This is the last blog about the Korean grammar in the Ten Commandments that are found in Exodus 20: 1-17. I have explained all the grammar except verse 17, and I will explain the grammar in verse 17 today. If people want me to choose another text and continue explaining the Korean grammar, let me know. There is a place at the bottom where you can leave comments. Let’s get started.
Verse 17: 네 이웃의 집을 탐내지 말라 네 이웃의 아내 나 그의 남종 이나 그의여종이나 그의 소나 그의 나귀나 무릇 네 아웃 소유를 탐내지 말라
네 이웃의 집을 – “your neighbor’s house,” and 을 comes after this that tells you that 집 (house) is a direct object. 집 ends with ㅂ, a consonant, so that is why you use 을 and not 를. 네 means “your.” Again, 네 and 내 are pronounced the same, but written differently 네 means “your,” and 내 means “my.” 이웃 means ‘neighbor.” That 의 after 이웃 is like an apostrophe “s” in English. It is a possessive. Meaning that it belongs to 이웃, neighbor. 집 means house or home, so the thing that belongs to your neighbor is a house.
탐내지 말라- “don’t covet.” and it is a command coming from high above because of the ending on 말라. If It were simply, “don’t covet” like a mother or teacher would say to the kids, it would be 탐내지 마. If it were a more polite “please don’t covert,” it would be, “탐내지 마세요.” 탐내지 comes from 탐네다 which means “to covet.” There is another form of “to covet,” but I am not sure why one is long and the other short. The other version is 몹시 탐내다 which means the same thing as 탐내다. The end of 탐내다 is changed to 지 to tell you a negative is coming. This is actually the end of the first sentence in this verse. In Korean, you can’t see a period because they often leave punctuation out. You know it is the end of a sentence because of the grammar. It is a verb form used as a main verb. There are different forms used inside the sentence. The main verb is always at the end of the sentence in Korean.
In this first sentence, it uses the “understood” you like we have in English which means you can’t actually see “you,” you know it is there from the context of the sentence. In English, when we tell a child, “Don’t do that!”, the child understands that we are talking to them, and that “you” is implied. That is what is done in this Korean sentence. “You” or 너 is not actually there, but it is implied. In this sentence, you simply have a direct object phrase and a main verb. 네 이웃의 집을 (your neighbor’s house) is the direct object phrase. A direct object receives the direct action of the verb and answers the question “what?” What are you not supposed to covet? Your neighbor’s house. ( 무엇을 안 탐내요? 네 이웃의 집.) The nice thing in Korean is they have that 을 telling you where the direct object is.
네 이웃의 아내 나 – “your neighbor’s wife” with 나 on the end which is rather like a comma because it comes after every item in the list. Koreans have a tendency to use words as punctuation at times. Again, 네 means “your,” and 이웃 means neighbor. 이웃의 is the same as “neighbor’s.” That 의 is an apostrophe “s.” 아내 means wife.
그의 남종 이나- “his manservant,” and the 이나 after it is telling you this is another item on the list, like a comma. 남자 is how you say “man” in Korean. When they use the Hanmoon, the characters like the Japanese and Chinese also use, not the alphabet, hanja, like these letters, you get only the meaning, so the 남 in 남종 and the 남 in 남자 would have the same Hanmoon because they have the same meaning. That is a good reason to learn Hanmoon, because it makes your understanding of what you read larger even if the words are written in hanja, the Korean alphabet we have been using. The scholars and the preachers in Korea understand this, so they study Hanmoon, but the average man only studies the hanja, the alphabet like we have been using. 종 means “servant,” so 남종 means “manservant.” Again, that 이나 after it mans this is another item on the list, and it is like a comma. 그 is the masculine pronoun that can be changed according to the ending. If you put 그는 or 그가, it means “He.” If you put 그를. it means “him” as a direct object. If you put 그에게, it means “to him.” You can also just use that 그 in other places with prepositions as the object of the preposition, and the preposition coming after it. And finally, if you put 의 after 그, it is like that apostrophe “s” and makes 그의 into “his.”
그의 여종 이나 – “his maid servant,” and the 이나 after it is like a comma telling you that it is another item on the list. Again, we have 그의 which means “his.” Also, whereas, in the last item on the list I explained just before this one, 남종 meant “man servant,” and 여종 means “woman servant.” That 여 comes from 여자 which means “woman.”
