According to Naver dictionary, '관형사' means:

<언어> 체언 앞에 놓여서, 그 체언의 내용을 자세히 꾸며 주는 품사. 조사도 붙지 않고 어미 활용도 하지 않는데, ‘순 살코기’의 ‘순8’과 같은 성상 관형사, ‘저 어린이’의 ‘저4’와 같은 지시 관형사, ‘한 사람’의 ‘한1’과 같은 수 관형사 따위가 있다.

and '형용사' means:

<언어> 사물의 성질이나 상태를 나타내는 품사. 활용할 수 있어 동사와 함께 용언에 속한다.

According to a Korean-English dictionary, '관형사' is 'determiner', but the examples above don't seem like a determiner in English. What is the real difference between '관형사' and '형용사' in Korean? How can you tell the difference between the two?


관형사 and 형용사 are different parts of speech (품사)1. Both could be compared to adjectives in English, but some 관형사 like 그 are more similar to English determiners. But they are distinct parts of speech in Korean.

관형사 are modifiers which just have a base form; they cannot have any 어미 (verb/adjective endings) added on. They must precede a noun/pronoun. Some examples are:

모든, 어느, 그, 새 (new), 헌(old/used), 옛, 저런

These cannot really be used as predicates, except by modifying a noun:

이거 새 거에요? (Is this new?)

형용사 are sometimes called adjectives, descriptive verbs or adjectival verbs. They have predicate forms (ending in -다 for the citation form) and modifier forms (관형사형).

For example: 아름답다 (beautiful) is a 형용사 in predicate form; the usual modifier form (관형사형) is 아름다운. We can use it thus:

아름다운 공주 (beautiful princess)

공주가 아름다워요 (the princess is beautiful)

Note that 관형사형 is the modifier form of other parts of speech; verbs, nouns and adjectives can all have 관형사형 (관형사 form):

어제 읽던 책 (the book I was reading yesterday)

오늘의 날씨 (today's weather)

1 According to 한국의 언어 (이익섭, 이상억 & 채완 (1997). 한국의 언어. 서울: 신구문화사), there are 9 품사 in Korean: 명사 (noun), 대명사 (pronoun), 수사 (number), 동사 (verb), 형용사, 관형사, 부사 (adverb), 감탄사 (interjection) and 조사 (noun ending). There may be competing definitions, however.

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  • This answer to be updated to talk about the more plentiful 관형사's, which have the ending of -적 (derived from Chinese) (e.g. 간접적 (indirect), 감동적 (touching, moving, stirring), 이상적 (ideal), etc.). – Code Doggo Sep 16 '18 at 2:47

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