The more Korean words you know, the more compound words you can make. This is of course very neat, but I’ve noticed a peculiar thing about written Korean which makes making compound words slightly more complex than we are used to with English. In English “coffee” + “shop” simply form the compound word “coffee shop” when put together. Piece of cake.

With Korean, for some reason, I’ve seen the combination of 어제(yesterday) and 밤(night) being combined using a little “word glue” namely a “ㅅ”. The word thus becomes “어젯밤” (last night). Having been puzzled by this for some time now, I decided to look it up once and for all so that I could finally demystify the use of “ㅅ”. As with most things in Korean, the answer is fortunately relatively straightforward.

If the first of the two words you want to combine has a 받침 → do nothing and just combine them. For example “학” (something with school) +  “비” (expense or payment) go together to form the word 학비 (tuition payments).

If the first of the two words you want to combine does not have a 받침 → add “ㅅ” before combining them.

A few examples of compound words using the “ㅅ” 받침: 바가 (sea shore), 마당 (back yard), 찻집 (tea house).

One question remains: Why add the “ㅅ” when the syllable ends in a vowel? Apparently, this is done to make pronunciation easier and more natural. This may of course be very trivial knowledge to many of you out there, but for me it was a new discovery so I thought I’d share it. ^^

I thought I’d end this post by sharing the following idiomatic expression, which I encountered when studying grammar this past week. It means being prone to a certain behavior: 밥 먹듯 하다. Love it!


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