How to learn Korean grammar efficiently

Korean grammar can be difficult

As someone who has studied Korean myself, I know how challenging it can be to master the grammar concepts of a new language. Korean sentence structure is different from English, and there are many more grammar concepts that don’t even have equivalents in English. English uses SVO (subject-verb-object) and Korean uses SOV (subject-object-verb). This is one of the first things you must grasp. It can be daunting -that’s why it’s important to have the right techniques and study strategies in place. In this post, I’ll share some of the best textbooks for learning Korean grammar and provide tips for effective studying.

1. Learn the basics and get a good textbook

When you first begin learning Korean, it’s essential to start with the fundamentals. This includes understanding the basics of sentence structure, particles, and verb conjugation. 

A great textbook for beginners is “Korean Grammar in Use“. This textbook covers all the essential grammar concepts, from basic sentence structure to more complex verb conjugations. It includes plenty of examples to help you understand each concept and is available in different levels, so you can choose the one that suits your needs.

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2. Move on to more complex topics

Once you have a good grasp of the basics, it’s time to move on to more complex concepts. For example, Korean has different verb endings that are used to indicate tense, mood, and politeness level. These verb endings can be confusing for beginners, but with practice, they become second nature. 

In Korean, verbs have different endings that change based on the tense or formality level of the sentence. For example, the present tense ending for regular verbs is -아/-어, depending on the vowel in the verb stem. So, if the verb stem ends in a vowel, you add -아 to it, and if it ends in a consonant, you add -어. For example, the present tense form of the verb “to eat” is “먹다,” and its present tense form is “먹어” or “먹아” depending on the stem vowel.

Another example is the past tense ending -았/었다. This ending is used to indicate that the action took place in the past. For regular verbs, you add -았/었 to the verb stem, depending on the final consonant. For example, the past tense form of the verb “to eat” is “먹었다.”

In addition to tense, verb endings also convey the formality level of the sentence. For example, the formal polite present tense ending for regular verbs is -습니다. So, if you want to say “I eat” in a formal polite manner, you would say “저는 먹습니다.”

There are many different verb endings in Korean, each with its own function and meaning. By studying them, you can gain a deeper understanding of the language’s grammar and use it more effectively in your communication. It’s also essential to practice using the verb endings in context to ensure that you understand how they are used and can use them accurately in your own sentences.

Another important aspect of Korean grammar is its use of particles, which are small words that indicate the relationship between different elements of a sentence. For example, the particle “을/를” is used to mark the object of a sentence, while the particle “이/가” marks the subject. Using particles correctly is crucial for constructing accurate sentences in Korean.

3. Take notes and practice regularly

As you study, it’s important to take notes on the key concepts and examples you come across. You can use a notebook or a digital note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote to keep all your notes organized and easily accessible. It’s also helpful to practice what you’ve learned by writing sentences or dialogues using the grammar concepts you’ve studied.

4. Immerse yourself in the language

One of the best ways to reinforce what you’ve learned is to immerse yourself in the language. Watch Korean dramas or listen to K-pop, try speaking and thinking in Korean as much as you can, and consider finding a language exchange program or attending a Korean language meetup.

  1. Watch Korean TV shows, movies, and dramas: Korean entertainment is popular worldwide, and there are many Korean TV shows, movies, and dramas available to stream online. Watching these shows can help you pick up new vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation while getting a feel for the language and its culture.
  2. Listen to Korean music and podcasts: Korean music, especially K-pop, is incredibly popular worldwide. Listening to Korean songs and podcasts can help you practice your listening skills and pick up new words and phrases. There are also many Korean language learning podcasts available online, which can be a great resource for learners at any level.
  3. Find a language exchange partner: Language exchange programs are an excellent way to practice speaking and listening to Korean while making new friends. You can find language exchange partners online or in person and practice speaking with them regularly.
  4. Read Korean books, comics, and newspapers: Reading Korean material can help you improve your grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension. Start with children’s books, comics, or Korean news websites, and work your way up to more advanced material as your skills improve.

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5: Study with your own note-taking method

I use 3 pen colors when taking notes. Black for grammar explanations and blue for normal sentences. Then, within those sentences, all instances of the grammar structure are written in pink so it stands out. Looking for stationery recommendations? See my full list here.

I also use an icon (exclamation mark in a triangle, which I learnt from my very strict French teacher in grade 7) to indicate anything I should take note of, like common mistakes or irregular rules.

As for reviewing notes, I add anything extra in yellow. I also use yellow pen to fix any corrections when doing the in-book activities. In addition to that, I also add some stars to points that are particularly hard to remember. You’ll see this in detail in my video

Feel free to use any color-coding or iconography system that helps you remember! It’s OK to change your method halfway. Here’s a pic of my first attempt, which I soon realized was not working (I didn’t like using such a thick highlighter to underline the grammar point and preferred writing it in a different color). 

Korean grammar study tips

Don’t get overwhelmed

Try not to get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn. I broke up my learning into little parts each day. Don’t just go through your textbook trying to finish as much as you can in a single day because it’s not going to stick into your longterm memory.

Review often

After you have studied your grammar structures, the next day when you wake up, be sure to go through what you’ve done the previous day. I find that my short term memory is absolutely terrible and I at least have to go through my notes about 2 or 3 times from the previous day. All I do is I read through the example sentences and put little stars at specific parts of the grammar that are still tricky to me so my eye catches it the next time.

Be sure to use these grammar structures as much as you can. As long as you are using this grammar structure, whether you’re talking to a language partner, writing a diary, or even talking to yourself, the more it will start to solidify in your memory.

Read out loud

Don’t be afraid to read out loud if you have that luxury. I read my sentences over because I’m an auditory learner. This is good for intermediate and advanced learners who don’t have issues with pronunciation. If you are a beginner and still learning how to pronounce things, I suggest asking a native speaker to record some sentences for you. You can ask an italki tutor or ask someone on HelloTalk or Hinative.  

That’s essentially how I create a schedule to stick to, and not overwhelm myself. Don’t just blindly go through a book page by page and worrying about how much there – just take a look inside the book, created a schedule based on what you know and don’t, and choose a set number to study per day. Remember not to study grammar in isolation from vocabulary. Here’s a post I wrote about learning vocabulary. 

Happy studying!

Videos to learn Korean grammar




One response to “How to learn Korean grammar efficiently”

  1. Steve Avatar


    Do you have any advice on how to parse/understand longer Korean sentences (the kinds you find in newspapers, etc.)? I’m sure as you were learning you could relate to being able to understand the individual words and particular bits of grammar in a sentence but still not sure what the overall meaning was. I would love to find a site that breaks down longer sentences into chunks (“This part is describing this noun, this part is the main clause, etc.”).


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