So in all of my grammar resources, they say that the present participle for a verb is formed by adding 는 after the verb.

E.g "the sleeping man" = "자는남자"

However, a native speaker (from Seoul) has been telling me that this sounds weird and comes off as "the man who sleeps (all the time)" and that "잔남자" sounds more natural.

I can't find any grammar resources that say this is correct but they're a native speaker so I'm a bit confused. Can any native speakers/teachers offer any guidance here?


2 Answers 2


I personally have never heard this use, but I am not a native speaker. I lived in Korea for a few years and studied Korean in university for four years beyond that. 잔남자 would usually be translated as the man that slept.

Now, 자는남자 does sound a little bit odd. It likely would sound better to say 자는 남자.

잠자는 남자는 누구인가? (Who is the sleeping man?)

잠자는 남자가 코를 골다 (The sleeping man is snoring)


As a native speaker, I can tell you about the nuances. Your knowledge about "-는" indicating the present and '-ㄴ' indicating the past is correct.

However, you need to remember that it is more natural to use the auxiliary verb "있다" than "-는" to indicate present progression. For a native speaker, "자고 있는 남자"(the sleeping man) feels more natural.

Of course, as in the previous answer, there's nothing unnatural about using "잠자는 남자", but "자고 있는 남자" is probably more effective at conveying what you mean.

As a side note, the present final ending "-는" is also used in adjectives, which sometimes gives the impression of a state or attribute of nouns.

So, in the following example, it's more natural to use "잠자는"
잠자는 조각상(A sleeping statue)
잠자는 숲 속의 공주(Sleeping Beauty)

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