Korean Sentence Structure

Korean sentences are structured in these word orders:

  1. subject + verb
  2. subject + descriptive verb
  3. subject + object + verb

Subject- who or what the sentence is about

Object- who or what is affected by the verb

Verb- what the subject does


Please never forget that a verb always ends a Korean sentence. This will go a long way in helping you understand Korean sentence structure.

Subject + Verb

-First, is the subject that does the verb.

-Second, is the verb that the subject does.

The table below displays Korean sentences with their English translations below.
Subject Verb Sentence
사람 가요 사람 가요.
person go The person goes.
자요 개 자요.
dog sleep The dog sleeps
고양이 앉아요 고양이 앉아요.
cat sit The cat sits.

Subject + Descriptive Verb

In Korean there are descriptive verbs which take the place of adjectives in English. Here are examples of English adjectives in use versus Korean descriptive verbs in use.

♦   English Adjective Style-   The dog is happy.

♦   Korean Descriptive Verb Style-   Dog happy.

In Korean the word “is” is not necessary because “happy” is a descriptive verb not an adjective.

The table below displays Korean sentences with their English translations below.
Subject Descriptive Verb Sentence
바나나 커요 바나나 커요.
banana big The banana is big.
남자 행복해요 남자 행복해요.
man happy The man is happy.
여자 똑똑해요 여자 똑똑해요.
woman smart The woman is smart.

Subject + Object + Verb

English sentence structure is subject-verb-object(SVO). Korean sentence structure is subject-object-verb(SOV). Here is an example of the English sentence structure versus the Korean sentence structure.

♦   English sentence structure-   The monkey eats a banana.

♦   Korean sentence structure-   The monkey a banana eats.

This may be difficult to become comfortable with. Remember, a verb always ends a Korean sentence.

The table below displays Korean sentences with their English translations below.
Subject Object Verb Sentence
원숭이 바나나 먹어요 원숭이 바나나 먹어요.
monkey banana eat The monkey eats a  banana.
학생 읽어요 학생 책 읽어요.
student book read The student reads a book.
아기 우유 마셔요 아기 우유 마셔요.
baby milk drink The baby drinks milk.

Korean Verbs and Descriptive Verbs

Korean verbs and descriptive verbs can be conjugated into many different forms to express:

  • tense
  • passiveness
  • causality
  • honorifics

Korean verbs and descriptive verbs are made up of a stem + 다. To conjugate the verbs 다 is dropped and a new verb ending is added.

Basic Form Low Honorific Conjugated Form English Translation
가다 가요 go
해복하다 행복해요 happy
자다 자요 sleep

If you see 다 at the end of a verb, it is the basic form and has not been conjugated.

Korean verbs and descriptive verbs can also be split up into two categories.

  • verb stem + 다
  • verb stem + 하다

Verb stem + 하다 verbs are usually derived from Chinese

When -하다 is dropped from a verb stem + 하다 verb, it becomes a noun.

ex. 행복하다 = happy     행복 = happiness

Just remember if you see 다 at the end of a verb, it has not been conjugated and is not used in most speech.

Go to Part 10 – Korean Particles 이, 가, 은, 는, 을, and 를

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