There is no adjective declension in Korean.  In other words, the ending of Korean adjectives do not change according to the gender or the number of the noun that they describe.  It is needless to say Korean nouns don’t have any gender, hence no declension.   Life would be so simple.  The only caveat is that you have to distinguish two main forms of adjectives depending on how they are used with respect to the noun: 

  1. Attributive form 

When an adjective is before a noun, directly describing the quality of a noun, its ending takes an “attributive” form, derived from its root form, after dropping the “-다”: 

  • 평화롭다 to be peaceful [root form] => 평화로운 peaceful [attributive] => e.g., 평화로운 마을 a peaceful town
  • 맛있다 to be tasty [root form] => 맛있는 tasty [attributive] => e.g., 맛있는 음식 tasty food
  • 슬프다 to be sad [root form] => 슬픈 sad [attributive] =>e.g., 슬픈 열대 sad tropics [ Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 – 2009), Tristes Tropiques ]
  1. Predicative form 

An adjective can be a complement of a subject noun, located after the noun.  It is called “predicative” adjective.  In English, usually a linking verb such as “to be” is conjugated, and an invariable adjective follows it.  In Korean, however, predicative adjectives work as verbs, and you have to conjugate the ending of the adjective root forms in the same way as you do with verbs. 

  • 평화롭다 to be peaceful [root form] => 평화로워요 am/are/is peaceful [predicative]=> e.g., 이 마을은 평화로워요 this town is peaceful
  • 맛있다 to be tasty [root form] => 맛있어요 is/are tasty [predicative] => e.g., 이 음식이 맛있어요 This food is tasty.
  • 슬프다 to be sad [root form] => 슬픈 am/are/is sad [predicative] =>e.g., 열대는 슬퍼요 The tropics are sad. 

All this means that memorizing root forms in your dictionary would not be enough to actually say the adjectives in a sentence.  You would need to first determine how you want to use the adjectives – attributive or predicative?  Then you need to conjugate them just as you do with verbs.  We will cover the details of common adjective conjugation as we progress with videos. 

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