악돌’s First Steps to Serious Korean Part 2: “Adjectives” and Determiners, aka Noun Modifiers

See Part 1 Here: [LINK]

 

Learning Objectives
  • Learn about determiners (관형사) and how they are similar to English adjectives.
  • Start familiarizing yourself with predicates (용언) and specifically their determiner form (관형사형), aka noun modifiers, through transformation endings (전성 어미).
    • Start conjugating action verbs (동사)and descriptive verbs (형용사) into determiner form.

There’s a lot more grammatical terms in this post. I repeat a lot of points, explain things multiple times in different ways, and repeat a lot of points because this feels foreign and difficult… and it might be! But it’s a really prevalent part of the Korean language. You will be at an advantage if you understand how “adjectives” work in Korean.

Introduction

Let’s start by getting reacquainted with English adjectives.

In Part 1, I neglected an essential element of creating sentences: adjectives. Adjectives describe nouns, meaning that a word or a series of words will answer questions or provide more information about a noun in a sentence. They answer one of these three questions: What kind is it? How many are there? Which one is it? (More on English adjective here: [Grammar Bytes] – you can compare/contrast English adjectives to what we’ll discuss today.)

Let’s look at some examples:

I throw a new ball.
I like delicious warm tea.

In both cases, the underlined & colored adjectives modify the bolded noun.

In addition, adjective clauses can also describe nouns:

I like the cake that 악돌 eats.
The tea which a friend has prepared is delicious.

In English, adjective clauses start with a relative pronoun/adverb and usually a subject and a verb. Read more about English adjective clauses: [Grammar Bytes

In this lesson, we are going to use those four examples to show how Korean uses ‘adjectives,’ aka words and phrases that describe nouns. 

(0) Examples in Korean

As before, here are the examples we will work with today. These are the same English sentences from above, written in Korean.

저는 새 공을 던집니다.
저는 맛있고 따뜻한 차를 좋아합니다.
저는 악돌이 먹는 케이크가 좋습니다.
친구가 준비한 차는 맛있습니다.

Please note that we are working with the formal verb ending today. Learn how to conjugate it here: [funkorean4u] [Yonsei Korean video]

(0.5) “5언 9품사”

OK, one more tangent…

Korean parts of speech are categorized into nine different 품사s (품사 meaning ‘parts of speech’ or ‘word class).

Those nine 품사s are sorted into five categories: noun/substantive (체언), modifier (수식언), showing relationships (관계언),  independent (독립언), and predicates (용언). Only predicates (용언) are conjugated in Korean.

** THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT TO MEMORIZE. This is really obscure knowledge for English speakers. There aren’t even unique English words for 관계언 or 독립언… I made them up 😛 I think I want to cover all 9 품사s eventually, so we’ll tackle them as we go on. 

Today we are looking at

  • Determiners (관형사) as part of Modifiers (수식언).
  • Both descriptive verbs (형용사) and action verbs (동사), as part of predicates (용언).
    • How to turn these two into their determiner form (관형사형), aka noun modifying forms, through the transformative ending (전성 어미)

Let’s get started.

(1) Determiner (관형사) – as part of Modifier (수식언)

Korean does have something similar to English adjectives. Again, English adjectives are not conjugated; they are words that look the same no matter where they are, no matter which noun they modify.

Determiners (관형사) are the same. Determiners are placed in front of nouns/substantives (체언) and modify the following noun. Determiners do not change shape; they are not conjugated. They look the same no matter where they are placed.

There are three types of determiners in Korean (bolded in the following examples):

  1. Quality (성상 관형사): to describe the quality or status of an object;
    ex) 새, 헌, 옛, … -> 신발, 옷,
  2. Which (지시 관형사): to specify which object is being discussed;
    ex) 이, 저, 그, … -> 사람, 바다, 친구
  3. Quantity (수 관형사):  to describe the quantity of the object(s).
    ex) 한, 두, 모든 … -> 사람, 그릇, 모든 나라

Notice how these three categories match the English adjective. They answer one of three questions about the noun: What kind is it? How many are there? Which one is it? 

All of these, again, go in front of the noun, modify that noun, look the same no matter which noun they modify…. There is a finite (but lengthy) list of these guys, but let’s just look at one example for today:

I throw a new ball.
저는 던집니다.

In our English sentence, the adjective “new” is in front of the noun “ball,” and “new” describes the quality of the “ball.”

The same thing is happening in the Korean sentence: the determiner “새” (meaning “new”) is in front of the noun “공” (meaning “ball”), and “새” describes the quality of the “공.”

** But 악돌 선생님! Doesn’t 새 mean “bird” and 공 mean “zero”? Yes, they could. Korean has a lot of homonyms (words sound/spelled alike but have different meanings). You will have to figure out what the words mean by (1) studying and learning more vocabulary and (2) context. 😛 

Anyways, to conclude: the closest things to English adjectives in Korean grammar are determiners (관형사). They are modifiers (수식언) that are placed in front of the noun they modify. Just like English adjectives, they do not change; they look the same, no matter which nouns they describe.

