = I study most

These would require the use of some kind of adverb, for example:
저는 제일 잘 운동해요 = I exercise the best
저는 제일 자주 공부해요 = I study most often

However, it can be used without an adjective or adverb in some cases. Most commonly with 좋아하다 and 싫어하다. For example:

저는 그 사람을 제일 싫어해요 = I dislike that person the most
수학은 제가 제일 좋아하는 수업이에요 = Math is my favorite class (the class that I like the most

앞으로 = future

Notes: 앞으로 can refer to some time in the future. For example:
저는 앞으로 의사가 되고 싶어요 = I want to be a doctor in the future

앞으로 can also literally mean “in the direction of forward.” For example:
저는 의자를 앞으로 움직였어요 = I moved my chair forward

평소 = usual

Common Usages:
평소보다 = to be comparing something to the usual amount
평소처럼 = as usual
평소에 = usually

Example:
저는 평소보다 더 열심히 공부하고 있어요 = I am studying harder than usual
저는 오늘 평소처럼 공부해야 돼요 = I have to study today, as usual
현재 날씨는 평소보다 조금 추워요 = The present/recent weather is colder than normal

여러 = many/various

Common Usages:
여러 분 = many people (often used to refer to a group of people: 고객 여러 분!)
여러 번 = many/several times
여러 가지 = many types of

Notes: 여러 is an adverb that is placed before nouns to describe them

Examples:
저는 여러 가지의 단어를 배우고 싶어요 = I want to learn lots of different types of words
옛날에 그리스인들은 여러 가지의 신을 믿었어요 = A long time ago, Greek people believed in a variety of gods

_____ = something old

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “옏”

Common Usages:
옛 추억 = old memories
옛 친구 = an old friend
옛 날 = a long time ago (old days)
옛 사랑 = an old love

Notes: Placed before certain nouns to indicate that noun is from a long time ago.

Example: 저는 어제 친구를 만났어요 = I met a friend from a long time ago

옛 추억 = old memories

Example:
저는 옛추억을 생각했어요 = I was thinking of old-time memories

옛날 = old days

Example:
할아버지와 할아버지 친구는 옛날 이야기를 나눴어요 = Grandpa and his friend shared old stories (with each other)

옛사랑 = old love

Example:
그녀는 옛사랑이었어요 = She was an old love

옛길 = old road/path

Example: 우리는 옛길을 따라 걸었어요 = We walked along, following the old road

닥쳐 = shut up

Notes: This would be impolite to say to anybody except your very close friends.

Example:
This word is not usually used in a sentence, much like the English version.

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

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn how to make comparative and superlative sentences in Korean. Using comparative sentences, you will learn how to make sentences like “I am more beautiful than you” or “he is faster than his brother.” Using superlative sentences, you will learn how to make sentences like “I am the most handsome person in the world.” In addition, we will take an in-depth look at the word 더, which is commonly used in comparative sentences. Let’s get started.

 

Korean Word  (more)

Before we even get into using comparatives, I want to familiarize you with the word ‘더,’ meaning “more” in English. The word ‘more’ (in English and Korean) is very commonly used in sentences when comparing things (I am more handsome than you). But, in both languages, you don’t necessarily need to be comparing something to use this word. Let’s look at some examples of ‘더’ when not comparing. Look at the following two sentences: (더 is an adverb, so it doesn’t need any particles attached to it.)

저는 밥을 먹고 싶어요 = I want to eat
나는 자고 싶어 = I want to sleep

Those are normal sentences without 더. By adding 더 you add the meaning of ‘more’:

저는 밥을 더 먹고 싶어요 = I want to eat more
나는 더 자고 싶어 = I want to sleep more

You can add 더 to a wide variety of sentences, including sentences with counters in them:

저의 여동생은 지난 주에 책 두 권을 읽었어요 = My sister read two books last week
저의 여동생은 지난 주에 책 두 권을 더 읽었어요 = My sister read two more books last week

사람 두 명은 올 거예요 = Two people will come
사람 두 명은 더 올 거예요 = Two more people will come

나는 펜 두 개가 있어 = I have two pens
나는 펜 두 개가 더 있어 = I have two more pens

Also in sentences with the counter 번 in them:

