The more I read Korean content the more I start noticing bits and pieces that I have not necessarily encountered in any grammar or textbook. I’m not talking about vocabulary, although I constantly stumble upon new words and phrases. I’m talking about ways to link sentences in Korean. Beginner learners will know how to link sentences with -고 or -아/어서 to create connecting clauses. But reading a great deal of news content in Korean everyday I’ve noticed that formally written Korean uses several other ways. The simplest and most puzzling to me thus far has been a sentences linking structure, which is probably best explained by a few simple examples:

  1. 친구를 만 얘기해요 – Meet a friend and chat
  2. 설탕 한 스푼 뿌 먹어요 – Sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over something and eat it
  3. 셀카 찍 결제하세요 – Take a selfie to pay (News headline about Chinese payment option using facial recognition)

What do all of the three sentences have in common? 2 verbs with the first one being conjugated in the present tense short form (without 요). When I first started noticing these sentence patterns I was quite confused. This pattern did not fit with any of the rules I had learned for linking sentences. So what’s with this weird mid-sentence verb?

I’ve found one source that seems to explain the concept reasonably well: HowToStudyKorean

However, for my own learning purpose and your understanding, I’d try to explain it myself in the simplest way possible:

Think of all the compound Korean verbs you know such as 물보다 (to ask) 걸가다 (to walk) and 가오다 (to bring). They all have the same format as in the three sentences above with the one exception that they are written in one word.

This structure is essentially the same. Although not a compound verb, you may argue that there is a compound action in the sense that (a) 친구를 만 is immediately followed by (b) 얘기해요. Since the meet part and the chat part are so closely connected they can be argued to form one combined action. It’s not like you just meet your friend and then sit there for a while before you start chatting. The chatting happens instantly as a result of the meeting.

It works in the same way with second sentence. a) 설탕 한 스푼 뿌려 happens a mere nano seconds before b) 먹어요. There is no way that you would sprinkle sugar on your cereal if you were not going to eat it immediately.

In the third sentence, a new technology makes it possible to pay electronically by facial recognition. You therefore have to take a selfie to pay for your item. As with the previous two, the paying is an immediate result of having taken the selfie.

Did any of you ever wonder about this concept? Maybe you have an even better reference for understanding it in full? Feel free to share!


  1. As always, This post is amusing and enabling me to view my mother tongue more objectively. I think the subject of this post is related to quite peculiar and the best feature of the Korean language( I guess it is common to the Altaic languages( Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Turkish)). I think it enables the speaker to describe or depict something more briefly and sometimes more minutely. As a native speaker, As U can guess I use it in daily life almost unconsciously as breathing, But after reading, this post I’ve checked out Daum Dictionary and the link(HowToStudyKorean) which explained it, I think, very well and thoroughly, And I found it very complicated so that it might be quite frustrating for the foreigners to master all of it . But If U just remember that there are several functions in ~ 어(서), I guess U will come to get accustomed to it and understand the sentence intuitively after encountering those frequently in the course of reading .

    The followings are some functions of 어(서) according to Daum Dictionary.
    I. . 어(서) (연결 어미 I don’t know the equivalent English word)) indicates that the events take place successively. the former clause and then the latter as in your sample sentence 1 and 2.
    1. 친구를 만나 얘기해요 – Meet a friend and chat
    2. 설탕 한 스푼 뿌려 먹어요 – Sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over something and eat it

    II. The former clause is the means(sample sentence 3) or behaving way(#4 and the rest is from Daum) of the latter
    3. 셀카 찍어 결제하세요 – Take a selfie to pay ( I prefer : Please pay by taking a selfie)
    4.. 우리는 전속력으로 뛰어 기차역까지 갔다.(also possible 기차역까지 뛰어 갔다)- (literal translation : We ran at full speed(behaving way) and arrived at the railway station) We ran to the railway station at full speed.

