Voicing and Pronunciations of Korean Consonants

You may wonder why when you hear Korean words with consonants or , sometimes they are b-, d-, g- and j-like, but some other times they are p-, t-, k-, and ch-like respectively. One of the factors effecting their pronunciations is voicing.

Voicing is one of the 3 important concepts for Korean pronunciations. If you are not sure what voicing is, please review this post. In a nutshell, all Korean vowels are always voiced, so are nasal consonants and consonant . On the other hand, all other consonants are voiceless when they are at the beginning of a word. As a result, or are more p-like, t-like, k-like, and ch-like than b-like, d-like, g-like and j-like respectively at the beginning of a word.

But how about when these consonants are pronounced in between a word? They become fully voiced, i.e., or becomes b-, d-, g- and j-like respectively when they are pronounced in between voiced sounds. It explains why, for the same consonant symbol, you may hear different sounds at different situations.


rainㅂ is voiceless
나비butterflyㅂ is b-like
allㄷ is voiceless
바다seaㄷ is d-like
dogㄱ is voiceless
무지개rainbowㄱ is g-like
자리locationㅈ is voiceless
여자womanㅈ is j-like
아니야[입] 아니야it is not a leafㅂ is b-like
없어요[맏] 없어요it is tastelessㄷ is d-like
어두워 [박] 어두워outside is darkㄱ is g-like

As you can see from the second set of examples, voicing can apply across word boundary, if the ending consonant needs to be pronounced as or , and the following word begins with a vowel.

Summary of Voicing and Pronunciations of Korean Consonants

At the beginning of a word
voiceless, more p-like than b-like
voiceless, more t-like than d-like
voiceless, more k-like than g-like
voiceless, more ch-like than j-like
Between two voiced sounds within a word
fully voiced, b-like
fully voiced, d-like
fully voiced, g-like
fully voiced, j-like
At the end of a word followed by a word beginning with a vowel
fully voiced, b-like
fully voiced, d-like
fully voiced, g-like
does not apply

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Japanese Sentence Pattern: “I heard that …” using ~そうだ

Very often you want to express something that you heard. You simply attach そうだ to the end of the plain form of the sentence that you heard. For example, if you want to say “I heard that the weather would become nice tomorrow.” – You would need to express “The weather would become nice tomorrow” in plain form, and then attach そうだ (casual) or そうです (polite) to it.

To construct the plain present tense form of a phrase, check if it ends with a noun, an adjective or a verb, and do the following:

  1. Noun/な-adjective: (drop な) and attach だ to it
  2. い-adjective: leave it unchanged
  3. Verb: change it to its dictionary form (ends with う or る)
I hear that the weather will be nice tomorrow.
明日はいい天気になる + そうだ
I hear that it is hot outside.
そと = outside, 暑い = hot
I hear that he is a student.
学生 = student
That’s what I heard.
だ indicates the state of being.

You would change the sentence to plain past tense form if the sentence is in past tense. If you are not sure what it means, please look up a detailed description for plain forms of noun phrases, adjectives and verbs.

In English we have tense agreement. For example, it is technically incorrect if you say “I heard that he is a student.” In Japanese, however, そうだ already implies it is something that you heard, and you do not need to change the tense of the original sentence.

I heard that he went to school everyday.

Online Input Method Editor (Japanese, Chinese and Korean)

If you are interested in inputting Asian characters, for example, you want to create your own vocabulary lists, but you are not sure how to input the characters, or your computer does not have that capability, now you can use our online input method editor to do so.

I used to call this online IME a typewriter, but I guess not many of you associated a “typewriter” as something you can use to type Asian characters, and I hope by using the more technical term IME (Input Method Editor), you know what it is all about.

If you haven’t tried it out yet, please give it a try. Below I am setting the default to type Korean, but you can use it to type Japanese or Chinese by simply clicking on the corresponding radio button.

Once you click on the input area above, a little menu will show up on top of the area for you to choose either the input script (Japanese and Chinese) or the input method (Korean). Your choice will be remembered. It should be useful for those who need to type Chinese and Korean, as you don’t need to come back every time to choose traditional or simplified script for Chinese, or Revised Romanization or Dubeolsik input method for Korean.

The Korean IME should be as good as any desktop solutions (on your Windows or Mac machine). If you are not sure how to type, please refer to the legend on this Learn to Type Korean page. Basically if you are an absolute beginner and wanna input some easy Korean, e.g. annyeonghaseyo (how are you), you may do so by using the Revised Romanization input method, but make sure you are aware that, the romanization system does not attempt to represent the sound of the words, instead, it is an one-to-one correspondence of Latin letters to Hangul Jamo. You will have a lot of typos if you simply try to type according to how Korean words sound like. For more details about Revised Romanization, please visit this wikipedia page.