나는 어제 학교에 두 번 갔어 = I went to school two times (twice) yesterday
나는 어제 학교에 두 번 더 갔어 = I went to school two more times yesterday

You can also use 더 in sentences with verbs if you also include an adverb:

나는 열심히 공부했어 = I studied hard
나는 더 열심히 공부했어 = I studied harder

Or without an adverb if you just want to say that you did a verb ‘more:’

나는 공부했어 = I studied
나는 공부를 더 했어 = I studied more
In these cases, the adverb 많이 can also be included:
나는 공부를 더 많이 했어 = I studied more

In a lot of cases, though, the word 더 is used in comparative sentences with ~보다. Now that you know a little bit about 더, let’s look at how to use these two together.

.

 

Korean Comparatives – 보다

Though you can use 더 in sentences when not comparing (as taught in the previous section), it is very commonly used in sentences when comparing. In English, comparing is really hard and confusing. Look at these examples:

It is hotter than yesterday
It is more beautiful than yesterday
It is smellier than yesterday

In English, depending on the word that you are using to compare, the conjugation is different. I can’t imagine how annoying this would be for an English learner. Luckily, comparatives in Korean are all done using the exact same form every time!

All you need to do is add the particle ~보다 to the part of the sentence that is being compared to. Lets look at it step by step:

나는 잘생겼어 = I am handsome
Notice here the example “잘생기다” (handsome) is conjugated into the past tense. When conjugating 잘생기다 and 못생기다 it is always more natural to use the past tense conjugation.

나는 더 잘생겼어 = I am more handsome
To indicate that you are ‘more handsome than somebody’ you just insert a person + ~보다 in the sentence. For example:

나는 아버지보다 더 잘생겼어 = I am more handsome than my father

More examples

선생님들은 더 똑똑해요 = Teachers are smarter
선생님들은 학생들보다 더 똑똑해요 = Teachers are smarter than students

한식은 더 매워 = Korean food is spicier
한식은 양식보다 더 매워 = Korean food is spicier than western food

오늘은 더 더워 = Today is hotter
오늘은 어제보다 더 더워 = Today is hotter than yesterday

저는 키가 더 커요 = I am taller
저는 남동생보다 키가 더 커요 = I am taller than my brother

You can use 보다 with verbs as well.

나는 밥을 더 먹었어 = I ate more
나는 남동생보다 밥을 더 먹었어 = I ate more than my brother
나는 어제보다 밥을 더 먹었어 = I ate more than yesterday

If you really want to get crazy, you can use counters in these sentences as well:

나는 내일 사람 두 명을 만날 거야 = I will meet two people tomorrow
나는 내일 사람 두 명을 더 만날 거야 = I will meet two more people tomorrow
나는 내일 어제보다 사람 두 명을 더 만날 거야 = I will meet two more people than yesterday tomorrow

A common word that 보다 is connected to is 평소 meaning “usual”:

나는 평소보다 더 공부하고 있어 = I am studying more than usual

And finally, you can throw some adverbs into the mix if you like:

나는 평소보다 더 열심히 공부하고 있어 = I am studying harder than usual

You can, of course, use ‘보다’ with verbs to indicate that you do something better/worse than somebody else (I play hockey better than my brother – which is true, by the way). Before you learn that, however, you need to know how to use the words 잘/못, which will be taught in the next lesson.

There are two more words in particular that you should learn that deal with comparatives:

낫다 – Better

There are really two ways to say “better” in Korean. First of all, be aware that “better” in English is actually just “more good,” but we don’t say that. We just say “better.” You can use the word ‘좋다 (good)’ in these situations (or ‘나쁘다’(bad) to mean worse):

바나나는 사과보다 더 좋다 = Bananas are better than apples
The thing is, the meaning of this sentence is closer to “I like bananas more than apples,” and not “bananas are better than apples.” Usually in Korean if you want to say “better”, the word 낫다 is used. ‘낫다’ literally means ‘better’ (more good) which means that you don’t need to put the word 더 in those sentences:

바나나는 사과보다 나아 = Bananas are better than apples
*Note that the irregular applies to 낫다.

