The Sound Change of ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and ㅈ depending on the Location

The Sound Change of ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and ㅈ depending on the Location


As I have been taught Korean language, I noticed that non-native Korean speakers seem to be confused with the sounds of the four Korean consonants, ㄱ[g/k], ㄷ[d/t], ㅂ[b/p] and ㅈ[j/ch] in Hangeul (Hangul). Specifically, in my teaching experience, I have often seen many spelling mistakes by beginner-level students. The majority of students struggle with the consonant sound change depending on the location.

For example, they say “가다” is heard as [kada] not [gada].


Yes, they are right!


In fact, when ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and are the initial consonant of a syllable, they become aspirated such as [k], [t], [p], and [ch]. To pronounce aspirated sounds, speakers should puff the air out of their mouth heavily. That’s why 가다 seems to be heard as [카다].

For your Korean listening skills, just keep in mind one thing!

Initial consonants of words are usually pronounced as voiceless and aspirated sounds. In other words, , , and sound like [k], [t], [p], and [ch] when they are located at the beginning of a word. In other cases, , , and are pronounced as [g], [d], [b], and [j].


1. ㄱ sound [g/k]

가다 [kada] to go

가구 [kagu] furniture

누구 [nugu] who

2. ㄷ sound [d/t]

도로 [toro] road

모두 [modu] all

3. ㅂ sound [b/p]

바다 [pada] sea

준비 [chunbi] preparation

4. ㅈ sound [j/ch]

자연 [chayeon] nature

자유 [chayu] freedom

남자 [namja] man


As you know, sound recognition and pronunciation of foreign languages are definitely affected by their mother tongue. If you are familiar with this simple rule above, it would definitely help improve your listening and speaking skills as well as your proper pronunciation.


Reference :

  1. Taylor I, Taylor M. Writing And Literacy In Chinese, Korean, And Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.; 1995.
  2. Shin J, Kiaer J, Cha J. The Sounds Of Korean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2012.
  3. Korean/Essential Pronunciation Rules – Wikibooks, open books for an open world. 2015. Available at: Accessed December 16, 2015.