Korean Sentence Structure – Basic word order and patterns

Last Updated on July 26, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
Ninja kicking to illustrate the idea of kickstarting your Korean skills with 4 simple sentences

Learning Korean sentence structure is quick and easy. It is one of the best ways to start learning the language and having conversations right away. 

Basic Korean sentence structure is made up of a subject, object, and verb. Looking at this sentence structure we can say that it is quite different from how English sentences are structured. Another thing that differentiates it from the English language is the usage of subject and object markers. 

We’ll talk about these and more in the sections below. 

Ninja kicking to illustrate the idea of kickstarting your Korean skills with 4 simple sentences

Did you know that you can make over 30 sentences in just a few minutes? The tool we use is called the Korean Kickstarter, and it’s used for creating basic Korean sentences.

We’ll show you the easy way to learn Korean sentence structure so you can start speaking Korean right away!

In the lesson below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Korean sentence structure. 

Here’s a free PDF version of this lesson:

Feel free to go through in order, or go directly to any part of this lesson that interests you most. 

Korean Sentence Structure

At the most basic level, Korean sentences use a subject and a verb. For example:

저는 갑니다 (jeoneun gamnida)

Basic Korean Sentence Structure

To make a basic sentence in Korean, all we need is a verb. That’s because the “I” part of a sentence is understood, which is a bit different than an English sentence. We can either explicitly say it (like in the “go” example above), or we can leave it out. 

갑니다 (gamnida)

The base form of the verb “to go” is 가다. 

In Korean, by simply altering the endings you attach to your verbs, you can easily make many different kinds of sentences.

Verbs for Making Simple Korean Sentences

To get the hang of Korean sentence structure, let’s learn a few common verbs:

Just note these verbs, for now. You don’t need to memorize them just yet. We’ll be using them in this lesson.

However, if you’re feeling motivated and want to up your Korean language skills, we have an easy method for memorizing Korean vocabulary

Korean Sentence Structure in Hangul

These Korean sentence tips in this lesson use Hangul, the Korean alphabet. We also write them out for you in romanized English if you can’t read Hangul yet.

If you haven’t learned to read the Hangul, it should definitely be on your shortlist if you’re serious about learning the Korean language. It’s super easy and you can learn it in less than 90 minutes!

How to Form Basic Korean Sentences

The easiest way to make Korean sentences is by conjugating Korean verbs. Conjugating a verb simply means putting an ending onto the verb. Once you can conjugate a verb, you know how to make a Korean sentence! 

The reason why is because one of the basic Korean sentence structures is just a single verb. You normally need a subject and a verb to make a sentence, but the subject is often understood in Korean. That is why you only need a verb. Once you know how to conjugate a verb, then you know how to make basic Korean sentences. 

Let’s cover verb conjugation first since it will give you the building blocks for what you need for basic Korean sentence structure. Here’s what you need to know about conjugation.

Verb Conjugation (Dress Up)

If you’re not familiar with the term “conjugation”, it simply means “dressing up” a verb in a different ending. Imagine a different set of clothing for different situations.

For example, you might dress up some verbs to represent past tense, some present tense, and some to talk about the future.

You might also dress them up according to the level of formality you are using in the sentence. Sometimes fancy, sometimes casual, sometimes seasonal. The same verb, different look, depending on the situation!

We’ll cover two verbs below that are used often in the Korean language. 

Example Korean Sentence Set #1 – 자다 (jada)

For our first example, we can use the verb 자다 (jada), which means “to sleep” in English. Conjugating this verb will allow us to express ourselves using four basic Korean sentences. You’ll find the verb root 자 (ja) in each of them. The 자 (ja) is bolded so you can see it more easily.

한국어 (Korean)RomanizationEnglish
jaya haeyoI must sleep
jago sipeoyoI want to sleep
jal geoyeyoI will sleep
잘 수 없어요
jal su eopseoyoI can't sleep

If you take out the 자 (ja) from each of the sentences above, then you can see the grammar that we’re adding to the verb to create the sentences. These are some of the most common grammatical endings used in the Korean language. We’ll show you some more of these verb endings in a bit.

Remember that the subject is understood in each of the sentences. That is the reason why we only need a verb and not a subject. The subject is implied in each sentence. 

Example Korean Sentence Set #2 – 가다 (gada)

Now, let’s compare these four sentences to the following which use the verb 가다 (gada). It means “to go” in English:

한국어 (Korean)RomanizationEnglish
gaya haeyoI must go
gago sipeoyoI want to go
gal geoyeyoI will go
gal su eopseoyoI can't go

The verb root 가 (ga) is found in the same place as the sentences using 자다 (jada | to sleep). We’re still using the same verb endings as we did with 자다 (jada). 