낫다 is also very commonly used when you are talking about getting better after being sick. You can say things like this:

병은 나았어 = I’m better (literally – the sickness/disease is better)
감기는 나았어 = My cold is better

 

 – Less

덜 has a few meanings, one of which is ‘less’ – as in – the opposite of more (더). You can use it just like 더…although I feel that 더 is used much more frequently than 덜. For example, instead of saying:

“I am less handsome than my brother,”
It would be more natural to say
“My brother is more handsome than me”

Nonetheless, you can say:

나는 남동생보다 덜 잘생겼어 = I’m less handsome than my brother
한국에서 대학교는 고등학교보다 덜 어려워요 = In Korea, University is not as hard as high school

One more quick thing – it is kind of funny/cute slang to pronounce 덜 as 들. I suggest you try it out sometime. Korean people often get a kick out of foreign people speaking in slang-like language. They usually can’t get over the fact that we know Korean, let alone the fact that we know a bit of slang.

 

Korean Superlatives – 가장/제일

Superlatives, just like comparatives are so much easier in Korean than they are in English. In English, depending on the word you are using, you have to conjugate it differently:

She is the hottest girl
She is the most beautiful girl
She is the smelliest girl

In Korean, instead of mucking (I said “mucking”) around with different forms like in English, all you need to do is add one word: 가장

예쁘다 = pretty
가장 예쁘다 = Prettiest

아름답다 = beautiful
가장 아름답다 = Most beautiful

A synonym of “가장” is “제일,” which is often used in speech.
You can then put these into sentences just like you would normal adjectives:

저의 여자 친구는 한국에서 가장 예쁜 여자예요 = My girlfriend is the prettiest girl in Korea
가족은 가장 중요해요 = Family is the most important

You can’t really use 가장 with verbs unless there is also an adverb included within the sentence. For example, you can’t say this:

나는 가장 달려 = I run… most?… doesn’t make sense

In these cases, you need to add an adverb to the sentence:

나는 가장 빨리 달려 = I run the fastest
우리가 집에 제일 늦게 도착했어요 = We arrived home the latest (we were the latest people to arrive at home)

However, you can add 가장 to 좋아하다 (to like) without an adverb to indicate that you ‘like something the most.’ (This is also how you say “my favorite” in Korean).

나는 그 여자를 가장 좋아해 = I like that girl most (that girl is my favorite)
나는 수학을 가장 좋아해 = I like math most (math is my favorite)

Note here that in most real situations it is probably more natural [in English and in Korean] to say something like:

I am the fastest runner – instead of – I run the fastest
Math is my favorite subject – instead of – Math is my favorite

To this point, you haven’t learned how to add this extra dimension to your sentences with verbs. This concept is introduced in Lesson 26. That being said, it is essentially the same as making this change to adjectives:
가족은 가장 중요해요 = Family is the most important
가족이 가장 중요한 것이에요 = Family is the most important thing

In order to express a negative superlative, of course, you can use a word that has a negative meaning, for example:

저는 사과를 가장 싫어해요 = I dislike apples the most
저는 사과를 제일 싫어해요 = I dislike apples the most

You could technically add ~지 않다 or ~안 to the sentence to make it a negative superlative sentence. For example:

그 여자는 우리 반에서 가장 예쁘지 않은 여자예요 = That girl is the least pretty in our class
그 여자는 우리 반에서 제일 예쁘지 않은 여자예요 = That girl is the least pretty in our class

수학은 가장 쉽지 않아요 = Math is the least easy
수학은 제일 쉽지 않아요 = Math is the least easy

However, those sentences would sound much more natural (in English and Korean) if you just used a word with the opposite meaning. For example:

그 여자는 우리 반에서 제일 못생긴 여자예요 = That girl is the ugliest in our class
수학은 제일 어려워요 = Math is the hardest

In most of these superlative sentences, it would usually sound much more natural to add “Of all X”. For example:

Of all subjects at school, math is the most difficult
Of all fruit, I dislike apples the most

The grammatical principle needed to add this extra level of complexity to your sentences is introduced in Lesson 33.

Two adverbs that 가장/제일 are often used with are 잘 and 못, which will be talked about in the next lesson.

That’s it for this lesson!

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