The Korean Word 사과하다 (to apologize)

This lesson continues to cover Diphthongs with a ‘w’ Sound, by looking at the ㅘ (wa) vowel.

사과하다 (to apologize)

In a prior lesson we covered how to say “to be sorry” in simple terms and in a more formal/polite way. Continuing along the same lines, we have to apologize. Interesting enough, 사과 is a homophone for ‘apple.’ As a result, it’s not uncommon for Korean to offer an apple with the apology.


The first part of the word, 사, uses sounds covered in previous lesson. A quick review gives us ㅅ, which sounds like an ‘s’ and ㅏ, which has an ‘a’ sound, as in ah. Together we have sa.

과 covers the section with the Diphthong vowel. Again, we start with a familiar sound, ㄱ, which sounds like a cross between a ‘g’ and ‘k’. We add that sound to the Diphthong vowel ㅘ, which sounds like wa as in water. When put together, the syllable sounds like gwa.

하다 has been covered so often, we won’t cover it again here. For those unfamiliar with 하다 , please refer to this lesson.

This brings us to the pronunciation of the entire word 사과하다 (to apologize)… sa gwa hada.

In the next lesson we’ll work on the next Diphthong vowel.

The Korean Word 죄송하다 (to be sorry)

미안하다 (to be sorry) was covered a couple of lessons ago. This lesson also covers to be sorry, but in a more formal way.

죄송하다 (to be sorry)

죄송하다 is more formal and polite than 미안하다. One might use it when one is extremely sorry. It would also be used with strangers or people of a higher hierarchy, such as the elderly or supervisors. Unlike 미안하다, which might be shortened to 미안, one would not do the same with 죄송하다. In fact, think of doing so as an oxymoron. Since 죄송하다 is a polite and formal, shortening it to be informal defeats the purpose.


As Diphthongs with a ‘w’ Sound was covered in the last lesson, this word introduces no new sounds. Working backward, is 하다, which means “to be” and was covered in a previous lesson. The sound it makes is ha da.

Next is the front portion, 죄송, which means “sorry.” The beginning constant is ㅊ and has a hard ‘ch’ sound. This brings us to the Diphthongs vowel ㅚ, which sounds similar to the beginning of the word wet. The consonant and vowel together make a sound similar to chwe. Finally, there is 송.  Quickly because the basic consonants and vowels were covered in previous lessons. The ㅅ makes an ‘s’ sound, ㅗ makes a long ‘o’, and ㅇ has a “ng” sound. Put together, it is song (with a long ‘o’).

This verb had quite few syllables, including numerous vowels and consonants. However, when it’s all put together the verb is pronounced 죄송하다 chwe song ha da.

That concludes the lesson for today. In the next few lessons, we’ll cover some of the other Diphthongs with a ‘w’ Sound.

Korean Vowel Diphthongs with a ‘w’ Sound

Before we learn about a more formal way of saying sorry, we’ll briefly cover the last few vowel sounds. In a previous lesson, the concept of Diphthong Vowels were covered. This lesson covers a few more.

Diphthongs with a ‘w’ Sound

Though diphthongs are really two vowels combined together in a way that the first glides into the other, the following diphthongs often sound like they begin with a ‘w’ sound to English-speaking ears.

ㅘ (wa)

This first diphthong vowel ㅘ combines the ㅗ, which has a long ‘o’ sound, as in open with the vowel ㅏ, which sounds like ‘ah’ as in father. When put together, it sounds similar to ‘wa’ as in water.

ㅙ (wae)

The next vowel is ㅙ. Once again, we have the ㅗ. This time we combine it with the Iotized Diphthong ㅐ, which sounds like lay. If Iotized Diphtongs are new to you, please refer to that lesson. When the two vowels are combined, it has a similar sound to  weigh.

ㅚ (woe)

Next up is ㅚ, which also has the ㅗ sound. It’s followed by ㅣ, which makes a long ‘e’ sound as in leekeke, and weak. Together, ㅚ sounds like the beginning of the English word wet.

ㅝ (wo)

Next, we’ll look at Diphthongs which combine the ㅜ, which has a long ‘u’ sound, as in musicbluecue. This is put together with ㅓ, which is a mix between an English short ‘o’ and short ‘u’ such as the ‘a’ in above. Combined together, we have a sound is very similar to the word woah.

ㅞ (weh)

Moving on to the next vowel, we have ㅞ. Though the pieces are different, their is little difference between ㅞ and ㅚ. Even so, we’ll break it down, starting with the ㅜ, we reviewed above. Add ㅔ, which has a short ‘e’ sound as in bet and the combined vowel sounds like weh.

