Last modified on 30 September 2014, at 08:11

Korean/Verbs

Learn Korean (Introduction)Reading and writing
Conversation1단계: Beginner2단계: High beginner3단계: Low intermediate4단계: High intermediate5단계: Low advanced6단계: Advanced

Grammar: Sentence word orderVerbsNounsParticlesPersonal pronounsDemonstrative pronounsAdjectivesDeterminersConjunctionsComparatives & superlativesForming questionsForming commandsForming dates & times

IntroductionEdit

Most Korean dictionaries list verbs (동사) in a form that ends in 다(da):

Verb stemsEdit

Similar to English verbs, Korean verbs change their endings and take auxiliary words to fit the tense (when an action occurs) and mood (statements vs. commands vs. questions) of the situation. However, Korean verbs also change form to express honorifics and speech levels in order to reflect the social relationships between the speaker, the subject, and the audience. The speech level listed in most books (including dictionaries) is called 해라체. It is formal but of low to neutral politeness. The 해라체 speech level is sometimes used by close friends, relatives of similar age, and young people. As shown above, the indicative forms of verbs in the 해라체 speech level end in . The part of the word preceding 다 is called the "verb stem".

ExerciseEdit

Identify the verb stem of the following verbs:

Korean: 하다

Stem: 하

Korean: 마시다

Stem: 마시

Korean: 먹다

Stem: 먹

Korean: 가다

Stem: 가

HonorificsEdit

Korean grammar expresses the relationship between the speaker, the subject, and the listener by using honorifics and speech levels in conjugation and word choice. Honorifics express the speaker's relationship and politeness or social humility toward the subject of the sentence, and speech levels to express these to the audience. When talking about someone of superior status, one must indicate their superiority by using special honorific affixes. Generally, someone is considered superior in status if he or she is an older relative, a stranger of roughly equal or greater age, an employer, a teacher, a customer, or the like. Someone is looked upon as equal or inferior in status if he or she is a younger stranger, a student, an employee or the like.

Note: If the subject is considered inferior to the listener, the honorific should not be used, as the misuse of honorifics or the use of inappropriate speech levels is likely to be considered insulting, or hilariously disrespectful.

A few Korean verbs have special honorific equivalents, but most can be converted into an honorific form by adding an honorific affix after the stem and before the ending.

If the verb stem ends in a vowel, add ,

but if it ends in a consonant, add 으시.

Thus, the honorific form of 가다 ("to go") is 가시다 and the honorific form of 걷다 ("to walk") is 걸으시다.

ExerciseEdit

Write the honorific form of the following verbs:

Korean: 먹다 (hint: the stem ends in a consonant)

먹으시다

Korean: 가다

가시다

Korean: 작다

작으시다

Formal polite speech levelEdit

Since the 해라체 speech level is not polite enough for many of the initial encounters you might have speaking Korean, we will first learn a polite speech level instead. 합쇼체 is the formal, polite speech level in Korean. It is used commonly between strangers, among male co-workers, by TV announcers, and to customers.

To create statements (that is, to use the indicative mood of verbs) in the 합쇼체 form,

⋅Add the honorific affix 시 or 으시 if applicable. ⋅Then add ㅂ니다 if the result ends in a vowel or 습니다 if it ends in a consonant. E.g.:

Verb Stem Subject Add polite ending Complete 합쇼체 form
Verb Stems ending in vowels
가다 (Non-honorific) 가 ㅂ니다 갑니다
가다 (Honorific) 시 가시 ㅂ니다 가십니다
Verb Stems ending in consonants
읽다 (Non-honorific) 읽 습니다 읽습니다
읽다 (Honorific) 으시 읽으시 ㅂ니다 읽으십니다

ExerciseEdit

In this exercise, you are talking with a stranger about various subjects. Determine correct 합쇼체 form for the following verbs based on the given subject:

(an older stranger) goes: 가다

(honorific) 가십니다

(my employee) types: 타이프하다

(non-honorific) 타이프합니다

(my employer) knows: 알다

(honorific) 아십니다

(a younger stranger) buys: 사다

(non-honorific) 삽니다

(a stranger my own age) calls: 전화하다

(honorific) 전화하십니다

(my older uncle) speaks: 말하다

(honorific) 말하십니다 (Most koreans use the verb "말씀하다" when they talk to an old person. Therefore, "말씀하십니다" is a better answer.)

(my teacher) teaches: 가르치다

(honorific) 가르치십니다

Informal polite speech levelEdit

When people of similar age or social standing converse, they often use the informal polite speech level, called 해요체. 해요체 is appropriately polite for most of the situations you will typically encounter, so it is the next form to learn.

To create the 해요체 form of Korean verbs, do the following:

  1. Take the stem.
  2. Add the honorific 시 or 으시 if applicable.
  3. If the last letter is ㅂ, change it to 우.
  4. If the result ends in a vowel followed by 르, insert an extra ㄹ, making the end ㄹ르.
  5. If the last vowel is now ㅡ, change it to ㅏ if the next-to-last vowel is ㅗ or ㅏ. Otherwise, change ㅡ to ㅓ.
  6. If the last vowel is now ㅗ or ㅏ, add ㅏ요.
  7. If the last character is 하, add ㅕ요.
  8. For others, add ㅓ요.

