Difference Between -고 and -서

Last week I learned two useful verb ending that will help connect phrases or thoughts. These are the verb endings -고 and -서 . These two verbs ending is almost the same in function but have difference in meaning. Difference can be noted in the example below:

  1. 약국에 가 약을 샀어요. (Yakkuke kago yakeul sasseoyo.) I went to the pharmacy and bought medicine.
  2. 약국에 가 약을 샀어요. (Yakkuke kaso yakeul sasseoyo.) I went to the pharmacy so as to buy medicine.

The first sentence where -고 is used, going to the pharmacy and buying of medicine is merely a declaration of two. The second sentence on the otherhand shows purpose/result sentence construction.

So in an English point of view -고 is used to connect phrases to resemble these thought pattern– ‘ and (then afterwards)‘ or  ‘and (also in addition). While -서 goes by the thought patterns ‘so‘ or ‘so as to’, it can also mean ‘and then afterwards’ but with emphasis on purpose-result sentence pattern.  This means the two phrases or ideas are more linked as sequence of events.

Happy Birthday Song

My collegues know how passionate I am in learning Korean so whenever there are birthday celebration in the office, they would tease me to sing the Happy Birthday Song in Korean.

It’s i think one of the basic songs that you can learn in Korean which goes like this:

새일 축하합니다

Saengil chukhahamnida


생일 축하합니다

Saengil chukhahamnida


사랑하는 <이름/ >

Saranghaneun <name-i/sshi>


생일 축하합니다

Saengil chukhahamnida

The tone is of course the same as the happy birthday song in English.  Funny that 축하합니다 actually means congratulations if you translate it directly and people wouldn’t normally say congratulations on your birthday at least in our culture and some other country’s culture.  Some think its rude to say congratulations to a person who is actually aging or adding a year on his age.  

한국어 음악을 아주 좋아해요.
그리고 한국어 잘 하고 싶어서 가사을 이해하겠어요.

Verbs in Infinitive and Particle 서

When I was attending formal classes in learning Korean, I once dropped the term ‘verb in infinitive form’ in our class.  Our teacher is not using this term but rather emphasized on the base form of verb which cannot be used in a conversation unless transformed to end in ㅓ or ㅏ.

This post deals with particle that is attached to a verb in the infinitive form.  I made a post about this, more than a year ago perhaps , when I was starting to learn Korean.  The rule is base form of the verb + either ㅏ or ㅓ.  Verb in the infinitive form can only end in these two hangul character, of course if the base form ends in ㅏ or ㅓ then there is no need to add another one.

The particle 서 (seo) is attached to the infinitive form of the verb.  As I always keep on mentioning particles are pronounced without pause.  It is as if the particle is part of the original word.  

So how is this particle used?  Most of the particles I learned functions as grammatical marker in the sentence like the subject particle 가/이 (ka/i) and object particle 을/를 (eul/reul).   This time around, 서 added in a verb in the infinitive form denotes two meanings:

First is to show cause and result similar to English word so (incidentally the particle is 서 romanized as seo but pronounced as so just like the English word).  Here is an example:

시간이 없어서 아침을 먹지 않았어요.   (Shigani opseoseo achimeul meokji anasseoyo).  시간이 없어서  I did not have time so  먹지 않았어요 i skipped eating breakfast.  Although  the sentence direct translation is time i don’t have so breakfast i did not eat, the lack of time made me skip my breakfast.  The lack of time being the cause and the result would be not eating breakfast.

The second use of this particle is to show sequence similar to ‘so as to’ or ‘did and then’.  This way the sequence of event is emphasized.  The 1st and 2nd clause usually has the same subject. Here is an example:

서울에 가서 한강을 봤어어요.  (Seoure kaso hangangeul bowasseoyo).  서울에 가서 I did went to Seoul so as  한강을 봤어어요 to see Han River.  The purpose is to go to Seoul and the result is being able to see Han River.

Note that in the two sentences, verbs  to which 서 is attached are in the present infinitive form, its the verb at the end of the sentence that drives the tense.   This is the same case as that of verb in -고 form the verbs to which it  is attached is not tensed.   So what I learned is that 서 is never compatible with past-infinitive or future-infinitive form of the verb.

Negative –고Form

Verb in go form can be formed 2 different ways.  First is to add the -고 to the negative verb as shown below:

  • 사지 않고 (saji anko) does not buy
  • 사지 못 하고 (saji mot hago) can’t buy
  • 가지않고 (kaji anko) does not go
  • 가지못 하고 (kaji mot hago) can’t go

The second way is to put  -고 to the right after the verb that has been negated the short way:

  • 안 사고 (an sago) does not buy
  • 못 사고 (mot sago) can’t buy
  • 안 가고 (an kago) does not go
  • 못 가고 (mot kago) can’t go

Here is an example:  점심을 안 먹고 학교에 빨리 갔어요. (Cheomshimeul an meokko hakyeoe palli kasseoyo). He did not eat lunch and then hurriedly went to school.

