Korean contains many compound verbs consisting of two parts:

뛰놀다, meaning to frolic or gambol, comes from 뛰다 (run, jump) and 놀다 (play).

날아다니다, meaning to fly around, combines 날다 (fly), and 다니다 (to go about).

Some even consist of three parts:

쳐들어가다, meaning to 'invade' or 'break into', is a compound of 치다 (hit, attack); 들다 (enter), and 가다 (go).

속아넘어가다, meaning to be fooled or deceived, comprises 속다 (to be fooled) 넘다 (to pass), and 가다 (go).

Would I be able to combine verbs to make my own compounds, such as

날다 (fly) + 놀다 (play) ⇨ 날아놀다 (to play in flight)?

속다 (to be fooled) + 얻다 (get) + 맞다 (hit) ⇨ 속아얻어맞다 ("to be hit by a deception")?

(I am aware that those might be poor examples - I am more interested in the principle!)

  • I consider the language as a way to communicate, and I think it's okay as long as your sentence is well understood and doesn't offend others. Of course there might be fundamentalists who are not happy about it. If you are going to use such verbs anyway, make a space between verbs. At least you will not be criticized by the claim that your word is not in the dictionary.
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:17
  • @Hwang would my examples be understandable? Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:28
  • It depends on the context. If you write the full sentence, hopefully with the description of the situation, maybe I can tell.
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:34
  • @topo morto You can of course combine any two words to make your own compound word in order for native speakers to understand. But the problem is the same, it will not be natural Korean. I suggest you to use compound words only when you are sure that native speakers are using it.
    – user237
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 11:06

4 Answers 4


Actually, there is a lot of compounded verbs in korean.

But most of them are considered to be weird when it comes to spoken language.

The basic principle is right though

But it is much more natural when you said '속아서 얻어맞다' than '속아얻어맞다'

The word such as '뛰놀다' and '속아넘어가다' is kind of idiom,

because they are used in numerous situations.


I think we probably end up discussing the meaning of "able."

In English, for example, where can you go from troublemaker and innkeeper?

If you say promisemaker and promisekeeper your teacher will mark you, as did StackExchange's spellchecker just now? (It seems OK with spellchecker.)

Nonetheless and nevertheless, but not anytheless.

But who is to say you can't? (A question not peculiar to compounds.)

In a poem you may have greater license.

Even as you exercise your poetic license in Korean compound making, you may want to mind this distinction.

  • In 뛰놀다 and 날아다니다 the meanings of the parts have more or less survived.

  • In 쳐들어가다 and 속아 넘어가다 they have not. That is, you don't have to strike anything in order to 쳐들어가다 or climb anything or go anywhere to 속아 넘어가다.

Therefore, 뛰놀다 may give you 날아놀다 for your poem. But 속아 넘어가다 probably doesn't serve you well.


Verbs can combined in quite a few ways, including using 어(서), 고, and many of the auxilliary verbs are attached using these two clausal conjunctives, often making something close to a new word. So, following these rules all kinds of combinations are possible. Calling something "a new word" would be extreme and also unnecessary.

Is "eat and run" a new word in English? Would 먹어 달리다 be a new word in Korean? See what I mean?

  • 1
    I'm aware you don't actually need to make a new compound word every time you want to express a combination of concepts from other words - as you say, there are other ways to do that. However, In English at least, there is usually a somewhat clear conceptual difference between a single word and two words joined by a conjunction - I'm pretty sure that most English speakers would not think of "eat and run" as one (single) word. Perhaps the difference isn't so important in Korean though? Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:04
  • It's just that when you combine two verbs, or a verb and an auxilliary (such as 가다, 오다, 보다, 내다, 두다, 대다, 버리다, 주다, and so on) with the first (or primary) verb conjugated into the 어/아/여 form (sometimes known as the "infinitive") they can easily appear as a new word. Koreans don't always use spaces in the way we do, especially in these kind of cases, giving the appearance of "new" words, when they really aren't. I have often been confused by this. This is mainly what I am trying to point out here. Since you can make combinations like this, you can kinda make new words at will.
    – B. Alvn
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:30
  • If you take your example of "날아놀다 (to play in flight)" and simply add a space after 아 then you have a grammatically valid expression combining the two verbs...while I'm not sure you would find this exact expression, it would make some sense. Without the space it isn't really valid.
    – B. Alvn
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:35

I don't think "making my own compound" is a good idea, because it becomes much more ambiguous. In already existing compounds, the meaning is set by previous usage: if you say "go play", people understand that it means "go and play", not "play while going somewhere". In newly made compounds, there's no previous usage to guide us.

For example, if you say "날아놀다", I can't tell if it means "play while flying", "fly playfully", "fly unseriously" (think 놀고 있네), or "fly and then play".

Similarly, "속아얻어맞다" could mean "to be deceived and then get hit", "to be deceived while getting hit", or something else.

In general, such an expression would elicit a response of "...what? Could you say again using plain words?" So, unless you are deliberately aiming for ambiguous wordplay, I'd advise not making up new words.

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