그의 소 나 – “his cow,” with the 나 after it meaning this is another thing on the list, and it is like a comma. Now, you are probably wondering why that comma is sometimes 이나 and sometimes simply 나. If the word before it ends in a vowel, they use 나. If the word before it ends with a consonant, they use 이나, but both 나 and 이나 mean exactly the same thing. 소 means “cow,” and if you look it up in the dictionary, you will find 암소 instead of just 소. They both mean “cow,” but 소 is a cow that doesn’t give milk, and 암소 is a cow that gives milk.
그의 나귀 나 – “his donkey,” with that 나 on the end being like a comma denoting that this is another item on the list. You can notice again that, 나귀 ends with “l,” a vowel, so you use 나, and not 이나. 나귀 means “donkey,” and there is another word that is used more often for donkey which is almost the same as this 당나귀. Again, you probably already know by now that 그의 means “his.”
무릇 네 잇웃 의 소유를 – “in general, your neighbor’s belongings,” with 를 on the end telling you this is the direct object. 무릇 is a new word to me, and I had to ask my daughter, my resident expert who has studied in a Korean university enough to be a Korean teacher. I have never studied in a Korean university because I was a professor and didn’t have time to attend a class and teach my classes because the only Korean language class at my university was always during my classes. As I said, I studied alone at home from books and used my daughter and my Korean son in law as well as other Koreans who volunteered to help me as my teachers. 이웃 의, again, means “neighbor’s,” and 네 means “your.” 소유 means “belongings.”
탐내지 말라 – “Don’t covet.” This is at the end of the sentence, and it is the main verb of the sentence. In English, this would have come at the beginning of the sentence right after the subject “you.” However, the main verb always comes at the end of the sentence in Korean. This is one of the things that makes it hard for English speakers to understand a long sentence in Korean because we are used to hearing the subject and the verb first, but Korean is a more indirect language than English, and you have to be patient to get that verb. And, in fact, the “understood” you is used in this sentence in Korean, so you can’t even find the subject if you are looking for it. In English, the only “understood” pronoun we have is “you,” but there are often pronouns left out in Korean and left for you to guess from context what they are. If someone is speaking, you really have to listen intently or it is easy to lose the meaning when a Korean is talking, and they often lose the meaning and just make the meaning up in their heads when you are talking. If you go to a place like McDonalds and try to order, you have to really check them because they assume what they think you want rather than listening and just order what they think rather than taking time to listen. –There you have a bit of Korean culture, but lets get back to the grammar. All the grammar in this verb, we have talked about before, and I hope this is just review. The 지 on the end of 탐내지 tells you a negative ending is coming. 탐내지 comes from 탐내다 which means “to covet.” The negative ending is 말라 which is a command from up above meaning “don’t.”
Okay, now we have finished all 17 verses where the Ten Commandments are written in Exodus 20. I hope you have enjoyed this series of blogs and learned from them. If you want me to continue explaining Korean grammar to you, just leave a note below. Even if you don’t it is tempting for me to do it anyway because I realize it is good for me to keep my Korean up and learn because since I have a Korean son in law and his family looks at me as family too, I will always have Koreans in my life. My Korean son in law’s parents and brother don’t speak English, and they always want to have conversations with me. My Korean son in law’s brother let me know just before I got on the plane to come to America that he is coming, and he wants me to translate for him when he gets here. He is actually one of the Koreans that has pushed me to learn Korean because he finds English so hard, and he is dyslexic and can’t read in English, so it just makes English flat hard for him because reading English letters is harder on your eyes than reading Korean letters. In the Orient, many people who have dyslexia go undiagnosed because oriental letters are easier to read than our Roman letters we use in the west. The brother of my Korean son in law was always coming to sit by me asking me to translate at English church, during English Bible classes, and English movies. It wasn’t easy, but it was good for him to push me. You never learn to speak a language without pushing yourself a bit, and for English speakers to learn Korean, you really need to push yourself harder than if you are studying a language like Spanish or German. We can make words out in other European languages that we haven’t studied, and it makes it easier and keeps us going, but in Korean, it isn’t that easy for us. We have to actually try for every little bit we learn. Learning to study a language at home and not insisting on going to a class has really helped me as an adult because most adults don’t have time to go to classes.