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Case particle/marker ‘-(으)로’

The case particle -(으)로 is a two-form particle: 으로 appears after a noun that ends in a consonant (as in 책으로 “by books”); 로 appears after a noun that ends in a vowel (as in 버스 “by bus”) or the consonant ㄹ (as in 신발 “by shoes”). Largely, the particle -(으)로 can express the following five meanings: (1) means, (2) direction, (3) selection, (4) the change of state, and (5) reason.

Means

First, the particle -(으)로 indicates that the noun it attaches to is a tool or an instrument. It is translated in English as “by means of” or “with.”

  • 으로 사인하세요. “Please sign with a pen.”
  • 학교에 버스 가요. “(I) go to school by bus.”
  • 공항에 택시 가세요. “Go to the airport by taxi.”
  • 와인은 포도 만들어요. “As for wine, (one) makes it with grape.”
  • 김치는 배추 만들어요. “As for Kimchi, (one) makes it with cabbage.”

Direction

Second, the particle indicates the direction “to” or “toward.” In the previous section however, it was noted that the direction (e.g., destination) can be marked by the case particle 에. The difference between 에 and (으)로 is that while 에 indicates a specific location or destination, (으)로 indicates a more general direction of the target location, as in the following sentences:

  • 어디 가세요? “Where (do) (you) go?”
  • 어디 가세요? “In what direction, (do) (you) go?”

Here are some more examples:

  • 왼쪽으로 가세요. “Go toward the left side.”
  • 소파는 TV쪽으로 움직여 주세요. “Please move the sofa toward the TV side.”
  • 으로 달리세요. “Run toward the front.”
  • 학교 쪽으로 오세요. “Come in the direction of the school.”
  • 커피숍 쪽으로 나가세요. “Go out in the direction of the coffee shop.”

Selection

Third, the particle indicates that the preceding noun is a selection from several options. For instance, consider the following sentences.

  • Salesmane: 무슨 사이즈 드릴까요? “In what side shall (I) give (it to you)?”
  • Customer: 스몰 주세요. “Give (me) the small.”

Notice that by using 으로, the salesman implies that there are more than one size. Here are some more examples:

  • Server: 디저트 뭘로 하시겠어요? “As for desert, what would (you) like?”
  • Customer 1: 저는 바닐라 아이스크림으로 주세요. “As for me, give (me) the vanilla ice cream.”
  • Customer 2: 저는 치즈 케이크 주세요. “As for me, give (me) the cheese cake.”

The change of state

Fourth, the particle indicates “the change of state.” For instance, consider the following sentences:

  • 피터가 회장으로 선출됐다. “Peter was elected as the president.”
  • 삼성이 큰 회사 성장했다. “Samsung grew up into a big company.”
  • 물이 얼음으로 변했다. “Water changed into ice.”

Notice that in the examples above, the particle (으)로 marks the result of the change.

Reason

Fifth, the particle indicates “the reason.” Consider the following examples.

  • 우리는 학교 야구 팀의 승리 기뻐했어요. “As for us, (we) rejoiced because of the school baseball team’s victory.”
  • 차 사고 다리를 다쳤어요. “(I) got hurt in the leg due to the car accident.”
  • 서울이 1988 올림픽으로 유명해졌어요. “Seoul became well known due to the 1988 Olympics.”
  • 이집트가 피라미드 유명해요. “Egypt is well known because of the Pyramids.”

This post is a part of “Basic Korean: A grammar and workbook”, Andrew Sangpil Byon.

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