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.

Expression: Going (가) and Coming (와) and Particle 로

The verb 가 (ka) and 와 (wa – infinitive form) are just two of the most commonly used verbs.  가 means go while 와 means come.  This post is a tip on how the particle 로 (ro) works perfectly with this two verbs.  As discussed in previous post 로 is a particle attached to noun which creates the meaning via, through or by means of the nound to which it is attached.

Vehicle+로 then destination and the verb does the trick.  Here are examples:

  • 기차로 학교에 가요  (Kicharo hakyoe kayo) Goes to school by train
  • 기차로 학교에 와요  (Kicharo hakyoe wayo) Comes to school by train
  • 바스로 가요 (Basuro kayo) Goes by bus
  • 택시로 왔어요 (Taekshiro wasseoyo) Came by taxi

내가 자동차로 사무실용 건물에 가요  (Naega chadongcharo samushilyong keonmure kayo).  I go to the office by car.

Honorific Subject Marker 께서(는)

The honorific style is just one of the complications in learning Korean (한국어).  I had several posts on this style which includes the honorific verbs and nouns.  Despite knowing the existence of this style, I am still surprised to know that particles do have honorifics too. 

The particle 께서 is used to mark an esteemed person as a subject. This means that it is equivalent to the function of an earlier particle that I have posted, the subject particle 이/가.   Example:  선생님께서 가셨어요 (Sonsaengnimkkeso kasyeosseoyo – The esteemed teacher left).

This particle is used only for persons. It can be used alone or followed by topic particle (는). As such, you may encounter statements like: 어머니께서는 무엇을 하세요? (Eomeonikkesoneun mueoseul haseyo? – What does you mother do?)  Removing the topic particle 는  renders the statement to have the same correct meaning.

As I have always been writing about particles, it is pronounced without pause along with the noun to which it is attached.

More on Particle 이나 (ina)

Last of the three uses of the particle 이나 (remember to drop 이 when attaching to a word ending with vowel) is similar to how 도 (do) is used in a sentence. 이나 can also be used twice in a sentence to show tandem agreement.  도 as mentioned on previous post when used twice after two nouns in a sentence means just the way either-or and neither-nor tandem in English.  However, in sentence essence or meaning, 이나 shows freedom or indifference.

The use of 이나 in this manner has two patterns.  first is the <noun1>이나 <noun2> pattern.  This shows tandem agreement:

  • 연필이나, 볼펜이나 다 돼요. -Yonpirina, bolpenina da dweyo.  (Either pencil or ballpen will do.)
  • 연필, 볼펜 안 돼요.  – Yonpildo, bolpendo an dweyo.  (Neither pencil nor ballpen will do.)

Whereas 도 is definite when it comes to tandem choices (as seen on comparison above), 이나  this way tends to be vague or inspecific:

  • 이 것도 저것도 다 좋아요 –  I kotdo chokotdo da chuayo (This thing and that thing are fine)
  • 이 것이나 저것이나 다 좋아요 –  I koshina chokoshina da chuayo (This thing or that thing is fine)

The second patter is <noun>이나 that means noun or something, noun or the like.  So there is just one noun and then the 이나 is a choice that is ‘something’.  See examples below:

  • 영화나 볼까요? – Yonghwana bolkkayo? (Shall we watch a movie or something?)
  • 술이나 마실까요? – Suina mashilkayo? (Shall we have something [alcoholic] to drink or something?)

Particle 이-나 (i-na) as Generalizer

There is more to the particle 이나, my previous post deals with this particle as used in numeric expressions.  This particle is added at the end of the word which requires generalization, 이나 (ina) for consonant ending words and drops 이 (i) when added to vowel ending words.

Here are some of its uses as generalizer; mostly are question word:

and here are some of its practical applications:

  • Question: 누구를 부를까요? (Nugureul bureulkkayo? / Whom shall we invite?)
  • Answer:   누구나 좋아요. (Nuguna chuayo. /Anybody is fine.)


  • Question: 주말에 어디에 갈까요?  (Chumare odi.e kalkkeyo?; Where shall we go this weekend?)
  • Answer: 어디나 좋아요  (Odina chuayo. /Anywhere is fine. )

Since 이나 is a particle, that it is attached to a word without a pause, the rules in pronunciation applies.  Notice how 무엇 (mueot) became mueoshina when it became 무엇이나  at the first cell of the table above, see also last cell.

Particle (이) 나

Introducing another two-shaped particle (이) 나 — (i) na.  Some of the particles that I have previously discussed are subject particle 가/이, topic particle 는/은,  object particle 를/을 etc. This new particle has the following functions when used:

  • Means about or approximately when used along with numeric expression
  • Its a generalizer
  • It also means ‘or’

이나 is added for words ending in consonants and drops 이 if the word ends in vowel.  Like any other particles, 이나 once added in a word form part of it as if its the original word.  The pronunciation should be smooth without the unnecessary stop right before the particle.

For this post, i will be discussing the first function.  Koreans are said to be less precise when it comes to numbers specifically numerical expression.  See examples below:

  • 몇 시간이나 걸려요? (Myeot shicanina kollyeoyo?) – About how many hour does it take?
  • 몇 개 살께요? (Myeot shicanina kollyeoyo? – About how many should we buy?

