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Recently I was studying and saw the verb 이다 being written along with the object, like 저는 한국 사람입니다, but I have also seen it written apart (as I thought was the correct form), like this 저는 한국 사람 입니다. Can someone please clear this for me? F.Y.I, I'm an asbolute beginner.

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In principle, the copula -(이)다 must be written together with its content word (한글맞춤법 5.1.41: 조사는 그 앞말에 붙여 쓴다).

In many languages, copulas can be a separate word. In Korean, however, that's not the case, at least in the standard Korean. But if you specifically ask if -(이)다 is a verb, the answer falls in a gray area. Technically, many Korean linguists (including the standard Korean) categorize it as merely a suffix (조사, more specifically sub-categorize as 서술격 조사, a special part of speech that has only a single member, -이다), while functionally and conjugation-wise it works as an independent predicate word (용언, such as verbs).

From the point of viewing it as a predicate word, -(이)다 can be actually decomposed into the root -이- and the ending -다. Then it makes perfect sense that -이- can be conjugated with other endings, for example;

  • 사람 + 이 + 다
  • 사람 + 이 + ㅂ니다
  • 사람 + 이 + 야
  • 사람 + 이 + ㄹ까

However, note that -(이)다 can be shortened into just -다 when following a complement that has no 종성. For example,

  • 나는 한국 사람이다.
  • 나는 한국 여자이다.
  • 나는 한국 여자다.
  • *나는 한국 사람다

But this "shortening" can be a problem from the point of viewing -(이)다 as a word, in that, then it would be the only predicate that can have a null root. Similarly with other endings,

  • 여자 + ∅ + 다 = 여자다
  • 여자 + ∅ + ㅂ니다 = 여잡니다
  • 여자 + ∅ + 야 = 여자야
  • 여자 + ∅ + ㄹ까 = 여잘까

Analytically, these look fine. But can you call a word without a root a word?

In conclusion, if -(이)다 is an independent word/verb, it should be written with a space between it and its complement (한글맞춤법 1.1.2: 문장의 각 단어는 띄어 씀을 원칙으로 한다). Linguistically, there are evidence and counter-evidence to this argument. But, at the end of the day, the standard Korean recognizes it not as a word but only as a suffix, and hence there must be no space.

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  • Thank you for your answer. But now I have another one: 이다 is not a verb? Jun 26, 2022 at 18:10
  • Updated the answer.
    – krim
    Jun 27, 2022 at 19:36
  • Wow, that's helpful, thanks a lot Jun 28, 2022 at 16:24

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