Have you been studying Korean for a while?
If you have been studying for a month or over a year, this topic can still be confusing if you haven’t had a chance to really understand the difference in the two types of verbs.
Intransitive verb is a type of verb that doesn’t have a direct object in a sentence.
Transitive verb is another type of verb that has one or more than one direct object in a sentence.
I still find this explanation not helpful.. I learned my English as a second language having my native mother tongue as Korean.
I was struggling to understand different language terminologies which got me confused even more..
I wish someone could explain how it worked in sentence examples and got me understand the concept this way.
As a Korean language instructor, I’ve been teaching Korean for about 10 years and helped many students who had a beginner’s level starting from alphabet to a speaking level without really teaching terminologies.
Therefore, I know this method of teaching works! 🙂
Here are two set of verbs that I will explain in this post and if you have questions, please feel free to leave comments below.
1. 들리다 VS 듣다
들리다 and 듣다 verbs can both be found as ‘to hear’ and ‘ to listen’ in dictionary, because that’s a natural way to interpret them in English.
However, if you are truly learning Korean and want to learn more about grammar, here is how you can think.
들리다 ‘to be heard’
들리다 is ‘to be heard’ as the Korean verb doesn’t require a direct object. That means you will always use a subject with this verb and ‘to be heard’ makes most sense and you cannot use an object with ‘to be heard’.
멀리서 소리가 들려요. I hear the sound from far away. ➡️ interpret to “The sound from far away is heard.”
In the example, 소리 (sound) is a subject noun and 가 is the subject particle. There is no object noun.
응급차 사이런 소리가 들렸어요. I heard the siren of an emergency vehicle.
➡️ interpret to “The siren of an emergency vehicle was heard.”
응급차 사이런 소리 (emergency siren sound) is the subject and 가 is the subject particle. There is no object noun.
듣다 ‘to hear’ or ‘to listen to’
듣다 is ‘to hear’ and ‘to listen to’. The Korean verb allows/ needs a direct object. Just like the English verbs, they require a direct object.
제 친구의 좋은 소식을 들었어요. I heard my friend’s good news.
제 친구의 좋은 소식 (my friend’s good news) is a direct object to the verb. 을 is the object particle after a syllable that ends with a consonant. The verb here is 듣다 and it’s conjugated to 들었어요 for past tense.
A subject in this sentence is omitted but you can add 저는 as I with subject particle if you want.
저는 케이팝을 매일 들어요. I listen to K-POP every day.
저 is I in polite and 는 is the subject particle. 케이팝 (K-POP) is the direct object and 을 is the object particle. The verb 들어요 requires an object.
2. 끝나다 VS 끝내다
끝나다 ‘to finish’
끝나다 is a verb that doesn’t require a direct object noun. English verb ‘to finish’ can have an object or not depending on the context. Therefore, think of the Korean verb as the English verb that doesn’t need an object.
그 영화가 끝났어요. The movie finished.
그 영화 is the subject noun and 가 is the subject particle. The verb 끝났어요 is the past tense and doesn’t allow a direct object.
학교는 4시에 끝나요. School finishes at 4.
학교 is a subject noun and 는 is the subject particle. 4시에 is ‘at 4’ and 끝나요 again doesn’t allow a direct object.
끝내다 ‘to complete’
끝내다 is a verb that requires a direct object. Thus, it’s good to think of this verb as ‘to complete’ in English. Although ‘to finish’ can have a direct object, but that verb also doesn’t require a direct object under some circumstances. Therefore, by thinking it as ‘to complete’, it simplifies remembering the grammar rules.
(저는) 숙제를 끝냈어요. I completed the homework.
저 is I in polite with 는 the subject particle and 숙제 (homework) is the object noun with 를 object particle. 끝냈어요 is in past tense and required a direct object.
(저는) 2시까지 일을 끝내야 돼요. I have to complete work by 2.
저 is I in polite with 는 the subject particle and 2시까지 is by two. 일 (work) is the object noun with the 을 object particle. 끝내야 돼요 is ‘have to complete’ and required a direct object.