How To Refer Friends In Korean

Do you know ‘Friends’ in Korean culture mean different from ones in the western world?

Friend is 친구 in Korean and you pronounce it as [chin gu]. For the natural pronunciation, it can be pronounced as [ching gu].

My experience with friends in Canada

It seems the western culture defines friends depending on how close you are to someone. This can be due to the length of time you’ve known the person or admiration towards someone etc. But, this is regardless of their age.

First I thought it was strange to see younger western kids calling someone who’s a lot older than them a friend. This can be a great advantage if you like to meet new people without having a barrier to the age hierarchy. However, this can sometimes lack a certain level of respect that Korean culture has towards someone who’s older than them.

Friends in Korean culure

Personally, I have never called someone who’s at a different age a friend. In our culture, we refer people by their statuses and titles, therefore, between close ‘Friends’ (western term), we don’t call each other ‘Friends’ if we are not the same age.

Usually when you are a student in schools (up to high school), peers you study with are mostly likely the same age as you, 99% in my personal experience. This means almost everyone you hang out with is the same age friend. I believe this can happen due to our educational system that you don’t jump ahead because you have a better grade than others.

Once you enter a college or a university, you may see more diverse age groups as men must serve in military service for two years and they usually do it during the school years. That means when they come back to school from the service, they will be older than other students. Another common reason is some people take the Suneung (Korean version of SAT) more than once to enter a school. They will be older than other students as well.

Once you get a job in the work force, you may not care about age as much because titles in a company override age. However, if you meet people outside of work, you may still need to know their age to figure out how to refer them if they prefer being called non-title.

For these reasons (probably many other reasons as well), we need to figure out who is older or younger than you by asking “How old are you? 몇살이에요?” [myeo ssarieyo]. This is not a rude question as this is necessary to determine how to refer someone. If you are asking the question to someone who is clearly older than you, this could be rude depending on the individual.

How to refer friends in Korean

Someone who’s older than you

오빠 [obba]: Older man called by a younger female
[hyeong]: Older man called by a younger male
언니 [eonni]: Older woman called by a younger female
누나 [nuna]: Older woman called by a younger male

Someone who’s younger than you

동생 [dongsaeng]: Younger sibling
남동생 [namdongsaeng]: Male younger sibling
여동생 [yeodongsaeng]: Female younger sibling
Their names

Which culture do you prefer when it comes to referring friends?”
Comment below. 🙂

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You Must Know This In Korean Verbs

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 VS Transitive verb

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.

Listen to Kpop
Enjoying the sound

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’.

Example 1.

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.

멀리서 소리가 들려요.

Example 2.

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.

응급차 사이런 소리가 들렸어요.

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.

Example 1.

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.

제 친구의 좋은 소식을 들었어요.

Example 2.

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.

저는 케이팝을 매일 들어요.

At the finish line

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.

Example 1.

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.

그 영화가 끝났어요.

Example 2.

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.

학교는 4시에 끝나요.

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.

Example 1.

(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) 숙제를 끝냈어요.

Example 2.

(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.

(저는) 2시까지 일을 끝내야 돼요.

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How To Read And Write Date In Korean

Date In Korean

Learning numbers in Korean itself can be overwhelming.
Once you master numbers, you think you can easily figure out how to say Date in Korean.

But, if you don’t know the rules provided in this post, you still may be in a confusing state. If you are encountering the situation, I will help you learn how to use Date. You are in the right place. 😉

First, let’s learn to say the words.

Year: 년 [nyeon]
Month: 월 [weor]
Day: 일 [ir]

Year, Month, Date in Korean

You must know these three rules below when you say date in Korean.

Rule 1. Korean date ALWAYS starts with Year.

In fact, the order in Date in Korean doesn’t change. It’s always Year (년) – Month (월) – Day (일).

Therefore, it’s always easy to recognize which is for what.

However, in English, it usually seems to start with month, but sometimes also start with date or year. As someone who lives in Canada, this has confused me. I first thought it was because I was an immigrant here. Later on, I realized it was not just me who was confused about it as I witnessed other born and raised Canadian also had the same problems. XD

Maybe that’s whyRule 3 is created to solve the issue.

Rule 2. Read it in Chinese (Sino) system

Number Systems In Korean

First of all, did you know there are two different number systems in Korean language?

Chinese (Sino) system and Korean system

I won’t explain details about the two systems as that’s going to be a topic for a separate post. I’d like to mention here you would need to use the Chinese (Sino) number system with Date.

Korean number system goes up to 100 (Korean people don’t really use 100 온 in a daily life). Any figure that can have over 100 ends up used with the Chinese system. In the date case, you use the Chinese number system for all 년, 월, 일.

Rule 3. Korean month 월 is always associated with numbers

Korean month is always associated with numbers which means there are no words to describe specific month like English. For example, number 4 has a representative word which is April.

As I mentioned in Rule 1, maybe someone had to invent the words to clear the confusion as the order of date in English can be versatile. But, of course, this is just my total assumption.

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