I will point out, determiners are NOT nouns (명사). This is an important distinction to make, but not a hill to die on today. We will explore this further in a future lesson where we learn more about nouns/substantives (체언).

Now let’s look at the other stuff.

(2) Predicates (용언) and transformation endings (전성 어미)

We learned in Part 1 that predicates (용언) include two “verb” types: descriptive verbs (형용사) and action verbs (동사). To review, predicates describe the subject’s quality or actions. Also, predicates state something about the subject. 

This sounds a lot like determiners (관형사) that we’ve just learned… The fundamental difference is that predicates are conjugated with different endings (어미). Determiners are not conjugated.

There are three types of endings for predicates. You may have already seen these in action:

  1. Final ending (종결 어미) shows that the sentence is finished;
    ex) -ㅂ니다, -아/어/여요 -> 먹습니다. 먹어요.
  2. Connective ending (연결 어미) shows that the sentence/clause connects to another;
    ex) -고 -> 밥을 먹고 잠을 잔다.
  3. Transformation ending (전성 어미) CHANGES the function of the predicate to be something else.
    (examples in the next section!)

We’ll use all three types of endings in this lesson. However, we’ll spend more time learning all of them intimately in the future.

Today we’re going to focus on transformation endings (전성 어미), specifically determiner forms (관형사형) that will change the role of predicates to describe nouns, like determiners do in the Korean language.

Let me reiterate: the English “adjective” doesn’t have a place in the Korean language. The closest thing to English adjectives are determinersDeterminers are words or clauses placed in front of nouns/substantives and they modify that following noun. They are not conjugated.

By using transformation endings to conjugate descriptive verbs and action verbs into the determiner form, we can make these predicates (“verbs”) modify nouns. (Just like determiners do in the Korean language, and just like adjectives do in the English language.)

(3) Noun modifiers: Conjugating predicates (“verbs”) into determiner form

I like delicious warm tea.
저는 맛있고 따뜻한 차를 좋아합니다.

We’re looking at two new descriptive verbs: 맛있다 (“to be delicious”) and 따뜻하다 (“warm”).

Let’s slow down a bit. Let’s start with saying “The tea is delicious.” and “The tea is warm.” We are going to conjugate 맛있다 and 따뜻하다 formally, with -습니다/-ㅂ니다 final endings (종결 어미).

** Remember, 맛있다 and 따뜻하다 are Korean descriptive verbs, and they behave differently from English adjectives! They look more like “verbs” and they need to be conjugated. Check out [Part 1] for a refresher. 

The tea is delicious. 
차는 맛있습니다.

The tea is warm.
차는 따뜻합니다.

To use two descriptive verbs consecutively, we actually have to conjugate these predicates once more with the connective ending (연결 어미). Here, we will use “-고” and use it to turn 맛있다 into 맛있고. This connective ending allows the predicate to ‘connect’ to the next thought. (We’ll explore more of this in a future lesson.)

The tea is delicious. The tea is warm. 
차는 맛있습니다. 차는 따뜻합니다.

The tea is delicious and (is) warm.
차는 맛있따뜻합니다.

So far, we are able to state that the noun “tea (차) is warm and delicious (맛있고 따뜻합니다),” only in a subject-verb format. To be able to say “delicious and warm tea,” we have to conjugate the “verbs” (predicates) with the transformation ending (전성 어미) to change their function from a verb into “adjectives” (determiners). 

For descriptive verbs, it’s pretty simple: from the dictionary form, take off -다; you attach -은 to roots with a final consonant, and -ㄴ to roots without a final consonant.

따뜻하다 (형용사, DV). 따뜻하- lacks a final consonant so takes -ㄴ to conjugate it as a determiner.

따뜻하다 -> 따뜻하 + -ㄴ -> 따뜻한
따뜻한 차 (warm tea)

BUT! We have an exception here… 맛있다. 맛있다 is a compound word (합성어) putting together the noun “맛” (flavor) with the verb “있다.” So 맛있다 follows the conjugation pattern for action verbs, although it is a descriptive verb. 😛 We’ll look at the action verb conjugations in the next part.

맛있다 will be conjugated as a determiner like an action verb.

맛있다 -> 맛있- + -는 -> 맛있는 
맛있는 차 (delicious tea)

However, to say “warm and delicious tea” or “delicious and warm tea,” we still take the -고 connective ending.

따뜻하맛있는 차 (warm and delicious tea)
맛있따뜻한 차 (delicious and warm tea)

OK, we’re gonna kick this up a notch…

(4) Noun modifier clauses

Quick review: In English, adjective clauses can also describe nouns:

I like the cake that 악돌 eats.
The tea which a friend has prepared is delicious.

Adjective clauses start with a relative pronoun/adverb and usually a subject and a verb. Read more about English adjective clauses here again, if you forgot: [Grammar Bytes

Even short thoughts like “warm and delicious tea” could be re-written as an adjective clause.

