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Basic Consonants

Remember how we said Hangul was designed to be easy to be learned? Well, similar letters have similar sounds and their shapes are supposed to help you remember the sound. Here are the 5 basic shapes from which Hangul consonants are constructed:

Closed
Lips
Front-Upper
Palate
Hissing Rear-Upper
Palate
Open
Lips

How do these letter shapes relate to the pronunciation? Read on…

ㅁ Closed Lip Consonants
Pay attention to your lips and say "man". Notice how your lips come together when pronouncing "m"? The square shape represents your mouth and letters with this shape are used for sounds where your lips come together. The 4 letters in this group are based on a square shape: 2 are covered in this lesson and 2 more in later lessons.

Letter 1 - mieum (미음)

Sounds like: the "m" in man.
Transliteration: m

mieum (미음)

Letter 2 - bieup (비읍)

Sounds like: read below.
Transliteration: b/p

bieup (비읍)

So is it pronounced "b" or a "p"? Along with some other consonants (ㄷ, ㅅ, ㄹ, ㅈ and ㄱ), ㅂ has 2 pronunciations depending on where it is in a word. For now just learn the Word Initial Pronunciation. Pronunciation in other positions will be explained later.

Word Initial Pronunciation: p
Other Pronunciation: p or b (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

As you will learn later in the Tense Consonants and Aspirated Consonants lessons, the letter also has 2 other variations.

ㄴ Front-Upper Palate Consonants
Pay attention to your tongue and say "no". Notice how your tongue touches the top of your mouth? The L-shape represents the tongue touching the upper palate of your mouth. The 5 letters in this group are based on an L shape: 3 are covered in this lesson and 2 more in later lessons.

Letter 1 - nieun (니은)

Sounds like: the "n" in nose.
Transliteration: n

nieun (니은)

Letter 2 - rieul (리을)

Sounds like: Pronounced somewhere between an R and an L.
Transliteration: r/l

rieul (리을)

Initial Consonant: More like a r
Final Consonant : More like an l (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

Letter 3 - digeut (디귿)

Sounds like: read below.
Transliteration: t/d

digeut (디귿)

Word Initial Pronunciation: t
Other Pronunciation: t or d (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

As you will learn later in the Tense Consonants and Aspirated Consonants lessons, the letter also has 2 other variations.

ㅅ Hissing Consonants
Pay attention to the hissing sound as you say "shoe". Notice how your tongue bends up and is near the teeth? The ㅅ-shape represents the tongue bending up above the teeth. The 5 letters in this group are based on an ㅅ-shape: 2 are covered in this lesson and 3 more in later lessons.

Letter 1 - siot (시옷)

Sounds like: read below.
Transliteration: s/sh

siot (시옷)

This letter is usually pronounced S, but after 5 specific vowels it sounds more like sh.
Before the 5 vowels ㅣ, ㅛ, ㅠ, ㅑ & ㅕ : Sh
Before any other Vowels: s (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

As you will learn later in the Tense Consonants lesson, the letter also has 1 other variation.

Letter 2 - jieut (지읒)

Sounds like: read below.
Transliteration: ch/j

jieut (지읒)

Word Initial Pronunciation: ch
Other Pronunciation: ch or j (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

As you will learn later in the Tense Consonants and Aspirated Consonants lessons, the letter also has 2 other variations.

ㄱ Rear-Upper Palate Consonants
Pay attention to your tongue as you say "cake". Notice how the back of your tongue bends up and hits the rear palate of your mouth? The ㄱ-shape represents your tongue bending up and hitting the roof of your mouth. The 3 letters in this group are based on a ㄱ-shape: 1 is covered in this lesson and 2 more in later lessons.

Letter 1 - giyeok (기역)

Sounds like: read below.
Transliteration: k/g

giyeok (기역)
Word Initial Pronunciation: k
Other Pronunciation: k or g (Covered in Basic Consonants Revisited)

As you will learn later in the Tense Consonants and Aspirated Consonants lessons, the letter also has 2 other variations.

ㅇ Open Lip Consonants
Pay attention to your lips as you say "Ha". Notice how the back of your tongue bends up and hits the rear palate of your mouth? The ㄱ-shape represents your tongue bending up and hitting the roof of your mouth.

So you have already met this consonant as The placeholder consonant at the beginning of a syllable.

Letter 1 - ieung (이응)

Sounds like: the "ng" in song.
Transliteration: ng

ieung (이응)


Letter 2 - hieut (히읗)

Sounds like: the "h" in hope.
Transliteration: h

hieut (히읗)