ㅟ (we)

The last we’ll cover today is ㅟ. Again, we have ㅜ. We add this to ㅣ, which we covered above, and we get a sound similar to the English word we.

So that’s that. This is quite a lot to take in one lesson. However, the next few lessons will give us the opportunity to practice these new vowels.

The Korean Word 미안하다 (to be sorry)

All the sounds in today’s word should be familiar. If not, it would be good to review some of the earlier lessons. Today, we’ll focus on an aspect of the Korean language similar to the last lesson… etiquette.

There are a couple of ways to say sorry in Korean, depending on the person being addressed. We’ll start with a generic way of saying sorry.

미안하다 (to be sorry)

First, let’s break the words apart. The first part 미안 simply means “sorry”. If you read the last lesson, you’ll notice there were different forms of conjugating a word. Though our focus is not conjugating in this lesson, simply saying 미안 would be a very informal way of saying sorry. One item to note… just 미안 is not a verb, but rather a noun. 미안하 is the verb portion which would be conjugated.

The next part of the word is 하다. You’ll find more on the way 하다 works in this lesson.

미안하다 is the typical way of saying sorry. There is nothing special about it. It’s just the everyday usage of the word. You’d use it with friends, family, etc.


Because we’ve covered the sounds in this lesson, we won’t go into detail of breaking down each letter.  미안 is pronounced mee on, while 하다 is pronounced ha da.

In an upcoming lesson, we’ll cover a more formal way of saying sorry.

Conjugating Korean Verbs: The Basics

Before we start conjugating Korean Verbs, it’s importan to understand a bit of the cultural etiquette. If you’re American and over 35, you’ve probably seen a lot of respectful features in the United States fade.

“Yes, ma’am” “No, sir” are often replaced with a simple and less than polite “Yeah” or “Nah” when addressing the elderly or individuals of higher social status.

Not so much the case in Korean, as politeness is written into the language itself. Failing to conjugate a verb ending properly can be akin to telling your boss, “oh… and by the way, screw you” at the end of a sentence.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the different types of verb endings.


Informal verb endings are used when talking to a very close friend, such as a spouse, or someone significantly younger than oneself, such as a child. Using the informal ending in other situations is just plain rude and is a sign of great disrespect.


The Polite verb ending is for every day speech and is used for general conversations. One might use it amongst friends, neighbors, co-workers, in passing. Really, it’s meant for common usage.

Honorific Polite

Next we have Honorific Polite. It’s used as a way to show respect. One might use it to show respect for a teacher, an elder person, or an individual of a higher social standing. It’s particularly used in the business arena.


Lastly, we have the Formal verb ending. Formal endings are used in many of the same situations as Honorific Polite (elderly, in businesses). However, formal endings are also used in public speaking situations such as in the news or in front of an audience.

That covers the basics when it comes to etiquette in conjugating Korean verbs. In a future lesson, we’ll work on conjugating the verbs we’ve learned into informal verbs.

The Korean Word 얘기하다 (to talk)

Today covers the last iotized diphthong vowels before moving on to a new topic. Like the last word presented, 얘기하다 (to talk) uses the catch all verb 하다 (to do).

얘기하다 (to talk)

The root form of the word is 얘기, which means talk and is a noun. Adding 하다 (to do) turns the word into a verb… to talk.


The first part of the word starts with the silent ㅇ, leaving only the vowel to work though. In the lesson on Diphthongs Vowels,  얘 was presented as yeh, but with a slight long ‘a’ sound… yae.

기 repeats letters learned in prior lessons. The ㄱ makes a ‘k/g’ sound and ㅣ is a long ‘e’ sound. Together it makes gee.

Once again, the 하다 (to do) portion of the verb has been covered, giving us yae-gee hada.

This lesson ends this set of vowels. The lessons to come delve into verb conjugation.

The Korean Word 계속하다 (to continue)

The next two lesson covers words with iotized diphthong vowels. First up is a word with the vowel ㅖ.

계속하다 (to continue)

It’s been a while since a verb was covered. A bit of reiteration. Verbs have two parts to them. In the case of  계속하다 (to continue), the main part of the verb is 계속, which translates to continuation. The lesson introducing 하다 explained it as a catch-all verb, meaning to do. Adding 하다 to 계속 creates the root form of the verb – to continue (계속하다).


A previous lesson covered iotized vowels, which simply adds the ‘y’ sound to the beginning of the vowel. As such, ㅖ makes a ‘yeh’ sound as in yes. ㄱ (a cross between a ‘g’ and ‘k’ sound) at the beginning of the vowel produces gye (계).

