Korean Pronunciation Rules

As I said in previous lessons, Korean words are not always pronounced as they are written. Often the pronunciations of letters change according to various rules. The good thing is that these sound changes make the words easy to pronounce. To learn the perfect Korean pronunciation, it is necessary to understand these pronunciation rules. Here in this lesson we will see 6 main pronunciation rules of Korean languages. There are a  few more small rules and exceptions but we will see them later in the course. 

  1. Carry over

If a Patchim consonant is followed by a vowel its sound gets combined with the next vowel and it is pronounced as a part of the next syllable and not as an independent character.


Word   –     Sound Change  –   Pronunciation

책이               채기      छैक + ई = छैगी

밥을               바블      फाप + अल = फाबल

잎이               이피     इप + ई = इफी

옷이               오시     ओत+ई=ओशी

밖에               바께     फाक+ए=फाक्के

If the syllable ends with a double ‘Patchim’ and the following syllable starts with a vowel, the first letter of the double ‘Patchim’ is pronounced independently while the second part is carried over and gets combined with the following syllable.


Word   – Sound Change – Pronunciation

앉아요             안자요            आन्जायो

밟아요             발바요            फाल्बायो

없어요            업서요             औप्सौयो

  1. Nasalization

In Korean phonetic system, ㄴ,ㅁ, and ㅇare considered as the nasal sounds. But you must remember that if  ‘ㅇ’ is in the initial position, it is not a nasal consonant but a null consonant with no sound.

When the final consonant of a syllable is non-nasal and it is followed by a nasal character (ㄴ,ㅁ), the non-nasal consonant assimilates to the nasal sound and is pronounced as following.

ㄱ, ㅋ                                        →          ㅇ

ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ               →          ㄴ            / before ㄴ or ㅁ

ㅂ, ㅍ                                        →          ㅁ


Word   – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

국물            궁물         खु+मुल =खुंगमुल

갑니다        감니다     खा+नीदा=खामनीदा

낱말            난말         ना+माल=नान्माल

  1. Aspiration

When a consonant is followed or preceded byㅎ [h] , it is influenced and and changes to aspirated consonant.

ㄱ           +  ㅎ →           ㅋ

ㄷ           +  ㅎ →           ㅌ

ㅂ           +  ㅎ →           ㅍ

ㅈ           +  ㅎ →           ㅊ


Word   -Sound Change –     Pronunciation

좋다            조타         छो+दा=छोथा

생각하다   생가카다  सैन्गा+हादा=सैन्गाखादा

노랗다      노라타       नोरा+दा=नोराथा

입히다       이피다      ई+हीदा=ईफीदा

  1. Palatalization

When ㄷis followed by 이 [i], a palatalization occurs and the combination ofㄷ[थ] and이(ई) is pronounced as지 [जी]. Similarly ifㅌis followed by 이 [i], the combination ofㅌ[त्थ]and이(ई) is pronounced as치 [छी].

ㄷ[थ]                     +  이(ई) → 지 [जी]

ㅌ[त्थ]                    +  이(ई) → 치 [छी]


Word   – Sound Change –     Pronunciation

맏이      마지  मात+ई=माजी

굳이      구지   खुत+ई=खुजी

같이      가치   खात+ई=खाछी

  1. Liquidation

When ㄴis followed by ㄹ, their sounds are combined and become ㄹ(ल्ल).

ㄴ (न) + ㄹ(र/ल)                  →                      ㄹ(ल्ल)


Word          – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

신라               실라         शिन+रा= शिल्ला

신림               실림         शिन+रिम = शिल्लिम

       6. Tensificaion

 When any two consonants out of ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂand ㅈ appear together in a word (one as a patchim and one as the first letter in the next syllable), they get tensified and the second letter is pronounced as a tensed sound like ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ and ㅉ.


Word          – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

먹다                       먹따                     मौक्ता

맥주                       맥쭈                     मैक्चू

받고                       받고                      फाक्को

Tensification also occurs when the consonant in patchim is not ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂor ㅈ but is pronounced like k(क), t(त) or  p(प)  in patchim position.


Word          – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

앞쪽                  압쪽                      आप्चोक

없다                  업따                      औप्ता

I know these rules are too complicated and difficult to remember for you at the moment. You don’t need to memorize them all right now. Just read them once and try to grasp the concept behind them and you will learn them as you go along with this course. Most of these pronunciation rules have the purpose of making the pronunciations of words easy for human tongue. You will understand this if you try pronouncing some example words. In the next lesson, we will do some practice of Hangeul and Korean pronunciation rules by reading some common Korean words taken from foreign languages.  After that we will move to Korean grammar and will learn how to construct Korean sentences.

About Satish

Satish is the founder of this website. He is a Korean language graduate from JNU, India. Presently He is studying Korean Language Education at Seoul National University, South Korea. You can catch him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or his Personal Blog

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