-로 / -으로 – “via”, “toward”, or “into”

I tried to sum up the 3 main definitions of this grammatical principle in the title, but it really can’t be done. Just ignore the title, and let’s pull this thing apart. But first:

How to attach it:

When attaching this particle to a word that ends in a consonant, use 으로.

When attaching this particle to a word that ends in a vowel, use 로.

We’ll look at examples further down.


What it means:

There are actually three things that -(으)로 can mean. You will know which it is through…… context. Always and forever.

Meaning 1: “via, using, with”

This usage will not always be translated to the same English word, but you’ll find that its meaning is more or less the same. Let’s see some English sentence examples.

  1. “I made this out of play-doh.” In Korean, we would attach -(으)로 to “play-doh”. In other words -(으)로 means “out of” or “using” the thing it’s attached to.
  2. “I built this house with my own hands.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “hands”. In other words -(으)로 means “using” or “via” the thing it’s attached to. Not so different from the example above, is it? But obviously no one builds a house out of hands, so we know that this is the more suitable definition of -(으)로.
  3. “They’re singing in Korean.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “Korean”. In other words -(으)로 means “using” or “via” the language it’s attached to. I would say this definition is identical to the first one, but for some reason we use a different word in English.
  4. “I had ramen for supper.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “supper”. This one seems a little different, and maybe it is, but it’s not so hard to understand.
  5. “This restaurant is famous for its garlic bread.” ~ Here we’d attach -(으로) to garlic bread. If you think about it, “This restaurant is famous via its garlic bread”, while not being a natural English sentence, makes sense. So this meaning isn’t really different either.

Meaning 2: “toward”, “to”, or “into”

“He walked toward the stage.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “stage”.

“I want to go back to the time when I was a teenager.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “time”, because that’s what we want to go to.

“Her words went right into my heart.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “heart”.

You’ll sometimes see this use of -(으)로 combined with -에게 (-에게로) with no change in meaning. -에게 also means “to X”.

Meaning 3: “into” or “as”

“I was born as a butcher’s son.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “son”.

“I suddenly turned into a goat.” Here we’d attach -(으)로 to “goat’.

All clear? Perfect. Let’s look at lots and lots of examples.

Examples:

Dionysus
K-pop 아이돌 태어나 다시 환생한 artist. ~ “Born as a K-pop idol. reincarnated as an artist.”
Original noun: 아이돌 – idol

Also Dionysus
아이비와 거친 나무mic ~ “The mic made of ivy and coarse wood”
Original noun: 나무 – wood, tree

Boy With Luv
그때 니가 내게 줬던 두 날개 ~ “[flying] with the two wings you gave me back then.”
Original noun: 날개 – a wing

Also Boy With Luv
태양이 아닌 너에게로 ~ “not toward the sun, but toward you.”
Original noun: 너 – you

Make It Right
되돌아가자 그때 ~ “Let’s go back to that time.”
Original noun: 그때 – that time, back then

Outro: Ego
7년의 걱정이 드디어 입 밖으로 ~ “7 years of worry, finally out of my mouth.”
Original noun: 밖 – the outside of something (So the literal translation would be “towards the outside of my mouth.”)

Mikrokosmos
70억 개의 빛으로 빛나는… ~ “Shining with the light of 7 billion people”
Original noun: 빛 – light

Trivia: Love
넌 나의 기억을 추억으로 바꿀 사람. 사람을 사랑으로 만들 사람 ~ “You are the person who turns my mundane memories into cherished ones”
Original nouns: 추억 – memory & 사랑 – love

Best of Me
너의 언어 말을 하고 ~ “I’m speaking your language.”
Original noun: 언어 – language


One final note:

There is a separate grammatical principle -대로 that, as you can see, looks similar to this one. We’ll study that in a separate lesson.