Easy Guide to Korean Adjectives

by Linda McKenna // February 10 // 0 Comments

As we all know, an adjective describes a noun. In sentences, we often see two different ways an adjective is used. It can be used with a “to be” verb to describe the subject, or it can come before the noun that it is describing.

Here is an example using the word cold:

A. The weather is cold.

B. The cold weather keeps me indoors.

Guide to Korean Adjectives

Korean adjectives can also be used in two different ways.

In this article, we will go over the difference between Korean adjectives that come at the end of a sentence (similar to Example A) and adjectives that precede the nouns that they modify (similar to Example B).

Korean adjectives that are also verbs

When a Korean adjective comes at the end of a sentence, it takes on the characteristics of a verb. A verb-like adjective can also be conjugated like any other verb by using the appropriate endings.

*For more information about verb endings, please refer to my article on verb tenses, “A Simple Guide to Verb Tenses: Past, Present, and Future.”

Let’s look at some examples using words that describe the weather.

Verb-like adjective
춥다[춥따]To be cold
덥다[덥따]To be hot
따뜻하다[따뜨타다]To be warm
시원하다[시워나다]To be cool

As I mentioned above, because the adjectives are also verbs, you can add verb endings to the stems to make them past, present, or future.

InfinitivePresent tensePast tenseFuture tense
(It is cold.)
추웠어요 [추워써요]
(It was cold.)
추울거예요 [추울꺼예요]
(It will probably be cold.)
(It is hot.)
더웠어요 [더워써요]
(It was hot.)
더울거에요 [더울꺼예요]
(It will probably be hot.)
따뜻하다따뜻해요 [따뜨태요]
(It is warm.)
따뜻했어요 [따뜨태써요]
(It was warm.)
따뜻할거예요 [따뜨탈꺼예요]
(It will probably be warm.)
시원하다시원해요 [시워내요]
(It is cool.)
시원했어요 [시워내써요]
(It was cool.)
시원할거예요 [시워날꺼예요]
(It will probably be cool.)

Let’s take a look at some example sentences using the above verb-like adjectives.

오늘은 날씨가 따뜻해요.[오느른 날씨가 따뜨태요]Today, the weather is warm.
어제는 날씨가 추웠어요.[어제는 날씨가 추워써요]Yesterday, the weather was cold.
내일은 날씨가 더울거예요.[내이른 날씨가 더울꺼예요]Tomorrow, the weather probably will be hot.

Korean adjectives that come before nouns

In the above examples, the adjective (also verb) ends the sentence and is the main information that is being conveyed about the weather.

When the adjective precedes a noun that it describes, it takes on the consonant “ㄴ" as its ending and becomes a part of the subject or the object of the sentence. More information (including another verb) is then needed to complete the sentence. 

Let’s see how it looks in practice, using the same four words:

춥다:  추우 + ㄴ = 추운

덥다:  더우 + ㄴ = 더운

따뜻하다:  따뜨하 + ㄴ = 따뜻한 [따뜨탄]

시원하다:  시원하 + ㄴ = 시원한 [시워난]

Once this change has been made, the words can no longer stand on their own.  Adding the “ㄴ" indicates that there is a noun that follows immediately thereafter.

추운 날씨 – cold weather

더운 공기 – hot air

따뜻한 담요 [따드탄 담뇨] – warm blanket

시원한 바람 [시워난 바람] – cool wind

The two words together will then be either the subject or the object of a sentence.

저는 추운 날씨를 좋아해요 [저는 추운 날씨를 조아해요]. 

I like cold weather. (“Cold weather” is the object of the sentence.)

요즘 추운 날들이 너무 많아요 [요즘 추운 날드리 너무 마나요].  

These days, there are too many cold days. (“Cold days” is the subject of the sentence – literally translated, the sentence reads, “These days, cold days are too many.”)

*많아요 (many) is a verb-like adjective, and 너무 (too) is an adverb for 많아요.

To simplify the difference between the two types of adjectives:

  • If you use an adjective with a “to be” verb ending, you get a descriptive verb that ends the sentence.
  • If you add the consonant “ㄴ" to the word stem, the adjective describes a noun that follows it.

