Many adjectives end in -럽다 and -롭다, but is there any rhyme or reason when which spelling is used? Is there a difference in meaning or some phonetic pattern? I always seem to spell these wrong, so wondering there's a good way to know which words use which endings.

-럽다 Examples:

  • 부드럽다
  • 자연스럽다
  • 부럽다

-롭다 Examples

  • 까다롭다
  • 괴롭다
  • 외롭다
  • There's not very specific rules. Just need some time to be familiar
    – Chase Choi
    Jul 25 '17 at 4:04
  • 어른답다 vs 어른스럽다 is one pair; 자유스럽다 vs 자유롭다 is another.
    – Michaelyus
    Jul 26 '17 at 22:45
  • It is irregularly used. I'm afraid you have to just memorize them.
    – jungyh0218
    Jul 27 '17 at 4:50

I think I figured it out. But first you have to know what '양성 모음(positive vowels)' and '음성 모음(negative vowels)' are, with a rule called 모음 조화(vowel harmony). Here are some informations from 국립국어원(National Institute of the Korean Language) which I briefly translated:

Positive vowels are the vowels giving 'bright and fresh' impressions. 'ㅏ', 'ㅗ', 'ㅑ', 'ㅛ', 'ㅘ', 'ㅚ', 'ㅐ' are them.

Negative vowels are the vowels giving 'dark and big' impressions. 'ㅓ', 'ㅜ', 'ㅕ', 'ㅠ', 'ㅔ', 'ㅝ', 'ㅟ', 'ㅖ' are them, and in most of the cases 'ㅡ' is also considered to be one of them.


Vowel harmony means a phenomenon which positive vowels like to 'hang out' with themselves, and same in the case of negative vowels: which means it is a bit rare to see positive vowels and negative vowels being right next to each other in a single word.


So let's go ahead and see whether this works or not.

1) ㅡ in 드 and ㅓ in 럽 are both negative.

2) ㅡ in 스 and ㅓ in 럽 are both negative.

3) ㅜ in 부 and ㅓ in 럽 are both negative.

4) ㅏ in 다 and ㅗ in 롭 are both positive.

5) ㅚ in 괴 and ㅗ in 롭 are both positive.

6) ㅚ in 외 and ㅗ in 롭 are both positive.

Problem solved. :)

I can understand most people saying 'there are no specific rules applied in here, just memorize it' because they are so used to it. Actually when I first saw your question I was almost the same. But since Hangeul is quite a scientifically sophisticated alphabetical structure, in most cases there is a rule which can explain something.

  • 1
    The 자연 and 자연스럽다 is weird according to what you found out. Aug 4 '18 at 1:21
  • 1
    And 부담스럽다 is weird as well. Your answer is makes no sense. Aug 4 '18 at 1:23
  • I think so too. If you add a '스럽다', you're automatically making the word conform to the 음성모음. And what about words like 자유롭다, 신비롭다, 명예롭다 etc. which don't conform to what you said? Your answer isn't correct. Sep 13 '20 at 21:06

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