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Korean consonants

Korean Consonants

How to Pronounce Korean Consonants

This table shows the consonants in the Korean writing system.  Readers who found this page through a search engine are recommended to start with our main article on the Korean writing system, which explains how to assemble the characters into syllable clusters.



CharacterSoundClick
for
Examples
gi-yuk/g/Similar to the English /g/ sound, as in “go”Examples
ni-n/n/Same as the English /n/ sound, as in “no”Examples
di-gd/d/Similar to the English /d/ sound, as in “day”Examples
ri-ul/r/ or /l/At the first position of a syllabic cluster, this letter denotes a sound similar to the /r/ sound, as in “radio” — however, it is very different from the American /r/.   It is akin to the Scottish /r/, a non-repeated trilled /r/ (just one tap of a trilled /r/).   This Korean consonant begins with the tip of the tongue lightly tapping the ridge behind the upper front teeth.   The tongue touches the ridge just once and immediately retracts to the resting position on the floor of the mouth and no longer contributes to the shaping of the sound.   You should not pre-position your tongue on the roof of the mouth before sound production begins.   If you do, the sound becomes English /l/, which is different from this Korean consonant as the first sound of a syllable.

At the last position of a syllabic cluster, it is similar to the English /l/, as in “tell”.
Examples
mi-m/m/Same as the English /m/sound, as in “me”Examples
bi-ub/b/Similar to the English /b/sound, as in “boy”Examples
si-od/s*/Distantly related to but different from the English /s/ sound.  As soon as you begin to make the /s/ sound (which is by nature unvoiced in Korean as in English), you should immediately use your voice (produce whatever vowel that follows).  Any discernible duration of air moving out without your vocal cord vibrating will make the sound an English /s/ and Koreans will not recognize it as this consonant.  There exists in Korean a near-equivalent of the English /s/ sound, which is shown below as a separate entry (double-si-od).  If this character (the current entry) is at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, it is pronounced as /d/ (as in “kid”).Examples
i-ng/ng/If this character occurs at the first position of a syllabic cluster, it is placed there merely as a space filler and represents no sound.  At the last position of a syllabic cluster, it represents the /ng/ sound, as in the English word “king”.Examples
ji-ud/j/Similar to the English /j/sound, as in “just”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “kid”).Examples
chi-ud/ch/Same as the English /ch/sound, as in “change”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “kid”).Examples
ki-uk/k/Same as the English /k/sound, as in “king”Examples
ti-ut/t/Same as the English /t/sound, as in “take”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “kid”).Examples
pi-up/p/Same as the English /p/sound, as in “pick”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /b/ (as in “web”).Examples
hi-ud/h/Same as the English /h/sound, as in “have”.  If this character occurs at the last position of a syllabic cluster, whether followed by a vowel or not, it is often not pronounced.Examples
double-gi-yuk.svg/k*/Same as the French /q/ sound, as in the French word “quoi”.Examples
double-di-gd/d*/Same as the French /t/ sound, as in the French word “toi”.Examples
double-bi-ub/p*/Similar to the French /p/ sound, as in the French word “pas”.Examples
double-si-od/s/Similar to the English /s/sound, as in “see”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “kid”).Examples
double-ji-ud/ts/Same as the German z character, as in the German word “Zeit”.   Same as the /ts/ sound in some English words, e.g., as in “Pizza”.   This character should not be pronounced as /z/ as in “zoo”.Examples
ni-n-ji-ud/n/
&
/j/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /n/ and hidden /j/.  Only the first sound, /n/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /j/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  Examples
ni-n-hi-ud/n/
&
/h/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /n/ and hidden /h/.  Only the first sound, /n/, is pronounced.   The hidden /h/ is not pronounced even when the next sound is a vowel; however, if followed by certain consonants, it modifies the color of the consonant.Examples
ri-ul-gi-yuk/l/
&
/g/
A combination of potential /l/ and potential /g/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.Examples
ri-ul-mi-m/l/
&
/m/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /m/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.Examples
ri-ul-bi-ub/l/
&
/b/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /b/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.Examples
ri-ul-hi-ud/l/
&
/h/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /h/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The hidden /h/ is not pronounced even when the next sound is a vowel; however, if followed by certain consonants, it modifies the color of the consonant.Examples
bi-ub-si-od/b/
&
/s/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /b/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /b/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  Examples
gi-yuk-si-od/g/
&
/s/
Extremely rare (used only in 3 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /g/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /g/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  Examples
ri-ul-si-od/l/
&
/s/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 - 3 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel and only by some speakers.  Examples
ri-ul-ti-ut/l/
&
/t/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /t/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /t/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  Examples
ri-ul-pi-up/l/
&
/p/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /p/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /p/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  Examples
In addition to the descriptions given here, there are additional “rules” or observed phenomena regarding contextual variations of the consonants.  The additional considerations are, however, much subtler and can be safely ignored by first-time learners of the Korean language.


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