This particle behaves like 도 (do – added to word to mean too or also) when added to the word that is the topic or object of a sentence, there is no longer a need to added the topic or object particle.  As such the second bullet above will never be 개를이나.

More on Particle 도 (do)

As mentioned in my previous post, 도 (do) is a particle attached to a noun or noun expression that would mean also, too or and.  This particle may also be found twice in a sentence.  In such cases it is used just as how these English words are:

  • either – and (for affirmative sentences – both choices is okay)
  • neither – nor (for negative sentences)

Here are some examples:

  • 못 가요. 돈도 시간도 없어요. (Mot kayo.  Dondo shicando opsoyo) – I can’t go.  I have neither the time nor the money.
  • 네 갈께요. 나는 버스도 택시도 태워 줘요 (Ne kayo. Naneun bosudo taekshido taewo juwoyo) – Yes I will be going.  I will either take a bus or taxi.

Note that for 도 to function as above, you have to say the same thing about the two nouns involved otherwise use -지만 to show contrast.  (Please see previous post for more on its use).

Adverb 또 (Ddo)

This new word may look familiar if you have encountered the particle 도 (do).  Fortunately they have almost the same meaning. 또 (ddo) is an adverb that means the same as particle 도 that is– again, also or too.  The only difference is that particles need to be attached to a noun or noun expression, so 또 is independent and may exist as a word in a sentence.  See how these two are used in the following sentence:

  • 여기에 쓰레기 있어요 ( ssuregido issoyo) – There are litters here too.
  • 저기에 쓰레기는 있어요 ( ssureginueun ddo issoyo) – There are some more litters over there.

Since 도 is a particle there is no need to put markers 가/이 or 는/은 when it is attached to a noun that is subject or topic of a sentence.

또 like the word 그리고 (kurigo) may be used at the start of a sentence which means and further(more), and also or simply and.  You may likewise find is both at the start of the sentence 그리고 또 (kurigo ddo) thus it will then mean ‘and moreover’ or ‘and furthermore’.

Particle 씩 (sshik)

This particle means per or a piece.  Its use can be compared to what we say in English ‘I work 4 hours per day’ however in a Korean sentence this is expressed as ‘In a day I work 4 hours per’.  The particle goes with the expression of time or quantity. So I work 4 hours per day can be expressed in Korean this way:

하루에 네 시간씩 일합니다 or 일해요 for less formal statement (Haru.e ne shicansshik ilhapnida/ilhaeyo).  Literally this means ‘In a day, I work four hours each’.

This particle is used at the end of numerical expression and usually refers to other element in the sentence like a subject/object or a time expression with the particle 마다 (mada -each/every).  You can find this particles used along with the particle 마다 which somehow means the same. See example below:

어머니랑 날마다 두 시간씩 전화로 이야기합니다 (Omonirang nalmada du shicansshik chonhwaro iyagihamnida).  This literally means ‘With mother every day two hours by means of phone I speak’.  It kinda look odd but this means ‘Everyday, I speak to my mother two hours through the phone.’

Lastly, this particle is used more like in English when the expression means distribution.  친구들한테 담배 한 갑씩 줬어요 (Chingudulhante tambae han kapsshik jwossoyo). Literal translation is ‘To friends cigarette one pack each given’ so it means I gave my friends one pack of cigarette each.

Particles 마다 (mada) and 만 (man)

Two new particles enter my knowledge base of Korean language.  For the past days my posts have been related to numbers and so it’s just timing to learn some particles that somehow relates to numbers, frequency, counting or limiting.

Let’s take the first particle first called 마다 (mada) which is equivalent to each/every.  So when you want to say ‘every morning’ its 아침마다 (achim.mada) or if ‘everyday’ its 날마다 (nal.mada). However, when used in a time expression, this particle takes the function of article a(n).  For example saying 날마다 삼십 분 (nalmada samship pun) would mean 30 minutes a day.

The second particle is 만 (man) which can either mean only or just. It’s actually a particle that restricts the noun expression it follows.  Now I know why one of my favorite Korean songs is translated as ‘Look Only at Me’ and sometimes ‘Just look at me’, the title in Korean is 나만 바라봐 (Naman Parabwa).  When a noun is followed by this particle, the subject particle 이~가 and 을~를 is not normally used.  For example:

연필만 있어요 (Yonpil issoyo) would mean – There are only pencils, it’s unusual to say 연필을 있어요 (Yonpireul issoyo).  Another application would be expressing ‘doing the same thing’ as in ‘Lately all I do is study’.  In Korean, this is expressed as 요즘 공부만 해요 (Yojum gongbuman haeyo).  This particle can also be used with a proper noun (as in persons name) or korean pronoun equivalent (as in 나, 저, etc.) In cases you want to say ‘Only Jane knows’, this can be expressed as 제인 씨만 알아요 (Jane sshiman arayo).

As i usually mention when discussing particles, these form part of the word so the pronunciation is seamless or without a pause.