Verb conjugation is one of the most important, and at times one of the trickiest things to learn. Every language has its own unique rules in how verbs are conjugated, and Korean is no different.
In this article, we will take you through an in-depth look at Korean verb conjugation, and we will show you how to make verbs and adjectives into past tense, present tense, and future tense. Let’s first take a look at what Korean verbs and adjectives look like.
Korean verbs and adjectives
One of the unique aspects of Korean language is that adjectives function like verbs. This means that they take up the same position as verbs in the sentence, and we can conjugate adjectives into past, present, and future tense.
The other important aspect of Korean verbs and adjectives is the infinitive form. The infinitive form (often called the dictionary form) of Korean verbs and adjectives are made up of the stem and 다.
Structure of Korean verbs and adjectives
|to be delicious||맛있다||맛있||다|
And the way we conjugate verbs and adjectives into different tenses is by adding different endings to the stems. However, how we add different endings depends on whether the stem ends in a final consonant (받침) and what kind of verbs are used in the final syllable of the stem.
Korean present tense - ~아요/어요/여요
We can make verbs and adjectives into present tense by adding ~아요/어요/여요. The speech level of ~아요/어요/여요 is informal polite, so the conjugated verbs and adjectives are polite forms and they can be used in everyday situations, such as when we speak to people in shops and when you’re speaking to strangers on the street.
How we add ~아요/어요/여요 to verbs and adjectives depends on what kind of vowel the stem ends in. If the stem ends in the vowels ㅗ or ㅏ, we add ~아요, but if the stem doesn’t end in the vowels ㅗ or ㅏ, we add ~어요. We only add 여요 to verbs and adjectives that end in 하다
|Stem ends in ㅗ or ㅏ||~아요|
|Stem doesn’t end in ㅗ or ㅏ||~어요|
|Verb or adjective ends in 하다||~여요|
How to add ~아요
There are three patterns of adding ~아요 to verbs and adjectives.
- ~아요 Pattern 1
If the stem ends in the vowels ㅗ or ㅏ with a final consonant, we add ~아요 to the stem.
~아요 Pattern 1
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~아요|
|to be good||좋다||좋아요|
|to be small||작다||작아요|
- ~어요 Pattern 2
If the stem ends in the vowel ㅜ without a final consonant, we add ~어요 to the stem. However, in everyday speech, we use the contracted forms.
~어요 Pattern 2
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~어요||Contraction|
- ~어요 Pattern 3
If the stem ends in the vowel l without a final consonant, we add ~어요 to the stem. However, in everyday speech, we use the contracted forms.
~어요 Pattern 3
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~아요||Contraction|
How to add ~여요
We add 여요 to verbs and adjectives that end in 하다, and in everyday speech, we use the contracted forms.
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~여요||Contraction|
|to be happy||행복하다||행복하여요||행복해요|
Here are some example sentences that use some of the verbs that combine with 어요 & 여요.
- 저는 점심을 먹어요. (Jeo-neun jeom-shim-eul meo-geo-yo.) - I eat lunch.
- 아빠가 돈을 줘요. (A-ppa-ga don-eul -jwo-yo.) - Dad gives money.
- 저는 커피를 마셔요 (Jeo-neun keo-pi-reul ma-shyeo-yo.) - I drink coffee.
- 민수는 일해요. (Minsu-neun il-hae-yo.) - Minsu works.
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Korean past tense - 았어요/었어요/였어요
We can conjugate verbs and adjectives into past tense by adding 았어요/었어요/였어요, and the way we add these endings is the same as 아요/어요/여요.
|Stem ends in ㅗ or ㅏ||~았어요|
|Stem doesn’t end in ㅗ or ㅏ||~었어요|
|Verb or adjective ends in 하다||~였어요|
How to add ~았어요
We d ~았어요 in the same way as ~아요, and for certain verbs, we use the contracted form in everyday speech.
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~았어요||Contraction|
|to be good||좋다||좋았어요||-|
How to add ~였어요
We add ~였어요 to verbs and adjectives that end in 하다, and we use the contracted form in everyday speech.
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~여요||Contraction|
|to be happy||행복하다||행복하였어요||행복했어요|
Here are some example sentences that use the verbs in the past tense.
- 어제 날씨가 좋았어요. (Eo-je nal-ssi-ga jo-a-sseo-yo.) - The weather was good yesterday.
- 저는 주말에 영화를 봤어요. (Jeo-neun ju-mal-e yeong-hwa-reul bwa-sseo-yo.) - I watched a movie at the weekend.
- 민수는 토요일에 부산에 갔어요. (Minsu-neun to-yo-il-e Busan-e ga-sseo-yo.) - Minsu went to Busan on Saturday.
- 저는 비빔밥을 먹었어요. (Jeo-neun bi-bim-bap-eul meo-geo-sseo-yo.) - I ate bibimbap.
- 아이들이 싸웠어요. (A-i-deul-i ssa-wo-sseo-yo.) - The children fought.
- 진수는 야구를 좋아했어요. (Jinsu-neun ya-gu-reul jo-a-hae-sseo-yo.) - Jinsu liked baseball.
Korean future tense - ~(으)ㄹ 거예요
There are many different verb endings to talk about future events, but the most common form is (으)ㄹ 거예요. This is similar to ‘will’ or ‘be going to’, and we use (으)ㄹ 거예요 to talk about our future intentions.
Adding (으)ㄹ 거예요 is much simpler than the past and present tense, and in general, there are two ways of adding (으)ㄹ 거예요. If the stem ends in a final consonant, we add 을 거예요 to the stem, but if the stem doesn’t end in a final consonant, we add ㄹ 거예요 to the stem.
How to add ~(으)ㄹ 거예요
|Stem ends in a final consonant||~을 거예요|
|Stem doesn’t end in a final consonant||~ㄹ 거예요|
How to add ~을 거예요
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~을 거예요|
|to eat||먹다||먹을 거예요|
|to be late||늦다||늦을 거예요|
|to read||읽다||읽을 거예요|
|to be good||좋다||좋을 거예요|
When we add ㄹ 거예요 to the stem, ㄹ combines with the final syllable of the stem and becomes its final consonant.
How to add ~ㄹ 거예요
|Meaning||Verb||Stem + ~ㄹ 거예요|
|to go||가다||갈 거예요|
|to give||주다||줄 거예요|
|to drink||마시다||마실 거예요|
|to meet||만나다||만날 거예요|
Here are some example sentences that use the verbs in the future tense.
- 저는 오늘 좀 늦을 거예요. (Jeo-neun o-neul jom neu-jeul-geo-ye-yo.) - I will be a little late today.
- 저는 이 책을 읽을 거예요. (Jeo-neun i-chae-geul il-geul-geo-ye-yo.) - I’m going to read this book.
- 수지는 내일 미국에 갈 거예요. (Suji-neun nae-il mi-gu-ge gal-geo-ye-yo.) - Suji will go to the USA tomorrow.
- 저는 민수를 만날 거예요. (Jeo-neun Minsu-reul man-nal-geo-ye-yo.) - I’m going to meet Minsu.
Korean verb conjugation: Recap
At first, Korean verb conjugation rules seem a little complicated, but once you’ve mastered one or two patterns, you will notice that many endings can be added to verbs and adjectives in a similar way. So the first step is always the most difficult, but now that you’ve taken that first step, things will get a little easier.
At Busuu, we take a step by step approach to learning Korean grammar, so you’ll learn small bits of grammar in each lesson, and you’ll develop mastery of Korean grammar in no time.
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