By memorizing these few conjugations, we can plug in different verbs as we learn them and express ourselves using basic Korean sentences.

The One-Page Korean Kickstarter

The Korean Kickstarter is an 80/20 tool to equip you with the basics of Korean sentence structure. The term “80/20” means covering the 20% of the material that will give you 80% of the results.

See the chart below for all of the different Korean sentences you can create. You can also download a PDF version of the chart here.

English sentence and Korean sentence chart called the One-Page Korean Kickstarter

Learning these different sentence endings is a quick way to advance your Korean.

How to Make 32 Korean Sentences Easily

In the chart above, we have 8 different verbs. We can use each of these verbs along with the verb endings to create a simple sentence. To do this, we drop the –다 (-da) ending of the verb, which leaves the verb stem. Then, the new ending is applied to the stem.

Sometimes there is a slight change to the verb stem, but it’s fairly minor. The main takeaway is that if you can follow the chart above, you’ll be able to create many Korean sentences in only a few minutes. Korean sentence structure holds true to these patterns most of the time, so recognizing these grammar consistencies is the key to building up your Korean sentence skills quickly!

Korean Sentence Structure Patterns

Let’s go over the common patterns for the structure of a Korean sentence. To start, we need to first be familiar with how basic sentence structures are set up. In an English sentence, the structure is usually Subject, Verb, Object (SVO).

For example, let’s look at this English sentence structure:

I see the cat

Subject -- Verb -- Object

Korean sentence structure is slightly different. The basic Korean sentence structure is Subject, Object, Verb (SOV). This is the same structure you see in Japanese and to some extent German.

For example, the above sentence in Korean is:

고양이 봐요

Subject Object – Verb

저는 고양이를 봐요 (jeoneun goyangireul bwayo) would literally translate to “I the cat see.” It’s important to know that verbs (and adjectives) almost always come at the end of a sentence. More on that later.

Get the Free “Korean Sentence Structure” PDF

Basic Korean Sentence Structures

Now that you know how to dress up (conjugate) verbs and create simple sentences, let’s mix it up with some other sentence patterns. We’ll cover some of the most common types of basic Korean sentence structures. The example sentences will be in Hangul, but we’ll include the English translations, as well as some pronunciation help.

Subject – Verb

Since you already know how to conjugate the verbs, let’s put a subject in front of the verb for some extra sentence structure variety. This is one of the most common of the basic Korean sentence structures. This sentence means “I want to sleep” in English. 

나는 자고 싶어요

(naneun jago sipeoyo)


(I want to sleep)

Subject – Adjective

The 2nd sentence structure is a subject adjective sentence. This Korean sentence structure is like the one above, except you’re going to swap out the verb with an adjective. Let’s stick with the same sleep theme. This sentence means “I am tired” in English.

나는 피곤해요

(naneun pigohaeyo)


(I am tired)

Subject – Object – Verb

The next Korean sentence structure is just like the first one, except you’re going to toss in an object to spice things up. This sentence means “I eat pizza” in English.

Example sentence:

나는 피자 먹어요

(naneun pija meogeoyo)

Subject Object Verb

(I eat pizza)

Subject of a Korean Sentence

Above, we mentioned that using the subject in a Korean sentence is optional.

For example:

나는 피자 먹어요

(naneun pija meogeoyo)

Subject Object – Verb

(I eat pizza)

This can also be written as:

피자 먹어요

(pija meogeoyo)

(Subject) Object – Verb

(I eat pizza)

In the second case, the subject (“I”) is understood. Therefore, you can drop it from the sentence. Koreans often do this to simplify their speech. 

Using the verb 이다 (ida| to be)

Among the sentence structures in the Korean language, the verb 이다 (ida) is unique. This is true in the English language as well, since the words “to be” in English change form as you conjugate them.

This sentence pattern allows you to say things about yourself or about other people. In other words, to say what things and people are. It’s an essential part of learning the Korean language, and is similar to how you say it in English.

Here is the grammar for this sentence pattern:

Noun은/는 – Noun이다 

For example:

저는 학생입니다 (jeoneun haksaengimnida)

I am a student

나는 일본 사람이에요 (naneun ilbon saramieyo)

I am a Japanese person

마이클은 가수입니다 (maikeureun gasuimnida)

Michael is a singer

Note that when learning this grammar pattern, there is no space between the two words (the noun and the verb 이다 | ida) at the end of the sentence. It is attached to the second noun. The topic marker is attached to the first noun.

