애 or 에? When do we know which one to use?

A very common question from people when they first start learning Korean is which to use, ㅔ or ㅐ, ’cause as I say in the videos, they both sound virtually the same.

The answer to this is that it is virtually the same as learning how to spell in any language, which basically just requires experience and practice. For most words in Korean, they can generally just be sounded out and spelled phonetically, but in this case, because it’s going to be more difficult to hear the difference, you more or less just have to remember the spelling, more specifically which words use ㅔ and which use ㅐ.

I wish I had a “magic pill”-like answer that would make it much easier, but unfortunately I don’t. The bright side of it is though, is that there are not so many cases of this sort of thing in Korean. However, a few other cases that are like this are…

When to use ㅗ and ㅓ. For a lot of words, it can be easy to tell the difference, but there are still a significant number of words which are more difficult. I remember when I first started learning Korean and I tried to spell the word “where”. I wrote 오디 (’cause that’s what it sounded like to me) and my boss at the time just laughed and corrected it to 어디. That’s how I learned that word, and I never forgot it.

Another case: when to use ㅚ, ㅙ, or any of the other ones that look and sound like these. The same thing applies (just experience and practice), but I will say this, that those two are definitely the most common and if you were going to just pick one, pick one of those two, not the others.

Hope that helps. Happy learning, and I’ll speak to you soon!