Even though I've read this article, I would still like to clarify something about the 다 particle/suffix (not sure of the terminology, as a beginner).

So far, and as someone with a basic knowledge of Japanese grammar (which allegedly is similar), I understood that the particle plays a role similar to Japanese da/desu in a simple declarative sentence, being da in both languages the declarative particle at the end of the sentence.

In Korean questions, the declarative is replaced by the interrogative particle , which reminds of Japanese ka.

As far as I understood, the Korean suffixes -mni, -seumni are basically "decorative" expressions, whose only function is to add formality to the sentence, between a verb root and the declarative .

However, in dictionaries and textbooks, I noticed that verbs and adjectives (or rather "descriptive verbs", I'm not sure), when mentioned outside a complete sentence, have appended to it.

For example, 많다 ("to be numerous", or just "numerous"), 없다 ("to be absent", "not to exist"), 아름답다 ("to be beautiful", or just "beautiful").

Even though these are the dictionary forms, surely there are contexts in which the suffix must be dropped, and as such it must not be interpreted as a part of the verb root.

If I understood correctly, when expressing a state-of-being, if the subject "is" another noun, then the verbal root is required, either directly before or before the polite variants -mni-da / -seumni-da. As such, "That man is a teacher" would be "그 사람은 선생 입니다"; the answer to "Who is he?" could be just "선생 입니다" since the subject is droppable in this sentence, and the answer to "Is he a teacher?" could include just the verb: "입니다".

Moreover, some words translated into English as adjectives rather than as verbs work in a sentence with no other verb: thus, "That girl is beautiful" translates as "그 소녀는 아름답다", and "She is beautiful" can be told just as "아름답(습니)".

Perhaps the after verbs and adjectives on dictionary entries is a reminder that those words (unlike nouns) can stand for a complete sentence with that very particle?

1 Answer 1


First, the choice of -다 as "base dictionary form" is, in a sense, an arbitrary convention.

Unlike English, Korean verbs always require a suffix. You will never see someone just saying "많", "없", or "아름답". It's simply not grammatical at all - that's like someone saying "Engl" instead of English. Because of that, when we look up the dictionary we need some standard suffix to find the verb/adjective, and people standardized on "-다". (Also note that a bare "-다" is actually highly unusual for verbs: you rarely see a form like "하다", instead you use the present tense "한다".)

So "-다" is just one of hundreds of suffixes that can attach to Korean verbs and adjectives. In case of adjectives, it's also a "plain" present tense ending. In case of verbs, it's rare - for a beginner it's probably better to treat it as an "artificial dictionary form".

Also, while it's tempting to consider -습니-/-ㅂ니- as its own unit, I'd recommend memorizing -습니다/-습니까 as whole units by themselves, because:

  • When learning languages, it's always better to memorize larger units. You don't start by learning "are", "you", "do", and "-ing". You memorize "How are you doing?" and then later you learn the role of individual parts.

  • More importantly, -습니- doesn't really qualify as its own unit because it can't combine with other suffixes. You can say 많고, 많으니, 많구나, etc., but you can't say 많습니고, 많습니니, 많습니구나.

Finally, you're mistaken about -이다 (be). Unlike "be", "-이다" cannot stand on its own and must always attach to a preceding noun. Therefore, if one asks "저분은 선생님입니까?", you cannot say "입니다" - it's not grammatical. You can say "네, 선생님입니다" but it's too long, so the most natural answer would be simply "네".

  • Your answer was very helpful, gamsa-gamsa. Good to know that there's a simple word for the affirmative answer (네). Just one more thing: in 선생님, "님" is a respectful suffix after job titles, right?
    – swrutra
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 20:39
  • Yes, when you talk to someone, it's always better to use "선생님" - calling someone as "선생" frequently sounds rude. ("그 사람은 선생입니다" is OK, but "선생! 어디 가세요?" is not.)
    – jick
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 20:49

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