Using the verb 아니다 (anida | not to be)

Just like the verb 이다 (ida), the verb 아니다 (anida) is also a special case in the Korean language. The grammar for this sentence structure will be unique. 

The verb 아니다 (anida) is used to express the opposite of 이다 (ida). Learning how to use this is useful for talking about what things are not. 

You can use this pattern:

Noun은/는 – Noun이/가 – 아니다 

For example:

저는 회사원이 아닙니다 (jeoneun hoesawoni animnida)

I am not an office worker

나는 프랑스 사람이 아니에요 (naneun peurangseu sarami anieyo)

I am not a French person

마이클은 작가가 아닙니다 (maikeureun jakgaga animnida)

Michael is not a writer

Note that there is a space between the second noun and the verb 아니다 (anida). The topic marker is attached to the first noun, and the subject marker is attached to the second noun. 

Using 저는 vs 나는 (jeoneun vs naneun)

You may ask “when should I use 저는 (jeoneun) vs 나는 (naneun)?” in a sentence.  In the Korean language, the main difference between the words is that 저는 (jeoneun) is more formal, and 나는 (naneun) is more informal. In English, we don’t separate out these formalities for the word “I”. 

You should use 저는 (jeoneun) with people that you need to show respect to. Examples of this would be someone older than you, or someone you don’t know well.

You can use 나는 (naneun) with your close friends, or people younger than you. 

When should I use the Korean words 나는 (naneun) and 저는 (jeoneun)?

Korean Particles (Markers)

In addition to Korean grammar and conjugations, you should also be aware of Korean markers, or particles, when learning Korean.

In this section, we’ll be learning about Korean particles (markers). We don’t use them in English, so they may be a new grammar concept to you. 

Learning them in-depth won’t be necessary, but it’s good to have a basic understanding since they’re a common part of Korean sentence structures. Start out by learning what they are and be able to recognize them. 

Once you get the hang of basic sentence structures, then you can start to add Korean particles into your conversations. Keep in mind that Koreans often omit the particles from sentences in spoken Korean. However, they’re important pieces of Korean grammar that you will likely see in written form.

Korean Topic Marker Particles

A topic marker helps to indicate the subject of a sentence. For example, let’s look at the grammar in this Korean sentence structure:

subject – object – verb

저는 고양이를 봐요

(jeoneun goyangireul bwayo)

I see the cat

This sentence has the particles ‘는’ (neun) after the word for ‘I’ (저 | jeo) and ‘를’ (reul) after the word for ‘cat’ (고양이 | goyangi).

The 는 (neun) and 은 (eun) are the particles used to indicate the topic of the sentence. The topic is like the subject of a sentence, but with some subtle differences. You can think of them as being similar, except the subject markers have some additional meaning built into them. We’ll compare the two in a minute, but first, let’s make sure you’re clear on the basic use of the topic marker in a sentence. 

The 는 is used when the prior syllable ends in a vowel, and 은 (eun) is used when it ends in a consonant. For example:

개를 봤어요. →  I saw a dog.

  naneun gaereul bwasseoyo

잭슨 개를 봤어요. →  Jackson saw a dog.

  jaekseuneun gaereul bwasseoyo. 

In the above example sentence, 는 (naneun | I) ends in the vowel ㅏ so it uses the particle 는. The name 잭슨 (jaekseun | Jackson) ends in ㄴ and therefore uses the particle 은 (eun).

If you’re wondering about the difference of 저 (jeo) and 나 (na) for ‘I,’ 저 (jeo) is the polite form and 나 (na) is more casual. When you’re first learning Korean, stick with the 저 form. Then as your sentence skills improve, you can start learning when to use 나 (na) vs 저 (jeo). 

Get the Free “Korean Sentence Structure” PDF

Korean Subject Marker Particles

이/가 (i/ga) are also used for the subject of the sentence. These are common but tricky parts of Korean sentence structure. They’re similar to topic markers. 

The 가 (ga) is used when the prior syllable ends in a vowel, and 이 (i)  is used when it ends in a consonant. For example:

개를 봤어요. → It’s me who saw a dog.

   naega gaereul bwasseoyo

잭슨 개를 봤어요. → It’s Jackson who saw a dog.

  jaekseuni gaereul bwasseoyo.

Topic vs. Subject Marker Particles

You can think of subject markers as being similar to topic markers. You should learn both to understand Korean sentence structure. 

