The Differences Between English and Korean

This is not to compare which language sounds more beautiful or has the easiest grammar. Since the only common language we speak is English, I made this note to help you understand better the difference between English and Korean. We often translate one language to another faithfully and literally and we end up sounding very unnatural. We should keep in mind that what is true to Korean may not work in English, or the other way around. So if you're ready, let me present my top ten points on the differences and similarities between English and Korean.

1. In English, once the subject (noun) is mentioned, a pronoun can be used to refer to it as the speech or conversation progresses. In Korean, it is fine to repeat it.

나는 여자를 만났다 여자는 대학생이야.
I met a girl. She is a college student.

2. You can use one Korean particle for a lot of English prepositions.

 집에 있었다.
I was at home.

학생들이 교실에 있어.
The students are in the classroom.

책상에 종이 없는데.
But there is no paper on the desk.

3. When making questions in English, the word order is switched. In Korean, the position of words remains the same. All you need to do is raise your intonation.

그녀는 작가예요.
그녀는 작가예요?

She is a writer.
Is she a writer?

4. The adjectives in English don’t undergo changes like verbs and nouns do. So “beautiful” is always “beautiful” (not beautifuls or beautifuled). In Korean, adjectives are (state) verbs and they transform just like verbs.

사나가 예뻐요.
사나가 예쁜 소녀예요.

Sana is beautiful.
Sana is a beautiful girl.

5. Sentences in English don’t end in verbs unless the object or complement is not necessary. Korean sentences always end in verb.

I ate the cookie.
(I just slept/I can walk/I must run)

나는 과자를 먹었어.

6. What is normally ‘my’ in English is ‘we’ in Korean as in ‘my country’, ‘my mom’, and ‘my neighborhood’.

우리 나라는 지금 어려움을 겪고 있어.
My country is having a hard time these days.

우리 엄마는 약국에서 일해요.
My mom works at the pharmacy.

우리 동네는 한강에서 멀어요.
My neighborhood is far from Han River.

7. There are two methods to express possession in English using nouns- the apostrophe ‘s’ and of. In Korean, there is only one method and that is attaching  to the possessor.

민기씨의 고향은 울산이에요.
Mingi’s hometowk in Ulsan.
The hometown of Mingi is Ulsan.

8. Some verbs in English cannot be used in the progressive tense like know, believe, remember, etc. In Korean, it is possible.

I am knowing everything.
 알고 있어요.

I am believing in God.
저는 하나님을 믿고 있습니다.

I remember what you said.
네가  말을 내가 기억하고 있어.

9. There are a few intransitive verbs in English that are transitive in Korean. Thus, the markers –/ are used. Examples are 걷다가다, and 날다.

저는 학교를 8시에 가요.
I go to school at 8.

아이들이 길을 걸어요.
The kids are walking on the road.

새가 하늘을 날다.
Birds fly in the sky.

10.  English puts emphasis on the use of comma, but Korean does not.

I want to go to Korea, but I don't have any money.
 한국에 가고 싶은데 돈이 없어.

If I am not busy, I will call you.
 바쁘지 않으면 전화할게.

Last month, I bought a book about puberty.
나는 지난 달에 사춘기에 대한 책을 샀어요.