Beginner 1> Lesson 14
Lesson 14. Plural Marker/Suffix 들
들 has three grammatical usages :
★1) particle attached after a noun to make it plural
★2) suffix attached after an adverb or the whole sentence to indicate the omitted subject is plural
3) dependent noun (this one’s rather an advanced grammar and isn’t very commonly used in spoken form, so we’ll skip this for now.)
In this lesson, we are mostly focusing on 들 as a particle, plural marker, and will briefly cover its usage as a suffix.
1. 들 as a Particle : Plural Marker
Absolutely correct usage of the Plural marker “들” is still being debated among native Korean linguists. Therefore, I find it unnecessary for learners to study the 100% correct grammatical details (as it’s hard to tell even for native speakers), and focus more on how it’s commonly used by the general public.
To make a noun plural in Korean, you can simply attach 들 after the noun that is considered countable.
아이(child) > 아이들 (children)
사람(person) > 사람들 (people)
동물(animal) > 동물들 (animals)
손님(customer, guest) > 손님들(customers, guests)
질문(question) > 질문들 (questions)
단어(word) > 단어들(words)
친구(friend) > 친구들(friends)
날(day) > 날들 (days)
새(bird) > 새들 (birds)
책(book) > 책(books)
차(car) > 차들(cars)
However, when you are specifying there are more than one person/thing/animal with the corresponding counter, it’s not necessary to mark the noun with 들, as it already implies the noun is plural. That doesn’t mean it’s unacceptable to use 들 when the counter is plural. Some people still use it together, but it’s more common (and convenient!) to omit 들 in the presence of plural counters.
고양이 다섯 마리 five cats (=다섯 마리의 고양이)
손님 네 분 four customers [분: honorific of 명] (=네 분의 손님)
아이들* 네 명 four children (=네 명의 아이들)
*we more commonly use 아이들 than 아이, even with plural counters.
책 여섯 권 six books (=여섯 권의 책)
차 두 대 two cars (=두 대의 차)
언어 여섯 개 six lanugages (=여섯 개의 언어)
친구 열 명 ten friends (=열 명의 친구)
You can also omit 들 when it implies there are “many” of the noun.
In this case, the most commonly used word and its variations would be
많다[adj] : to be many
많이[adv]: a lot
or 몇 명/마리/개/etc (some, a few)
공원에 사람이 많아요. There are many people in the park. (No need to say 사람들, although that wouldn’t be completely incorrect.)
많은 질문을 받았어요. I got a lot of questions. (No need to say 질문들, although that wouldn’t be completely incorrect.)
사과를 많이 먹었어요. I had a lot of apples. (No need to say 사과들, although that wouldn’t be completely incorrect.)
고양이 몇 마리가 길거리에서 울고 있어요. A few cats are crying on the street. (No need to say 고양이들, although that wouldn’t be completely incorrect.)
과자 몇 조각을 먹었더니 배가 불러요. After having a few pieces of snacks, I’m full. (No need to say 과자들 – actually 과자 is considered uncountable noun, so saying 과자들 sounds unnatural anyways.)
2. 들 as a Suffix
When 들 is used as a suffix, it can be attached after an adverb or even the whole sentence to indicate that the subject of that sentence is plural. Thus, it is often used in a sentence where the subject is omitted.
일찍들 주무세요! (You guys) Sleep early!
늦지 마세요들. (You guys) Don’t be late!
아주 열심히들 공부하네. They (My students/Children/Friends or whomever you’re observing) are studying very hard.
왜 이렇게들 난리야? (You people) Why the fuss like this?
축제에 사람이 많이들 왔네요*. A lot of people have come to the festival.
*In this sentence, the subject (사람) isn’t omitted, but 들 can still be used as a suffix to emphasize that there are a lot of people/things.
You will hear Korean people use 들 this way quite commonly in spoken form.