The difference is the emphasis that the particle places on the sentence. The topic marker  (는/은 | neun/eun) puts the emphasis on the verb while the subject marker (이/가 | i/ga) places emphasis on the subject.

Topic marker (는/은) – > emphasis on the verb

Subject marker (이/가) – > emphasis on the subject

Let’s take a look at some example sentences below for a comparison of 이, 가 and 은, 는.  

Example #1 – Topic Marker

In the sentence below, we’re putting emphasis on the fact that you saw a dog. What happened? I saw a dog! 

개를 봤어요. → I saw a dog.

   naneun gaereul bwasseoyo

Therefore, we’re going to use the topic marker in the sentence above to emphasize the verb. 

Example #2 – Subject Marker

In the next sentence below, the emphasis would be on me. Who saw the dog? I saw the dog!

개를 봤어요. → It’s me who saw a dog.

   naega gaereul bwasseoyo

So since I’m the subject, we’ll use the subject marker.

Example #3 – Topic Marker

In this sentence, we’ll emphasize that Jackson saw the dog. He spotted it!

잭슨 개를 봤어요. → Jackson saw a dog.

  jaekseuneun gaereul bwasseoyo.

The emphasis on the verb would mean we would use the topic marker. 

Example #4 – Subject Marker

The topic, in this case, is Jackson. Who saw the dog? Jackson did!

잭슨 개를 봤어요. → Its Jackson who saw a dog.

  jaekseuni gaereul bwasseoyo.

Since we are emphasizing the subject, then we’ll use the subject marker. 

In the above sentences, you can see with the italics that the emphasis of the sentence changes depending on the particle that’s used. You’ll get the hang of this Korean sentence structure better as you get more experienced with learning Korean.

Quite often the subject and topic markers will be dropped from sentences altogether. Koreans mainly use the markers in for emphasis. 

We don’t think of the subject/topic distinction the same way in English sentences, so it may seem confusing at first. Don’t worry too much about the differences between the subject and the topic markers. You can learn them later. For now, it’s best to just know that they exist and focus on understanding the basics of Korean sentence structure.

Object Marker Particles

We also have object markers, which are important parts of Korean sentence structure. The markers (particles) 를 (reul) and 을 (eul) are used to indicate the object of a sentence. The object in a sentence in Korean is similar to the object in a sentence in English.

Like above, 를 (reul) is used when the prior syllable ends in a vowel. The 을 (eul) is used when it ends in a consonant.

나는 국수 먹었어요. → I ate noodle.

naneun guksureul meogeosseoyo.

나는 밥 먹었어요. → I ate rice.

naneun babeul meogeosseoyo.

There are more particles used in Korean sentence structure, but we’ll get more into particles in another post.

How to Understand Korean Sentences

The best way to understand Korean sentences is to start off small and build on your understanding. Since the most basic part of the sentence is the verb, that’s the first part you’ll want to listen for. Recall that the verb is at the end of the sentence, which is different than the sentence order in the English language. 

Once you hear the verb, work on identifying what kind of grammar is used with it. For example, is it past, present, or future tense? Is it a question, command, or a statement?

After you’ve identified that, next you can look for the subject and object. Keep in mind that the sentence may not have an object, or the object may be understood. The same goes for the subject. 

How to Practice Korean Sentence Structure

Now that you know basic Korean sentence structure, it’s time to put it to use! The best way to up your Korean sentence skills is to start practicing with someone. 

If you have Korean friends and know how to type in Korean, you can text them simple sentences over KakaoTalk. Maybe you have a Korean spouse, language exchange partner, or Korean language study buddy that you can practice with. 

Inside of 90 Day Korean membership, we have a structured online Korean course and a personal coaching portal that allows you to write sentences to your coach and have them checked. It’s a great way to get feedback and continue to improve!

Once you get used to basic sentences, you can improve your skills by combining sentences together with common phrases, Korean conjunctions, or adding in a bit of Korean slang.

There you have it — an easy method for how to make Korean sentences quickly and easily!

Do you think it’s easier to make an English sentence or a Korean sentence? Let us know in the comments below!

    130 replies to "Korean Sentence Structure – Basic word order and patterns"

    • Avatar for Jayeshtha Jayeshtha

      I can be a native speaker now!!! Yay!!

    • Avatar for Saba Naaz Saba Naaz

      You have written in a very simple way, saved me a lot of time. Many thanks to you. Have a nice day sir.

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Awesome! It’s our pleasure. We’re glad that it has been valuable to you. ^^

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