Just like other alphabets, the Korean alphabet is made up of vowels and consonants. Although many Korean vowels sound similar to English vowels, there are also many unique vowel sounds in Korean. And so, it is important to learn Korean vowels and how to pronounce them properly. In this post, you will learn all about Korean vowels, some useful tips on how to pronounce Korean vowels, and we will answer some frequently asked questions about these important Korean letters.
How Many Korean Vowels Are There?
In the Korean alphabet, there are 10 basic vowels and 11 combined vowels (sometimes referred to as double vowels or complex vowels).
What Are The 10 Basic Korean Vowels?
The 10 basic Korean vowels are ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ, ㅣ. In the table below, you’ll find a list of Korean basic vowels in Hangeul together with English romanization.
|Basic Korean Vowel||Romanized|
What Are The 11 Combined Korean Vowels?
The 11 combined Korean vowels are ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅔ, ㅖ, ㅘ, ㅙ, ㅚ, ㅝ, ㅞ, ㅟ, and ㅢ. These combined vowels are made up of two simple vowels. See the table below to learn what simple vowels these combined vowels are made from.
|Combined Vowel||Made From||Romanized|
|ㅐ||ㅏ + ㅣ||[ae]|
|ㅒ||ㅑ + ㅣ||[yae]|
|ㅔ||ㅓ + ㅣ||[e]|
|ㅖ||ㅕ + ㅣ||[ye]|
|ㅘ||ㅗ + ㅏ||[wa]|
|ㅙ||ㅗ + ㅐ||[wae]|
|ㅚ||ㅗ + ㅣ||[oe]|
|ㅝ||ㅜ + ㅓ||[weo]|
|ㅞ||ㅜ + ㅔ||[we]|
|ㅟ||ㅜ + ㅣ||[wi]|
|ㅢ||ㅡ + ㅣ||[ui]|
What Are The Names Of The Korean Vowels?
In English, vowels and consonants have specific names that are different from the sounds they make. In Korean, only consonants have specific names. The names of Korean vowels are the same as the sounds they make. So, for example, the name of the vowel ㅏ is ‘a‘, and the name of the vowel ㅘ is ‘wa‘ because these are the sounds they make.
How To Pronounce Korean Vowels
Next, let’s look at how to pronounce Korean vowels. Below you’ll find detailed instructions on how to pronounce each of the simple vowels and combined vowels. You can also click on the audio button next to each vowel to hear a native Korean speaker pronounce each vowel sound.
Simple Korean Vowels
|Korean Vowel||How To Pronounce||Listen|
|ㅏ||ㅏ is pronounced like the a in apple.|
|ㅑ||ㅑ is pronounced like ‘ya‘. This is the above vowel ㅏ with a y sound added.|
|ㅓ||ㅓis pronounced like the short o vowel sound in the words pod, mop, job, etc.|
|ㅕ||ㅕis pronounced like ‘yeo‘. This is the above vowel ㅓ with a y sound added.|
|ㅗ||ㅗ is pronounced like the long o vowel sound in the words bone, stone, coat, etc.|
|ㅛ||ㅛ is pronounced like the ‘yo‘ in yo-yo. This is the above vowel ㅗ with a y sound added.|
|ㅜ||ㅜ is pronounced like the long u sound in the words mule, tune, blue, etc.|
|ㅠ||ㅠ is pronounced like ‘yu‘. This is the above vowel ㅜ with a y sound added.|
|ㅡ||ㅡ is pronounced similar to the short u vowel sound in the words umbrella, put, mud, etc. However, this sound is a little different and requires a unique mouth position.|
|ㅣ||ㅣis pronounced like the long ee sound in the words meet, feet, tree, etc.|
Combined Korean Vowels
|Korean Vowel||How To Pronounce||Listen|
|ㅐ||ㅐis pronounced like the e in elephant and egg.|
|ㅒ||ㅒis pronounced like the ye in yesterday and yes.|
|ㅔ||ㅔis pronounced like the e in elephant and egg.|
|ㅖ||ㅖis pronounced like the ye in yesterday and yes.|
|ㅘ||ㅘ is pronounced ‘wa’. To say this vowel, begin by making the ㅗ sound and then quickly say the ㅏ sound. The resulting sound is ㅘ (wa).|
|ㅙ||ㅙ is pronounced like the we in wedding.|
|ㅚ||ㅚ is pronounced like the we in wedding.|
|ㅝ||ㅝ is pronounced like the wa in walk.|
|ㅞ||ㅞ is pronounced like the we in wedding.|
|ㅟ||ㅟ is pronounced like the we in week.|
|ㅢ||ㅢ is pronounced ui. To make this sound, start by making the ㅡ vowel sound and then quickly make the ㅣ vowel sound. The resulting sound is ㅢ.|
Must Know Info About Korean Vowels
Learning Korean vowels is relatively simple, but there are a few things that learners often have difficulty with. So, here is some useful information about Korean vowels and how to pronounce them.
ㅙ , ㅚ, ㅞ All Sound The Same
Korean learners often have difficulty distinguishing between the vowels ㅙ , ㅚ, and ㅞ. In fact, Korean native speakers also find it hard to tell the difference. Essentially, ㅙ , ㅚ, and ㅞ all sound like the ‘we‘ in wedding.
ㅐ and ㅔ Essentially Sound The Same
Just like the above vowels, ㅐ and ㅔ essentially sound the same. Although ㅐ and ㅔ are different sounds in theory, people pronounce them the same, and even native Korean speakers often cannot differentiate between the two.
ㅡ and ㅢ Are Difficult To Pronounce
Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce ㅡ and ㅢ perfectly the first time. These vowels are rather difficult to pronounce for English speakers because this vowel sound doesn’t exist in English. For tips on how to pronounce ㅡ and ㅢ, check out this lesson from Korean Arah.
You Can’t Start A Syllable With A Vowel
Although you can start a word or syllable with a vowel sound, when writing Korean, a word/syllable cannot start with a vowel. For this reason, you must use the silent consonant ㅇ before the vowel if a word or syllable starts with a vowel sound. For example, ‘why’ in Korean is 왜 [wae]. As you can see, this word starts with the silent consonant ㅇ followed by the combined vowel ㅙ.
Best Way To Learn Combined Vowels
Combined Korean vowels can be challenging for beginner Korean learners, but if you follow this simple tip, you’ll be able to pronounce combined vowels in no time.
To pronounce any combined vowel, start by shaping your mouth as if you are going to pronounce the first simple vowel in the combined vowel. Then, start to make that sound but quickly change to make the second simple vowel sound.
For example, the combined vowel ㅘ is made up of ㅗ and ㅏ. So, to pronounce ㅘ you should shape your mouth as if you are going to make the ㅗ [o] sound, start to make that sound, and then quickly make the ㅏ [a] sound. The result is ㅘ [wa]. This technique can be used with all the combined vowels and is an easy way to figure out how to pronounce them.
What To Learn Next
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide to Korean vowels useful. If you are still learning how to read Hangeul, then check out our complete guide to How To Read The Korean Alphabet. If you’re ready for the next step, then get started with our free online Korean Language Course.