Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is 밝다 an adjective or a verb?

밝다 is used as both an adjective and a verb. When it is used as a adjective, it means"light" or "bright," but when it is used as a verb, it means "dawn" or "break." Consider these two examples:
  1. 날이 밝다.
    The day is bright.
  2. 날이 밝는다.
    The day dawns [breaks].

When I tried doing a Google search on "날이 밝다," I found that many Koreans are using it to mean "dawn," which is a misuse of the word since "dawn" should be "날이 밝는다." In other words, some Koreans do not seem to understand the difference between the verb 밝다 and the adjective 밝다.

As one might expect, the adjective 밝다 is used in more situations than the verb 밝다. For example, when I did a Google search on "밝는다," which would be referring to the verb 밝다, I found only a limited number of subjects used with it. They were essentially 날이 밝는다 (the day dawns), 아침이 밝는다 (the morning breaks), and 해가 밝는다 (a new year dawns).

By the way, 맑다 is an adjective with meanings that include, "clear," "clean," "fair," "fresh," and "pure." It has no verb function, which means that 맑다 should not be used in the form of "맑는다." Nevertheless, if you do a Google search on "맑는다," you will find that many Koreans are mistakenly using 맑다 as a verb.


  1. Thank you for your informative blog and inspiring study methods.

    Just for clarification, wouldn't using 밝다 in both sentences be using it as a verb? In the book I'm studying with, I think it would distinguish 밝다 as having both descriptive and action verb properties. This would leave the the term "adjective" to verbal modifications like -개 and -은/는. I refrain from putting an example because I'm not familiar with the verb 밝다... so I'm not sure if it works with those modifiers.

    Is this basically what you are also saying, or am I confusing something? Thanks again for your site and for new vocabulary. :)

  2. Hi Bryan,

    I used the word "adjective" in place of "descriptive verb" to help make things clearer for English-speaking students. However, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

    In English, we have what are called "predicate adjectives," which are adjectives that follow a linking verb (e.g. "be") and describe the subject of the sentence. Consider the following sentence:

    "The hat is black."

    "Black" is the predicate adjective that describes "the hat." "Is" is the linking verb.

    Korean does not have predicate adjectives and linking verbs. Instead, it has what are called "descriptive verbs," which have the same function as predicate adjectives and linking verbs. Here is how Koreans say, "The hat is black."

    "모자가 까맣다."

    모자가 means "the hat," and 까맣다 means "black," but notice that there is no linking verb, which means that 까맣다 acts as both the adjective and the linking verb. Because of this characteristic, 까맣다 is called a "descriptive verb," instead of an predicate adjective.

    In conclusion, you are correct. If would have been more accurate for me to use "descriptive verb" instead of "adjective."

    By the way, I like the textbook you are using.


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