The next syllable is 속. All the letters are familiar and fairly easy to pronounce. ㅅ has an ‘s’ sound, ㅗ has an ‘o’ sound, and once again, ㄱ is a cross between a ‘g’ and a ‘k’. Together, the pronunciation is very similar the English word soak. Keep in mind, the slight ‘g’ sound, pushing it toward sog, rather than the harsher ‘k’.

Because 하다 was a word already covered, please refer to that lesson for pronunciation tips.

When the verb 계속하다 (to continue) is put together, it is pronounced as gyesog hada.

The next lesson covers the final iotized diphthong vowels before moving on to other letters in the Korean alphabet.

The Korean Word 의사 (doctor)

Continuing with diphthong vowels, doctor is the next word covered today.

Korean Cultural Tidbit

Like the language, Korean traditional medicine is influenced heavily by Chinese culture. As such, many practices in Chinese traditional medicine, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and mediation are also found in Korean traditional medicine.

의사 (doctor)

Despite research showing the effectiveness of Western medicine, many Korean doctors still traditional Korean medicine along with Western medicine. One reason for this is that from the Korean medical standpoint, the body is a combination of the body, mind, and soul. Western medicine tends to focus purely on empirical aspects related to the body. Whereas Korean traditional medicine has a more holistic approach which takes into account spiritual aspects not normally found in Western medicine.


The beginning ㅇ is silent, leaving only the diphthong vowel (ㅢ). Broken down,  ㅢ puts together the ew (gross) sound from ㅡ and the long ‘e’ from the ㅣ. Combined, ㅢ forms an ew-ee sound such as the ending of the Spanish name Luis. Keep in mind that diphthong vowels glide one vowel into another, so 의 should be pronounced as one syllable. 사 is more simple. The ㅅ produces an ‘s’ sound, while ㅏ sounds like the ‘a’ in father. Thus 의사 is pronounced as ewee-sa.

The Korean Word 현대 (Modern Times)

Today’s lesson covers two words which happen to be the name of a popular car brand in the United States — Hyundai. People tend to pronounce this word differently depending on the part of the country. This lesson gives the opportunity to say the Korean name brand with a Korean pronunciation.

A while back, a commercial came about, describing the pronunciation of Hyundai as in hunday, like sunday. Well, that’s close but not exactly right.

현대 (Modern Times)

Working backward, the 대 portion is almost right when described as day. Notice, almost right. In fact, day is so close, it’s almost not worth mentioning that the ㄷ is a cross between a ‘d’ and a ’t’, giving it a little softer sound than in day. Learning to soften words can make your pronunciation less harsh sounding to the Korean ear.

As this lesson covers diphthong vowels, notice the diphthong at the end–two vowels gliding together to form a single syllable. 대 means times.

Modern is 현. It begins with ㅎ, which makes a ‘h’ sound (house). The lesson on iotized vowels revealed ㅕmakes a sound similar to the beginning of the word young.  The final sound of the syllable is an ㄴ and sounds like an ’n’. Put together gives the word hyun (pronounced as a single syllable).

In fact, phonetically speaking, the brand name spelling is exactly the way 현대 is pronounced in Korean. Hyundai

The lesson began with a commercial showing how to pronounce 현대 not quite correctly. So, we’ll end with a video showing how to pronounce 현대 and a couple of other Korean brand correctly.

The Korean Word 네 (yes) and 아니오 (no)

The prior lesson covered the word 제 (my). This lesson adds another ㅔ word to the growing list of vocabulary.

네 (yes)

All the letters this time around are familiar. For those joining the lessons late, please refer to the lessons on consonants and diphthong vowels. Today we simply substitute the ㅈ sound for a ㄴ sound, giving us the pronunciation ne.

Because 네 (yes) was such an easy word, today we’ll also add the word no to our vocabulary toolbox.

Korean Tidbits

By now, you may have noticed all Korean words begin with a consonant. In order to have a word begin with a vowel sound, the Korean language adds the silent ㅇ to beginning of a word. As such, learning the word no is as simple as remembering vowel sounds. Please look back on the lesson covering basic vowels for help on the pronunciation.

아니오 (no)

Again, all the letters are familiar. It begins with 아 (‘ah’ sound as in father). Next is 니, which uses the ‘n’ sound as in the word 네 above and ㅣ, which makes a long ‘e’ sound as in leek. Thus,we have nee. Last, we add 오 which has a long ‘o’ sound, as in open. All in all, we have the word 아니오 (no), which is pronounced as ah-nee-oh.

In the lessons to come, we’ll continue to learn more words with diphthong vowels.