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 버스로 “by bus”) or the consonant ㄹ (as in 신발로 “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.
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.”
- 펜으로 사인하세요. “Please sign with a pen.”
- 학교에 버스로 가요. “(I) go to school by bus.”
- 공항에 택시로 가세요. “Go to the airport by taxi.”
- 와인은 포도로 만들어요. “As for wine, (one) makes it with grape.”
- 김치는 배추로 만들어요. “As for Kimchi, (one) makes it with cabbage.”
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:
- 어디에 가세요? “Where (do) (you) go?”
- 어디로 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.”
- 앞으로 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.”
Third, the particle indicates that the preceding noun is a selection from several options. For instance, consider the following sentences.
- Salesmane: 무슨 사이즈로 드릴까요? “In what side shall (I) give (it to you)?”
- Customer: 스몰로 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: 디저트는 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 케이크로 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 회사로 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.
Fifth, the particle indicates “the reason.” Consider the following examples.
- 우리는 학교 야구 팀의 승리로 기뻐했어요. “As for us, (we) rejoiced because of the school baseball team’s victory.”
- 차 사고로 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 피라미드로 유명해요. “Egypt is well known because of the Pyramids.”
This post is a part of “Basic Korean: A grammar and workbook”, Andrew Sangpil Byon.