    III. The former is the cause or reason for the latter
    5. 그곳은 너무 멀어 가기가 힘들다. – The place is too far away , so it is hard to get there.
    6. 이 빵은 너무 굳어 잘 씹히지 않는다.- This bread is hardened too much, So it is not chewed well-> This bread too hard to chew

    IV. The former state or event continues during the latter
    7. 나는 방바닥에 누워 책을 읽었다.- I read a book with myself lied down on the floor of the room.- I read a book lying down on the floor of the room. (
    8. 그녀는 기쁨에 빠지어/빠져서 편지를 읽고 있었다. -She was reading the letter delightfully

    I think the other function of 어(서) is not used frequently, so not that important.
    And 어 is interchangeable with 어서 in most cases. But
    V. Only 어 can connect a verb to an auxiliary verb(보조 동사).
    9. 해가 저물어 간다. – It is getting dark
    10. 이거 먹어 보자 Let’s try this food (my sample)
    11. 먹어 버렸다. – eat up 그는 지쳐 버렸다 – He is tired out .

    Sorry ! This has become almost as complicated as HowToStudyKorean.
    I think U’d better check out the Korean dictionary yourself :
    I wonder this could be a bit helpful

    P.S. I would be very grateful, if any oi U could correct me, especially my English.


  2. Some self-corrections.
    IN the first line: This post is amusing and enabling me to view –> This post is also amusing and enables me to view / This post is also amusing and give me the opportunity to view
    In the following sentence,
    II. The former clause is the means(sample sentence 3) or behaving way(#4 and the rest is from Daum) of the latter. behaving way–> the mode of action


    • Wow! First of all thank you so much for your explanations of this topic. Reading this has been extremely helpful to me and I am sure my readers will enjoy this as well. As for your English, I’m really impressed with your writing skills. Writing in English must be as hard for a native Korean speaker as writing in Korean is to me. There are so many things that are different: Word order, grammar, sentence structure just to name a few. You’re doing a great job. Do you mind if I ask how you became so knowledgable about languages and grammar. Do you work with languages on a daily basis. Feel free to write to me directly through my blog’s contact form 🙂


      • Thank U for your kind words. I am glad to hear that it was helpful to U.
        I liked to read books. especially Bertrand Russell. I got enthralled with his writing style as well as the contents of his books. the ultimate clarity and logic, no redundancy, nothing to add or subtract, my ideal writing style. Now U can guess why I hate to write. And I liked to read Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens etc. I guess those books helped me improve my English .

        As for my knowledge on languages, it is very superficial. I am quite interested in languages. But I was quite a lazy and a very picky learner. By the word picky, I mean it is extremely hard for me to do something that I don’t like to do, especially memorizing something dull. Even when those are indispensable to go further. I read only several books on languages(linguistics) and I found them quite amusing . And I dabbled in several languages just to see what it was like. For example, It took me 4 or 5 days to learn on Internet most of the important French grammar points , of course very imperfectly and I enjoyed it. And I thought those were enough for me to start reading books in French with the help of English translation and a bit of grammatical explanations. But I found the french conjugation super crazy, too many irregular inflections and too many kinds of conjugations ( I go now to check out the number of conjugations of être ………I’m back ..15 kinds of conjugation and 6 in each, so it is about 15 x 6 = 90. . what a crazy language ) I stopped at that. In conclusion, my knowledge on languages is very shallow.

        And now as for my English grammar, I think most of Korean people’s knowledge on English grammar, is quite good. I suspect that the only thing Korean English teachers (Koreans who teach English) do is teaching almost useless grammar points. I think that is one of the main reasons why most Koreans are so bad at English. And that is why I guess my English grammar is likely to be quite good compared with foreigners.
        Quite a long ago, I studied Korean grammar a bit. I’m quite interested in grammar itself. Now I’v forgotten most of the details of it. But it is comparatively easy for me to retrieve them when necessary. In most cases, I think just the dictionary is enough to explain the basic grammar points.

        Now the the answer to the last question. I’ve never worked with languages.
        I guess I’ve explained enough about my knowledge on languages, As U saw, nothing special.
        Now there is likely to be few chances for us to get trapped in the vicious cycle of logrolling. 😉 Just kidding.

        And I wonder why U as a poliglot were not motivated to study French. Isn’t it a beautiful language?


      • Wow, we even read the same books! I am a huge fan of Hitchens and Dawkins 🙂
        These are also very advanced texts, so no wonder your English is so fluent.

        As for French, I never fell in love with the culture. The language is definitely beautiful, but I feel that if I am not truly interested in a culture, I will probably never learn the language. To me these two concepts just go hand in hand. One of the reasons that I truly love Korean is also because I am deeply fascinated by the Korean culture 🙂


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