따뜻하고 맛있는 차 (tea which is warm and delicious)
맛있고 따뜻한 차 (tea that is delicious and warm)

Now let’s look at more Korean. Here are the last two sentences we need to learn, paired with their English counterparts, and color-coded:

저는 악돌이 먹는 케이크 좋습니다.
The cake that 악돌 eats is likable. 
(aka “I like the cake that 악돌 eats.” See [Part 1] for more info)

친구가 준비한 맛있습니다.
The tea which a friend has prepared is delicious.

The underlined purple clause describes the bolded noun.

악돌이 먹는 케이크
the cake that 악돌 eats

친구가 준비한
the tea which a friend has prepared

We can see that the adjective/determiner clauses describe a noun. Without the clauses, the sentence still makes complete sense.

저는 케이크좋습니다.
The cake is likable.

맛있습니다.
The tea is delicious.

As before, we can reorder determiner clauses to create a complete sentence to see the subjectverb relationship in the clauses. We’re using two action verbs: 먹다 (to eat) and 준비하다 (to prepare). Both have a subject with the subject particle (이/가), and a direct object with an object particle (을/를) attached. Note that 먹다 is conjugated in present tense, and 준비하다 is put in past tense in the second sentence.

악돌이 케이크를 먹습니다.
악돌 eats cake.

친구가 차를 준비했습니다.
A friend prepared tea.

When we conjugate action verbs into their determiner form (관형사형) with transformation endings (전성 어미), we describe what action is being done to the 케이크 AND who is performing that action. Because determiners go in front of the noun, so do these clauses.

For action verbs, we have to consider the tense of the action. (We’ll dive more into this in the future, so just hang on for now.)

For present tense, from the dictionary form, you take off the -다 and put on -는. No need to think about final consonants.

악돌이 케이크를 먹습니다.

먹다 (동사, AV). For present tense: to the root 먹-, you add -는. 
먹다
 -> 먹- + -는 -> 먹는
악돌이 먹는 케이크 

Past tense conjugation is just like conjugating descriptive verbs. From the dictionary form, take off -다; you attach -은 to roots with a final consonant, and -ㄴ to roots without a final consonant.

친구가 를 준비했습니다.

준비하다 (동사, AV). For past tense, you add -ㄴ to the root 준비하-, because 준비하- does not have a final consonant.
준비하다 -> 준비하– + -ㄴ -> 준비한
친구가 준비한

Now we can insert that extra information into the main sentence, and voila!

저는 악돌이 먹는케이크가 좋습니다.
I like the cakethat Akdol eats.

친구가 준비한는 맛있습니다.
The teawhich a friend has prepared is delicious.

Want to learn how to conjugate these in future tense and more? Go here: [studiousbees blog post]

Conclusion

We explored at “adjectives” in Korean through a very lengthy and technical explanation. We learned today:

  • Adjectives, in English, are words or clauses that describe a noun.
  • Determiners (관형사) are like English adjectives. They are words that go in front of nouns. They are not conjugated. There is a finite list of determiners.
    • ex) 신발 (“new shoe”),  여자 (“new woman”)
  • We can conjugate descriptive verbs (형용사) and action verbs (동사) into determiner forms (관형사형) with transformative endings (전성 어미).
    • ex) 따뜻한 차 (“warm tea,” from 따뜻하다 “to be warm”), 친구가 준비한 차 (“the tea which a friend has prepared,” from 준비하다 “to prepare”)

This is important to know because, again, this system is very different from English adjectives. In addition, this form (aka noun modifying) is used very, very often in Korean, especially in media and advertisements.

I don’t have translations for these, but I’ve underlined and color-coded the noun modifying clauses and bolded the nouns they describe.

Synopsis of Thor: Ragnarok in Korean
피할 수 없는 세상의 멸망
‘라그나로크’를 막아라!

[…]  헬라에게 자신의 망치마저 파괴당한 토르어벤져스 동료인 헐크와도 피할 수 없는 대결을벌이면서 절체절명의 위기에 빠지게 되는데…

Synopsis of Star Wars: the Last Jedi in Korean

악의 세력인 무자비한 ‘퍼스트 오더’가 은하계를 장악 시대.
 레아 장군이 이끄는 저항군승리의 불씨를 지필 마지막 희망을 찾아 ‘레이’를 과거의 영웅 ‘루크’에게 보낸다.

Lyrics for 예지’s Drink I’m Sippin On

내가 마신 음료수
내가 봤던 영화
내가 어제 뭘 했는지 기억이 안나는 이유

I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson! Next time, we will look at nouns/substantives (체언) and particles a little closely. Conjugating verbs will have to wait 😉

Additional Resources

For a detailed explanation on conjugating noun modifiers, please check these out: [studiousbees text post] [MasterTOPIK video – spoken in slow Korean] [Go! Billy: conjugate DV, conjugate AV]

 

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