When you learn Korean, Korean adjectives are some of the most important words to start learning and using. That's because they tell us about nouns – usually people, places and things. Without them, the language would be bereft of passion and imagination.
They can describe anything from people, to things, situations, and even feelings. In English, we have separate words that function as adjectives most of the time.
Common adjectives define color, size, and how things appeal to our senses:
- red house
- big chair
- scented candle
- shiny building
There isn’t really a pattern to how this works in English. Sometimes it’s a new word, sometimes we add a new ending onto an existing word, sometimes we can use a word that usually does a different grammatical job, as an adjective, without even changing it!
Korean, of course, has adjectives as well. You’ll be happy to know, however, that Korean has a set of easily followed rules for making and identifying adjectives. It’s probably easier than English! In this post, you'll find out how that works.
You'll discover the rules you can learn if you want to start conjugating Korean adjectives. Next, you'll look at each method in detail, with plenty of examples. And finally, you'll finish up with some sentences, so you can see how these would look in context.
- How to make adjectives in Korean: (usually) start with a verb
- Conjugating when the verb ends in
- a vowel
- a consonant
- Using adjectives in a sentence
By the way, if you want to learn Korean fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is Korean Uncovered which teaches you through my fun, unique and effective StoryLearning® method.
If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
Get That 다 Out of There: How To Make Adjectives In Korean
Most Korean adjectives start out life as verbs, which in Korean generally end in 다. In this form, they’re like English infinitives.
- 시원하다 (to be cool)
- 나쁘다 (to be bad)
- 크다 (to be big)
Conjugated Korean adjectives always end in the symbol ㄴ. This makes the process of either forming or identifying them really simple.
The first step to making these into adjectives is to drop the 다 ending. You then add the ㄴ symbol.
- 시원한 (cool (adjective))
- 나쁜 (bad (adjective))
- 큰 (big (adjective))
Congratulations. You are now well on the way to using adjectives in Korean!
Most commonly, adjectives come before the noun, just like in English. So the examples above would look like this:
- 시원한 날씨 (cool weather)
- 나쁜 남자 (a bad man)
- 큰 건물 (a big building)
Sometimes, it works a little differently based on the ending of the verb, after the 다 has been removed. Generally speaking though, it’s always about adding an ㄴ ending somewhere along the line. Below, we’ll look in detail at how to do this.
Let’s get started!
Conjugating When the Word Ends In A Vowel
So, you’ve dropped the 다, and now the word ends in a vowel. All you need to do now is add ㄴ! This is probably the most common way of making adjectives in Korean, and it’s what we did with the three examples above.
Here are a few more examples:
Conjugating When the Word Ends in a Consonant
If the 다 has been dropped, and the word now ends in a consonant, you leave that part of the word alone and add 는 or 은. Here are a few examples of how to do that:
Conjugating When the Word Ends with ㅂ
If you’ve dropped the 다 and the word now ends in ㅂ, there’s a special rule to follow. In this case, you drop the ㅂ in addition to the 다, and then add 운. Here’s how that looks:
cold (to the touch)
Conjugating When the Word Ends with ㄹ
Finally, if you drop the 다 the word now ends in ㄹ, there’s one last rule. This one’s really easy though. Simply drop the ㄹ as well, and then add ㄴ. After you’ve removed the ㄹ, you’re basically just doing exactly what you did with the first rule:
As you can see, there aren’t too many examples of this, but it’s a good rule to know.
You Can Also Use Adjectives After The Noun
Now that I have gone through all the trouble of explaining adjective conjugation in detail, it’s worth mentioning that just like in English, you can use adjectives after the noun as well as before.
That looks like this in English:
- The house is red.
- The car is large.
It works more or less in a similar way in Korean, so I'm not going to address it in so much detail. The key thing is that you can use the adjective in its base form, so you don’t need to conjugate as we’ve been looking at above:
- 고양이는 귀엽다 (The cat is cute.)
- 기차는 크다 (The train is big.)
You can see how, just like English, you choose which form of an adjective to use depending on the context.
If the adjective is the focus of the sentence, you can use it as above, in its base form. The conjugated form, before the noun, is used for giving extra details about a noun within a sentence. Conjugated adjectives aren’t usually the focus of the sentence.
Adjectives used after the noun can then be conjugated for politeness if appropriate:
- (base) 고양이는 귀엽다
- (casual) 고양이는 귀여워
- (low formal) 고양이는 귀여워요
- (high formal) 고양이는 귀엽습니다
Using Adjectives In A Sentence
Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the adjectives from the above-conjugated examples to see how they look in a sentence.
- 귀여운 고양이가 맛있는 음식을 먹었어요 (The cute cat ate delicious food.)
- 화난 아저씨가 나에게 큰 소리를 쳤어요 (The angry man yelled loudly at me.)
- 더러운 옷은 오래 세탁 필요해요. (Dirty clothes need a long wash.)
- 스트레스 있을때는 시원한 사우나 하고싶어요 (Often when I’m stressed, I want to take a refreshing sauna. )
- 저는 아름다운 날씨가 있으면 바로 등산 가고싶어요! (When the weather is beautiful, I want to go hiking immediately.)
And finally, here’s a couple to show how the same adjective looks when used before or after the noun. I don’t expect that you would ever actually use these sentences!
- 큰 자동차는정말 크다! (The big car is really big!)
- 편한 주말은 정말 편해! (The easy weekend is really easy!)
Using Adjectives In Korean: Add Some Panache!
If you’ve followed along well, you’re hopefully now feeling confident about how to use adjectives in Korean.
Unlike English – which breaks its own rules more often than it follows them – Korean behaves the way it should basically all the time. So you should be able to apply the rules you’ve learned above to make adjectives out of new, unfamiliar words, whenever you like!
So try your best to use these whenever possible! It will spice up your Korean while giving you valuable practice thinking and using the language.
As always, don’t stress too much about these rules, even if the grammar villain is telling you that you must master them perfectly this instant!
For example, we talked about how words that end in ㅂ after dropping the 다 follow a special rule. The truth is, in your daily life, you’ll hear the conjugated form of the word far more often than you will the base form with ㅂ. You’ll be picking up many of these rules every day, without realizing it!
And if you want to absorb Korean adjectives, or any type of Korean grammar, in the most natural way possible, apply the StoryLearning® method and immerse yourself in short stories in Korean. As you read, you'll internalise adjective conjugation without having to study it.
What are you waiting for? Start using Korean adjectives in your Korean conversations today!