Meaning and Uses of -고

The -고 (-ko) verb is mainly used to connect to sentences just the way English uses ‘and’ to connect phrases that may or may not stand alone as a phrase.  Unlike the English ‘and’ the -고 verb is used with these two meanings:

  • does this and also…
  • having done or been [so and so] and then…

When -고 is used to break a long sentence into parts, the actions linked by the -고 verb normally happens alongside each other. Below are some samples of its use:

  • [and also] 나한테는 가방을 주고, 언니한테는 꽃을 드렸어요 (Nahanteneun jugo, eonnihanteneun kkocheul deuryeosseoyo)  He gave me a bag and gave my sister flowers.  Note that the past tense is apply only in the verb at the end, this is because verbs in -고 form does not take tenses.
  • [and then] 나는 아침을 먹고 도서관에 갔어요 (Naneun achimeul mokko doseogwane kasseoyo) I ate lunch and then went to the library.

Introduction to Verb in -고 Form

The first lesson introduced in the Continuing Korean book is a verb ending which I have encountered twice from Elementary Korean, this is the -고 (-ko) verb ending. 

In my earlier posts, I have discussed a verb ending that expresses one’s desires and wishes, this is -고 싶어 (-ko shipo).  Few weeks ago I also made a post on another verb ending that features 고 again which is -고 있어 (-ko isseo).  This verb gives the regular polite ending verb a meaning that the action in progress.

This time, the topic is all about the one shape verb ending -고.  Just like the verb ending -지 (ji) and -겠-  (kett), this verb ending is attached to a word regardless if it ends in vowel or consonant.  Before I post on the things  I learned on its uses,  let’s refresh our minds with the pronunciation rules with respect to this ending added in various words.  Here are some of the rules in pronunction :

  • Consonant ending verbs like 들 (deul) that ends in ㄹ change the final consonant to ㄷ before another consonant.  It is pronunced as ㄱ if the following ending starts with ㄱ and ㅈ for word ending starts with ㅈ.  들 which means listen becomes 듣 –> 듣고 (deukko) .
  • Bases that ends in consonants ㅅ, ㅆ, ㅈ and ㅊ transforms to  a final consonant ㄷ before -고 is added see sample below:
    • 있 –> 있고 –> means ‘there is’ pronounced as 읻고. This sample tells me that past base will always take this pronunciation rule into consideration as – ㅆ is to be added in plain base form.
    • 벗 –> 벗고 —> means ‘remove’ is pronounced as 벋고
    • 찾 –> 찾고 –> means ‘seek’ is pronounced as 찯고For bases that ends with more than 2 consonant, only 1 will be pronounced like in the case below:
    • 읽–> 읽고 –> means ‘read’ will be pronounced as 일고 (ilko)
    • 없–> 없고–> means ‘lack of’ will be pronounced as 업고 (opko)
  • For bases that normally ends in ㅎ the ㄱsound of  the ending 고 becomes aspirated as in ㅋ.  Here is an example 좋–> 좋고 –>  means to like becomes  조코 only in pronunciation.
  • L extending bases adds 고 with the ㄹon the base.  Example would be 살고 (salkko – means to live) 팔고 (palko – means to sell)

This topic somehow made me review the  pronunciation guides learned from book one (Elementary Korean).

Continuing Korean…Greater Pursuit

Yesterday’s post marks the end of my goal to read from cover to cover, Elementary Korean. I am finally done reading this book after almost 1 and 1/2 years.   I promised my self to make a review of the said book and this going to be one of my goals side by side reading the sequel to that book entitled Continuing Korean.

When I started reading the book sometime in late August, I knew this is the book that will answer my questions in mind on the intricacies of the Korean Language.  Withouth much thinking I decided to buy the sequel book in Singapore in a Japanese book chain –Kinokuniya.

Though I bought this book long time ago, this is the first time that  I am opening it.  I browsed through the table of contents and instantly found happiness seeing some of the usual word endings that I hear from Korean conversation like -는데 (neunde), -면 (myeon), particle 야 which continues to tickle my mind on how it is used, to name a few.

I am twice as interested in reading this book as the first one but it doesn’t mean i’ll be shelving the 1st book for good.  I will still go back to Elementary Korean and refresh my mind once in a while of the simple topics and rules that it taught me for over a year.

Continuing Korean, you will be my ‘Twilight’ in the next coming months.  Feed my curiosity and hunger to learn Korean.