How Korean and English are Different

Korean and English have completely different grammar structures, which can make mastering Korean tough for native English speakers. How should you overcome this obstacle? The best way is to tackle the issue head on, by directly comparing Korean and English sentence structures. This article will give a very brief review of important grammar principles and then go over the three main grammatical differences between Korean and English.

Quick Grammar Refresher

To get the most from this document, one should fully understand a few basic grammatical concepts. Above all, you must understand objects, subjects, and verbs. Simply put, a verb is a word that expresses action or being, words such as tell,walk, and eat. The subject of a sentence, in contrast, is the word which takes the action of the verb. Lastly, the object in a sentence is the “thing” involved in the action. It generally answers the “who,” “when,” or “where” types of questions.

For instance, in the sentence “Ryan wrote a letter,” the verb is “wrote.” Ryan is the person who performed the writing, so he is the subject, and the letter is what Ryan wrote, so it’s the object. Do you notice the order in which those terms were put?

Word Order: Korean vs. English

The order of the terms in the sentence above is subject + verb + object. In Korean, the order of the words in a sentence is subject + object + verb. So, in this case, applying Korean sentence structure, the sentence would read like this:

“Ryan letter wrote.” Or, in Romanized Korean, laieon eun pyeonji leul sseoss-eoyo.

Laieon = Ryan (there is no “R” sound in Korean)

pyeonji = letter

sseoss-eoyo = write

This is the most significant portion of Korean grammar that you must understand. You will need to overcome all of your natural instincts, but you have to place the verb at the end of the sentence when speaking Korean.

Subject and Object markers

This is a straightforward comparison. In English, there are simply no subject and object markers. In Korean, there are. Have a look at the example sentence I wrote above. Did you see that there are 5 terms in the Korean sentence but that I only translated three of them? The two terms I didn’t translate are “eun” and “leul.” I didn’t translate them because there’s no direct translation.

Notice that the word “eun” comes after the word “Laieon” (Ryan). Laieon is the subject of the sentence; therefore, it’s marked with the subject marker “eun.”

The term “pyeonji” (letter), on the other hand, is the object, so it is marked with the object marker “leul.” These markers are usually confusing in the beginning, but don’t worry. They come effortlessly once you begin to use them on a regular basis.

The Lack of Articles in the Korean Language

Articles indicate the grammatical definiteness of nouns. In English they are the words “a/an” and “the.” Look at the sample sentence above once more. You may have thought that I made some sort of typo when I wrote the sentence, “Ryan letter wrote?” In reality, however, the sentence is proper when written in the Korean form because in the Korean language there’s no use of articles at all.

Summary

Korean and English have very different grammar structures, which can make getting to know Korean a bit tricky for native English speakers. You can make the task less of a challenge, however, if you fully understand the difference in word order, the difference in the use of subject and object markers, and the difference in the use of articles.

Want to know tons more Korean? Check out my article 3 Steps to Learning Korean Fast.

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