Dubeolsik (2-bul Layout) is the national standard for Korean keyboard layout. It worths your time to learn how to type using Dubeolsik, if learning Korean is more than just a casual hobby for you. Again, please refer to this Learn to Type Korean page for a quick legend and explanation of this input method.

The Chinese Pinyin IME is quite primitive, you can only input one character at a time. So far it supports about the most frequently used 2000 characters. Also you will probably need to wait a bit before the choices will show up (below the input area). For instance, if you type de, 4 words will appear under the input area, namely , if you hit spacebar, you are gonna choose the first choice from the list, or you can either click on the word to choose, or press the number associated with the choice to choose. If more users are using it, I will spend more time to make it faster, and to make it support multi-character vocabularies.

The Japanese IME does not yet support inputting Kanji. I know this is definitely a must-have if I want more advanced Japanese learners to use the IME… for now, if you only need to input hiragana and katakana, it should be as good as any desktop solutions, and no installation is required!

I put the IME on the front page so that when you come back to the site, you don’t need to navigate through the site to find the IME and use it. Also, this IME will show up on input areas (supposed to have Chinese, Japanese or Korean vocabularies) when you are creating your vocabulary list. I hope it will make you easier to create your own vocabulary lists.

Let me know what you like and dislike, and if you want to see any additional features, or any bug you may have found, just leave me a comment below. Thank you!

Tensing and Pronunciations of Korean Consonants

Recall that tensing is one of the 3 important concepts for Korean pronunciations, and it is the easiest one to memorize – all the “doubles” are tense. The opposite of tenseness is lax, and as you expect, are lax consonants.

So when would you pronounce a lax consonant as a tense one? The whole idea of this kind of phonetic change is to make the pronunciation more natural, and if you ask a native speaker, most probably they would simply tell you “When it sounds more natural that way.” Fortunately, a lot of tensing occur with a regular rule, as follows:

When a consonant ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ or ㅅ follows another consonant other than the nasal (ㄴ ㅁ ㅇ) or ㄹ, you need to pronounce it as ㅃ ㅉ ㄸ ㄲ or ㅆ (i.e. tensing).


좋습니다[졷씀니다]It is good
책 보세요[책 뽀세요]Please read the book

As you can see from the last example, this tensing process can apply across word boundary, depending on the focus of the phrase or sentence.

Tensing without a Rule

While we have a regular rule for tensing, unfortunately there are many other Korean words which tensing applies without a rule. You will need to learn them on a case-by-case basis down the road of your Korean learning career.


WordMeaning [Pronunciation]
한자Chinese characters [한짜]; one character [한 자]
시가market price [시까]; city streets [시가]
장기special talent [장끼]; chess [장기]
인기popularity [인끼]
출장business trip [출짱]
먹을 거things to eat [머글 꺼]
먹은 거things that I ate [머근 거]

In the first 3 examples, you can see that different meanings in the same word are distinguished by with or without tensing in the second hangul. The last 2 examples is to demonstrate that the pattern with future tense modifier …을 거 is always tense but not the pattern with present/past tense modifier 는/은 거.

A lot of borrowed words have an optional tensing in the initial consonant, such as 바스 [바스 or 빠스] for bus, 바나나 [바나나 or 빠나나] for banana, or 게임 [게임 or 께임] for game. For native Korean words, very often tensing for the initial consonant is to emphasize intensity, such as 작아요 [짜가요] to emphasize it is small.

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Modifying Japanese Adjectives to Adverbs

Recall that an adverb is usually used to modify a verb, just as an adjective is usually used to modify a noun. In English, in general, you add “ly” to change adjectives to adverbs. For example, aggressive is an adjective and aggressively is an adverb. In Japanese, there is also a regular way to change adjectives to adverbs, as follows:

い-adjective: change い to く

な-adjective: change な to に

Exception: change いい (good) to よく (well).


早いはやい)is an い-adjective which means early. When it is used as an adverb, change い to く and it becomes 早く.

Please get up early.
早い to 早く.

Unlike English, which you may put adverb either before or after the main verb in a sentence, you usually put the Japanese adverb before the main verb.

静かしずか)is a な-adjective which means quiet. When it is an adverb, it becomes 静かに.

Please walk quietly at the library.
静か is a na-adjective.

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