Below is a list of adjectives (including the four given above) for you to use as a reference:

A list of 20 common Korean adjectives

AdjectiveVerb-like adjective Adjective before a noun
춥다 [춥따]
to be cold
is/am/are cold
cold (+noun)
덥다 [덥따]
to be hot
is/am/are hot
hot (+noun)
따뜻하다 [따뜨타다]
to be warm
따뜻해요 [따뜨태요]
is/am/are warm
따뜻한 [따뜨탄]
warm (+noun)
시원하다 [시워나다]
to be cool
시원해요 [시워내요]
is/am/are cool
시원한 [시워난]
cool (+noun)
좋다 [조타]
to be good
좋아요 [조아요]
is/am/are good
좋은 [조은]
good (+noun)
to be bad
is/am/are bad
bad (+noun)
to be big
is/am/are big

big (+noun)
작다 [작따]
to be small
작아요 [자가요]
is/am/are small
작은 [자근]
small (+noun)
to be long
길어요 [기러요]
is/am/are long
길은 [기른]
long (+noun)
짧다 [짧따]
to be short
짧아요 [짤바요]
is/am/are short
짧은 [짤븐]
short (+noun)
to be cheap
is/am/are cheap

cheap (+noun)
to be expensive
is/am/are expensive
expensive (+noun)
to be glad, to be joyful
is/am/are glad, joyful
joyful (+noun)
to be sad
is/am/are sad
sad (+noun)
행복하다 [행보카다]
to be happy
행복해요 [행보캐요]
is/am/are happy
행복한 [행보칸]
happy (+noun)
to hurt, to be sick
is/am/are sick, painful
painful (+noun)
to be pretty
is/am/are pretty
pretty (+noun)
맛있다 [마싯따]
to taste good
맛있어요 [마시써요]
tastes good
마싰는 [마신는]
delicious (+noun)
맛없다 [마덥따]
to taste bad
맛없어요 [마덥써요]
tastes bad
맛없는 [마덤는]
bad-tasting (+noun)
재밌다 [재밋따]
to be fun/interesting
재밌어요 [재미써요]
is/am/are fun/interesting
재밌는 [재민는]
fun/interesting (+noun)

Interesting Fact

The last three words in the above list are actually full sentences that have evolved into adjectives. If you look closely, they end in “있다" (to exist) or “없다" (to not exist). 

맛이 있어요.   →   맛있어요. (tastes good)

Literally translated: “Taste does exist.”

맛이 없어요.   →   맛없어요. (tastes bad)

Literally translated: “Taste does not exist.”

재미가 있어요.    →    재밌어요. (is fun/interesting)

Literally translated: “Fun does exist.”

Knowing that “재밌어요” means something is fun or interesting, can you guess how you would say that something is NOT fun or interesting?

You are right!! You would say “재미 없어요.”  And you would use “재미없는” in front of a noun!

Let’s look at some more examples of the two different types of adjectives in full sentences.

Examples of Korean adjectives in sentences

저 남자는 키가 커요.
That man is tall.

저는 키 남자를 좋아해요 [저는 키큰 남자를 조아해요].
I like tall men.

이 영화는 슬퍼요 [이 영와는 슬퍼요].
This movie is sad.

어제 슬픈 영화를 봤어요 [어제 슬픈 영와를 봐써요].
I saw a sad movie yesterday.

비행기 표가 너무 비싸요.
The airline ticket is too expensive.

비싼 물건이 가격값을 해요 [비싼 물거니 가격깝쓸 해요].
Expensive items are worth the price.

저는 오늘 너무 행복해요 [저는 오늘 너무 행보캐요].
I am so happy today.

올해는 행복한 날들이 많기를 바래요 [오래는 행보칸 날드리 만키를 바래요].
I hope there will be many happy days this year.

이 에피소드가 아주 재밌어요 [이 에피쏘드가 아주 재미써요].
This episode is very interesting/fun.

우리는 하루 종일 재미없는 대화만 했어요 [우리는 하루 종일 재미엄는 대와만 해써요].
We had uninteresting discussions all day today.


Now that I have given you enough ammunition with a list of useful adjectives, you should practice using them to create your own Korean sentences in various different ways. Practice adding the verb endings, as well as converting them to modify nouns.

In time, you will gradually add even more adjectives to your vocabulary!

As always, please feel free to leave questions or comments below!


About the Author Linda McKenna

Linda was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. as a teen. She previously taught at a Korean language school. She is a language enthusiast and loves learning about different languages and cultures