Character Structure and Stem - 문자 구조와 어간

How to make one complete Korean character?

C stands for a consonant, V stands for a vowel, and CC is a final consonant. These are the structure of a complete Korean character.

C+V: consonant + vowel
C+V+C: consonant + vowel + consonant
CC+V+C: final consonant + vowel + consonant
C+V+CC: consonant + vowel + final consonant
'ㅇ' is used as a zero-value consonant when it comes before a vowel. For example, 'ㅏ' ('a' in English) should be written as 아. They can't be written alone. For instance, '오이' which by the way means a cucumber in Korean, is is pronounced as ㅗㅣ, but it cannot be written as 'ㅗㅣ'.

ㅏ, ㅣ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅑ, ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅔ, ㅖ must be placed on the right of the consonant.

ㅠ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅗ, ㅛ must be placed at the bottom of the initial consonant.

ㄳ, ㄺ, ㄵ, ㄶ, ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㅀ, ㄻ, ㅄ, ㄿ must be placed at the bottom.

C+V (consonant + vowel)
ㄱ + ㅏ = 가 [ga] go
ㄴ + ㅏ = 나 [na] me
ㄱ + ㅔ = 게 [ge] crab
ㅎ + ㅐ = 해 [hae] sun
ㄱ + ㅜ = 구 [gu] nine
ㅁ + ㅜ = 무 [mu] radish
ㅅ + ㅗ = 소 [so] cow
C+V+C (consonant + vowel + consonant)
ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄱ = 학 [hak] crane
ㄷ + ㅓ + ㄱ = 덕 [deok] virtue
ㅊ + ㅐ + ㄱ = 책 [chaek] book
ㅅ + ㅣ + ㄴ = 신 [sin] shoes; god
ㅇ + ㅓ + ㄱ = 억 [o'k] one hundred million
ㅅ + ㅜ + ㅍ = 숲 [sup] forest
ㄴ + ㅜ + ㄴ = 눈 [nun] eye; snow
ㅂ + ㅗ + ㄱ = 복 [bok] fortune
CC+V+C (final consonant + vowel + consonant)
ㅆ + ㅏ + ㅇ = 쌍 [ssang] pair
ㅉ + ㅏ + ㄱ = 짝 [jjak] partner
ㄲ + ㅗ + ㅊ = 꽃 [kkot] flower
ㅉ + ㅗ + ㄱ = 쪽 [jjok] piece; direction
ㄲ + ㅡ + ㅌ = 끝 [kkeut] end
C+V+CC (consonant + vowel + final consonant)
ㅅ + ㅏ + ㄻ = 삶 [salm] life
ㅊ + ㅣ + ㄺ = 칡 [chi'lk] arrowroot
ㅅ + ㅏ + ㄳ = 삯 [salk] wages; fare
ㅎ + ㅡ + ㄺ = 흙 [hu'k] soil

어간 Stems

Stems only exist in verbs and adjectives. They always go with various endings just like '-ing' or '-ed' in English. Remember the ending -다. is added for a dictionary-entry purpose so in order to find the stem, you just need to take -다 out of a word.

To take an example in English, 'park' is a stem of a verb 'to park'. Park can have such endings like '-s', '-ed', and '-ing', etc., but the word 'park' never changes.

However, stems cannot be used alone, except some words such as '사' buy, '가' go, '세' count, '자' sleep, to command others in colloquial settings.

Verb or Adjective Stem
사다. (to buy)
가다. (to go)
배우다. (to learn) 배우
때리다. (to hit) 때리
세다. (to count)
작다. (small)
맵다. (spicy)
예쁘다. (pretty) 예쁘
짧다. (short)
쉽다. (easy)


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