Adjectives & Adjective Modifier

What is the difference between ‘study’ and ‘smart’? Yes, study is an action and smart is a status. And also you need the verb ‘be’ for ‘smart’. However, it’s quite different in the Korean language. So, here is the quick question. Try to find the correct explanation for Korean adjectives.


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  1. The Korean language doesn’t use be
  2. The Korean language uses an extra word (something like be) for verbs also
  3. Korean verbs and adjectives work in the same way




Korean language Doesn’t Use Be

Before we learn the Korean adjectives, let’s check how we do it in English to use adjectives. Imagine someone said ‘I smart’. Ironically, that’s way far from being smart. Why? because he didn’t use ‘be’. The verb be is extremely important in English.


Korean Language Course 07. Adjectives 1 img


Now, let’s see how the Korean grammar works.


Course 07. Adjectives 2 img


You may notice there is no ‘be’ verb. That’s right. The Korean language doesn’t use be for adjectives. If you think about it, it’s really simple, you can just say ‘I smart’ instead of ‘I am smart’.


Oh, by the way, it seems like we are using a verb right? That’s correct. The Korean language uses verbs and adjectives in the exact same form and the same method.  So, Korean adjectives are often called ‘descriptive verbs’ because they work like a verb. (However, that’s a very wrong explanation. Many Korean linguists say the Korean language has adjective but it’s just different from European languages)




An Extra Word

If you disassemble the words, then you can find that the Korean grammar actually uses some sort of extra word just like English ‘be’. But in this case, Korean grammar uses it for verbs and adjectives both.


Korean Language Course 07. Adjectives 3 img


해요 is a name tag that tells you ‘hey! This word is a verb! or…  might be an adjective’. Does it sound super familiar with what we’ve learned so far? That’s correct. It seems like markers 은/는 and 을/를.


The Korean grammar always uses many suffixes to tell you what is what, which is which. Korean verbs and adjectives are also the same. They use suffixes to tell you ‘This one is a verb or an adjective’. I think now you are getting to understand how the Korean language really works by now




Adjective Modifier in Korean Language

However, using adjectives in the Korean language isn’t always so easy. For example, in English, you can use adjectives right away before a noun like ‘a smart guy’ right? But in Korean, you have to change the form of adjectives to do that. We will call it an adjective modifier.


To understand this part better, you must read the Word Anatomy tutorial first.


Course 07. Adjectives 4 img


To make the adjective modifier, Korean grammar drops the ending and add ㄴ at the last syllable block. the pronunciation always ends with n (eg. yebbeun, chakhan). So, ‘ㄴ 받침’ is positioned to tell you ‘this one is a modifier, I’m describe the next word’. As long as you remember this ‘ㄴ 받침’ modifier, you can easily notice which word is a noun or a modifier even though you don’t know any word in a Korean sentence.




The Answer

There aren’t many differences between verbs and adjectives in the Korean grammar. Verbs and adjectives seem to always work in the same way.


However, It’s a huge misunderstanding that many people think the Korean language doesn’t have adjectives. That simple misunderstanding is based on the perspective of the European languages.


The National Institute of the Korean Language and many Korean linguists don’t agree with that. They define that The Korean language has a different conception of adjectives from European languages. It does have adjectives. So, the answer is…  every explanation was correct.





Adjectives in the Korean language might be super different from English adjectives. Then what about adverbs? Are they different also? Why don’t we jump into the next tutorial and find out? And before we go, if you liked this tutorial, join us in Patreon!