Today I’ll give you an overview of noun modifier endings. I’m not sure if this is actually the proper term for it, but it’s what my teacher used back in the day!
Noun modifier endings are actually applied to action verbs and descriptive verbs to change them into forms that can then be used to modify following nouns. More simply, they turn action or descriptive verbs into what we would in English call relative clauses and adjectives respectively.
A relative clause is a clause starting with a relative pronoun, such as “that, who, which, etc,” that describes a noun. You can think of it as a long adjective. Let’s check out some examples in English first:
This is the cake that I ate.
In this example, “that I ate” is a relative clause that describes the cake.
The school where I met my friend is over there.
In this example, “where I met my friend” is a relative clause giving more information about the school.
And of course adjectives are simpler:
That pretty girl is my friend.
My brother is a friendly guy.
Now, let’s build some relative clauses and adjectives in Korean!
Present tense: -는
The present tense noun modifier ending for action verbs is -는. Just slap it onto the root of your verb (keeping in mind any changes with irregular verbs) and you’re good to go!
- The cake that that person sells is delicious. -> 그 사람이 파는 케이크는 맛있어요.
- 팔다 – 다 = 팔 —–> 팔 + 는 = 파는 (ㄹ irregular verb- drop ㄹ before ㄴ)
- The books that she reads are fun. -> 그녀가 읽는 책들은 재미있어요.
- 읽다 – 다 = 읽 —–> 읽 + 는 = 읽는
Past tense: -(으)ㄴ
For verb roots that end with a consonant, add -은. For roots that end with a vowel, just add -ㄴ. Make sure to keep changes for irregular verbs in mind!
- The kimbap that I ate was bland. -> 제가 먹은 김밥은 싱거웠어요.
- 먹다 – 다 = 먹 —–> 먹 + 은 = 먹은
- The movie that we saw was boring. -> 우리가 본 영화는 지루했어요.
- 보다 – 다 = 보 —–> 보 + ㄴ = 본
Past habitual: -던
If you want to refer to an action that was done repeatedly or habitually in the past, attach -던 to the verb root.
- The school that we attended is gone now. -> 우리가 다니던 학교는 이제 없어요.
- 다니다 – 다 = 다니 —–> 다니 + 던 = 다니던
- My mom sings the songs that grandma used to sing. -> 우리 엄마는 외할머니께서 부르시던 노래를 부르세요.
- 부르다 – 다 = 부르 —–> 부르 + 던 = 부르던
Future tense: -(으)ㄹ
Again, depending on if the root ends with a consonant (-을) or vowel (-ㄹ), you use a slightly different form.
- The place I will go is far. -> 제가 갈 곳이 멀어요.
- 가다 – 다 = 가 —–> 가 + ㄹ = 갈
- The shoes I will wear tomorrow are new ones. -> 내일 신을 신발은 새 거예요.
- 신다 – 다 = 신 —–> 신 + 을 = 신을
Present tense: -(으)ㄴ
The present tense noun modifier endings for descriptive verbs look like the past tense noun modifier endings for action verbs. Make sure you use -은 for roots that end with consonants and -ㄴ when the root ends with a vowel.
- That tall building is Lotte World Tower. -> 저 높은 건물은 롯데월드타워예요.
- 높다 – 다 = 높 —–> 높 + 은 = 높은
- That singer is a handsome man. -> 저 가수는 잘생긴 남자예요.
- 잘생기다 – 다 = 잘생기 —–> 잘생기 + ㄴ = 잘생긴
Past tense: -던; -았/었던
Just as we can use -던 with action verbs to indicate a habitual past action, we can use it with descriptive verbs to indicate that a state was continuous in the past. Using just -던 on its own gives a feeling of looking back on or reminiscing about something that may still be continuing to the present time. On the other hand, -았/었던 carries a feeling of “was X in the past, but is no longer.”
- The girl who was pretty when she was young became a beautiful woman. ->어릴 때 예뻤던 소녀는 아름다운 여자가 됐어요.
- 예쁘다 – 다 = 예쁘 —–> 예쁘 + 던 = 예뻤던
- Mingyu, who was very diligent, still works hard. -> 부지런하던 민규 씨는 지금도 일을 열심히 해요.
- 부지런하다 – 다 = 부지런하 —–> 부지런하 + 던 = 부지런하던
Future tense: -(으)ㄹ
The future tense noun modifier endings for descriptive verbs are the same as for action verbs. As always, make sure that you make any needed changes for irregular verbs. Also, please note that [descriptive verb + -(으)ㄹ NOUN] is not a very commonly used structure unless it’s followed by the noun 것 (thing). However, that starts getting into full future tense, which isn’t the point of this post.
- I am looking for a gift that will be good to give to my friend. -> 친구에게 주기에 좋을 선물을 찾고 있어요.
- 좋다 – 다 = 좋 —–> 좋 + 을 = 좋을
Nouns on their own can’t take noun modifier endings, but the endings can be attached to 이다 (to be). My notations of the forms the noun modifier endings take will include 이다 and be written as single units, but just be aware that they are actually 이다 plus the actual noun modifier ending.
It’s the same regardless of whether the noun ends with a consonant or a vowel!
- My friend, who is a teacher, is very smart. -> 선생님인 제 친구가 정말 똑똑해요.
- That lady, who is an actress, often appears in dramas. -> 배우인 그녀는 드라마에 자주 나와요.
Past tense: -이었/였던
-던 makes another appearance! This time it appears with 이다 conjugated to the past tense. Add -이었던 if the noun ends with a consonant and -였던 if it ends with a vowel.
- Jimin, who was a model student, of course ended up attending a good university. -> 모범생이었던 지민이는 역시 좋은 대학교에 가게 됐어요.
- Seungjin, who was Jimin’s friend, doesn’t contact him anymore. -> 지민 씨의 친구였던 승진 씨는 더 이상 지민 씨랑 연락을 안 해요.
It’s sort of weird to use the future noun modifier ending -(으)ㄹ directly on 이다. Rather, you would use [NOUN이/가 될…]. This way, you are using the action verb 되다 to say that something or someone will be come something else.
- The man who will become Somin’s husband is very good-looking. -> 소민 씨의 남편이 될 남자는 정말 잘생겼어요.
- Chanhyeong, who will become a doctor, has studied hard since he was young. -> 의사가 될 찬형이는 어릴 때부터 공부를 열심히 해왔어요.