Korean spelling rules make the above rules seem just a bit more complicated in practice:

  • If the result ends in ㅏㅏ요, that collapses to ㅏ요.
  • If the result ends in ㅗㅏ요, that collapses to ㅘ요.
  • If the result ends in ㅜㅓ요, that collapses to ㅝ요.
  • If the result ends in 시ㅓ요, that collapses to 세요.
  • If the result ends in ㅣㅓ요, that collapses to ㅕ요.
  • If the result ends in 하ㅕ요, that collapses to 해요.

The usual spelling rules also apply, so an ㅏ without an initial consonant is written as 아 and an ㅓ without an initial consonant is written as 어.

Verb Stem Subject Rules 3-6 above Complete 해요체 form
가다: (Non-honorific) 가ㅏ요 가요
가다: (Honorific) 시 가시ㅓ요 가세요
오다: (Non-honorific) 오ㅏ요 와요
어렵다[1] 어렵 (Non-honorific) 어려우ㅓ요 어려워요
덥다:[1] (Non-honorific) 더우ㅓ요 더워요
하다: (Honorific) 시 하시ㅓ요 하세요
가르치다 가르치 (Non-honorific) 가르치ㅓ요 가르쳐요
읽다: (Honorific) 으시 읽으시ㅓ요 읽으세요
읽다: (Non-honorific) 읽ㅓ요 읽어요
모르다 모르 (Non-honorific) 몰라ㅏ요 몰라요
쓰다 (Non-honorific) 써ㅓ요 써요

ExerciseEdit

In this exercise, you are talking with a friend about various subjects. Determine correct 해요체 form for the following verbs in both honorific and non-honorific forms:

Korean: 주다

(honorific)주세요
(non-honorific)줘요

Korean: 갖다

(honorific)갖으세요
(non-honorific)가져요

Korean: 사랑하다

(honorific)사랑하세요
(non-honorific)사랑해요

Korean: 마시다

(honorific)마시세요
(non-honorific)마셔요

Korean: 없다

(honorific)없으세요
(non-honorific)없어요

Casual speech levelEdit

When close friends and relatives talk with each other, they may use a very casual speech level called 해체. Be careful not to use this 해체 with someone with whom you are not very close, as it can be considered offensive.

Since you already know the 해요체 form, creating the casual 해체 form of Korean verbs is easy, just take the 요 off of the end of the 해요체 form:

Verb 해요체 form 해체 form
가다: 가요
오다: 와요
덥다: 더워요 더워
모르다 몰라요 몰라

ExerciseEdit

In this exercise, you are talking with a close friend. Determine correct 해체 form for the following verbs:

Korean: 주다

Korean: 갖다

가져

Korean: 사랑하다

사랑해

Korean: 마시다

마셔

Korean: 없다

없어

TenseEdit

Korean verbs can be conjugated into several different tenses to indicate the time when an event occurs.

Past tenseEdit

The past tense of a Korean verb is formed as follows:

  1. Take the verb stem.
  2. Add the honorific suffix (시 or 으시) if applicable.
  3. Add one of the following:
    • If the word now ends in 하, add 였. Note: 하였 often is contracted as 했.
    • Otherwise, if the preceding vowel of the verb stem is ㅏ or ㅗ, add 았.
    • Otherwise, add 었.
  4. Add the ending for the appropriate speech level.
Korean: 하다

Informal polite speech level:
(honorific)하셨어요
(non-honorific)했어요

Korean: 가다

Informal polite speech level:
(honorific)가셨어요
(non-honorific)갔어요

Korean: 읽다

Informal polite speech level:
(honorific)읽으셨어요
(non-honorific)읽었어요

Future tenseEdit

The future tense of a Korean verb is formed as follows:

  1. Take the verb stem.
  2. Add the honorific suffix (시 or 으시) if applicable.
  3. Add the suffix 겠.
  4. Add the ending for the appropriate speech level.

Other tensesEdit

Korean also has a remote past tense, used to indicate that an event occurred long ago, a past future tense, and a (rarely-used) remote past future tense. To form the remote past tense, first form the past tense, then add an extra 었 before the ending for the appropriate speech level.

Copula and existence verbEdit

이다 and 있다: Two Korean words conjugate similar to verbs and are often translated as verbs but are not considered verbs in Korean grammar: 이다 (the copula, often translated as "to be") and 있다 (the existence particle, often translated as "to exist").

Learn Korean (Introduction)Reading and writing
Conversation1단계: Beginner2단계: High beginner3단계: Low intermediate4단계: High intermediate5단계: Low advanced6단계: Advanced

Grammar: Sentence word orderVerbsNounsParticlesPersonal pronounsDemonstrative pronounsAdjectivesDeterminersConjunctionsComparatives & superlativesForming questionsForming commandsForming dates & times

ReferenceEdit

  1. a b This term is adjective because this word indicates status. but it can be used in "해요체" form.