I’ll give you a sentence : ‘I’m sorry I love you’. Now add period marks where you want. 2 period marks will make it warm and sweet : ‘I’m sorry. I love you.’ A single period mark perhaps will make it super sad or super creepy : ‘I’m sorry I love you.’ Adding punctuation in the right place decides if the person is being sweet or being rejected so hard. However, the period mark doesn’t decide anything in Korean language, even the comma. In fact, we barely use those in any situation. But oddly, you can always find where a sentence ends without using them. But how is that possible in Korean language?
Korean language & Punctuation
Before we jump in right away, let’s see if you can figure out why the Korean language doesn’t need punctuation very much. I’m going to give you 5 example sentences. Find the common beside ‘저는 (I)’.
저는 한국어 공부해요
저는 매일 운동해요
저는 피자를 좋아해요
Korean language & Sentence-Closing Ending
Did you find the common thing in the sentences? Yes, they all end with 요. And that’s how you know how a sentence ends or not. This special suffix 요 is called ‘sentence-closing ending’. The Korean language uses it and it literally does what it’s called. It concludes a sentence right away when you use it. So, basically it’s the same as the period mark in English.
저는 예뻐요 저는 미쳤어요
I’m pretty. I’m crazy.
So, if I said ‘저는 예뻐요 저는 미쳤어요’, you can actually understand they are 2 different sentences even without period marks. That’s how the Korean language really works.
The Term, Sentence-Closing Ending?
But why is it called the sentence-closing ending? The words sentence-closing and Ending seem quite similar so the term sounds repetitive sometimes. It’s because ‘ending’ actually doesn’t mean the action of ending in Korean language. ‘ending’ describes the position.
공부하고 넷플릭스 봤어요
I studied and watched Netflix
In this sentence, ‘고 (and)’ is also an ending. However, it doesn’t end the sentence. it’s just positioned behind other letters (or words). That’s why we called it ‘ending’.
More Sentence-Closing Endings
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Korean language doesn’t always end with 요 when you watch Korean dramas, movies or conversations. That’s a good observation. 요 isn’t the only sentence-closing ending. You can find many of them such as 어, 야, 요, 다 and more.
They look all different and sound different but their basic grammatical function is finishing sentences in Korean language. Then, why do we need so many concluding endings if they do the same thing?
Speech Styles, That’s Why
Let’s say ‘This tutorial is great’. Can you tell if I’m speaking formal or informal? I’m pretty sure you can’t guess without reading the context. However, in Korean language, you can easily understand the level of formality directly by checking the sentence-closing ending.
이 강좌는 정말 좋아요
This tutorial is great
= conversational honorific
This is another function of sentence-closing endings. it can describe formality, honorifics, accent, tones and more. This is why the Korean language has so many different sentence-closing endings. And sometimes, it makes unique speech styles of each speaker.
Think about English, when you want to be formal in English, you have to use more formal syntaxes and vocabularies. But in Korean, you can use the exact same words for different formality or styles of speaking. You only need to change the concluding ending and it makes your speech more colorful and interesting and unique. And, you can use it to insult someone in a very respectful way. 😂😂😂
But wait, then which sentence-closing ending do we have to use? If it makes certain tones and different formal levels, we have to be careful because we don’t want to be accidentally rude to anyone. Which sentence-closing endings can be the best choice for the beginners? And what are they exactly?
So why don’t you check the next tutorial? You will see a lot of fun things about how native Koreans use sentence-closing endings. And perhaps, that would help you understand the Korean language mindsets that you have never understood. I’m really proud of you for finishing this tutorial and being academically enthusiastic. You are amazing and let’s be more amazing with the next tutorial. And if you liked this tutorial, don’t forget to join us in Patreon!