Korean verb Conjugation

In this lesson, you will learn different forms of Korean verbs, Korean verb conjugation,  Bright vowels, dark vowels, dictionary form of Korean verbs, verb stem.

Korean verbs

You know in English, verbs conjugate according to person and number. Like, she is, they are…. But in Korean, this doesn’t happen. But! This doesn’t mean that verbs in Korean fit in every situation.

Korean verbs change according to the tense (past, present, and future) and also, according to the level of respect you hold to the subject of the sentence.

So, you need to understand how to use Korean verbs. If you ever want to insult someone or to impress someone.

Korean verbs are conjugated using the verb stem, the dictionary form, and informal polite form.

Dictionary form Korean

Alright, let’s start with the dictionary form. Dictionary form is what you search to look up the word in a Korean dictionary. It’s like English infinitives, to go, to eat. And all the dictionary forms of Korean verbs end with -다. Like, 보다- to see, 먹다- to eat.

Korean verb stem

  Next one is the verb stem. The verb stem is easy. Just simply erase  -다 at the end of the dictionary form. For example, just 보 from 보다 and 먹 from 먹다. Remember that these verb stems are never used by itself.

Informal polite form Korean

 Next one is informal polite form, always ending with -요. Like, 보아요, or 먹어요. 

-요 at the end of these verbs indicates that you respect people who you are speaking to. Out of all these three forms, dictionary form, verb stem, and informal polite form, the form that is actually used in real life in Korean is the third one that is Informal polite form.

Korean verb conjugation

So conjugating verbs would mean changing from the dictionary form to the informal polite form.  

In other words, it means, from the word that can be found in a dictionary or from the word that we search in the dictionary to the words that are actually used in real life. That would mean conjugating verbs in Korean.

we learned some basic vocabulary or basic terms that we need to know before learning how to conjugate Korean verbs.

How to conjugate Korean verbs?

We are going to learn how to conjugate Korean verbs in various ways like in past tense, present tense, future tense, we already know that Korean verbs have a dictionary form, verb stem and informal polite form. Now we are actually going to learn how to conjugate Korean verbs from the dictionary form which is a form you use when searching a Korean word in a dictionary to informal polite form which is a form you actually use when speaking Korean in real life.

Korean verbs

Korean verb stem

    If 다 is removed from the dictionary form of Korean verb, the remaining part of that verb is called the verb stem. In other words the plain form of the verb after removing 다 is called korean verb stem. Suppose 하다 is a dictionary form and if we remove 다 from that dictionary form the remaining part which is 하 is called verb stem in korean. Let’s learn some of them.

korean verb stem list

  • 사다: to buy  = 사
  • 하다: to do  =  하
  • 치다: to hit  = 치
  • 먹다: to eat  = 먹
  • 가다 to go  = 가
  • 하다 to do  = 하
  • 먹다 to eat  = 먹
  • 사다 to buy  = 사
  • 좋다 to like  = 좋
  • 가다 to go  = 가
  • 주다 to give  = 주
  • 자다: to sleep  = 자
  • 쓰다: to write  = 쓰
  • 걷다: to walk  = 걷
  • 오다: to come  = 오
  • 갖다 to have  = 갖
  • 알다 to know  = 알
  • 놀다 to play  = 놀
  • 읽다 to read  = 읽
  • 오다 to come  = 오
  • 자다 to sleep  = 자
  • 읽다 to read  = 읽
  • 물어보다 to ask  = 물어보
  • 만나다 to meet  = 만나
  • 쉽다 to be easy = 쉽
  • 원하다 to want = 원하
  • 잠자다 to sleep = 잠자
  • 말하다 to speak = 말하
  • 전화하다 to call = 전화하
  • 마시다 to drink = 마시
  • 배우다 to learn = 배우
  • 좋아하다 to like = 좋아하
  • 사랑하다 to love = 사랑하
  • 춥다 to be cold =춥
  • 덥다 to be hot = 덥
  • 배우다 to learn = 배우
  • 만들다 to make = 만들
  • 기다리다 to wait = 기다리
  • 귀엽다 to be cute = 귀엽
  • 싸다 to be cheap = 싸
  • 모르다 to not know = 모르
  • 듣다 to listen/hear = 듣
  • 보다 to see/watch = 보
  • 가르치다 to teach = 가르치
  • 생각하다 to think = 생각하
  • 일어나다 to wake up = 일어나
  • 만들다 to make/create = 만들
  • 싫어하다 to dislike/hate = 싫어하
  • 어렵다 to be difficult = 어렵
  • 비싸다 to be expensive = 비싸
  • 놀다 to play, to hang out = 놀
  • 웃다 to smile, to laugh = 웃
  • 듣다 to listen, to hear = 듣
  • 보다 to look, to see = 보
  • 일어나다 to wake up = 일어나
  • 입다 to wear, to put on = 입
  • 움직이다 to move (around) = 움직이
  • 있다 to be there, to have, to exist = 있
  • 없다 to be not there, to not have, to not exist = 없

The key to conjugating Korean verbs lies in the last syllable of the verb stem and in almost all irregular conjugations. conjugating verbs depend on one of these two things.

whether or not the verb stem ends in a vowel or a consonant. For example, the verb ‘to see’ 보다.What is the verb stem? Just erase 다 from the dictionary form. 보 is the verb stem. Which ends with a vowel (오 vowel).

Another example is 먹다– to eat. After erasing 다, 먹 is the verb stem. It ends with the consonant. It ends with a consonant ㄱ.

If the last syllable of the verb stem ends in a bright vowel or a dark vowel. In Korean dark vowels are ㅓ/ㅜ vowels and bright vowels areㅏ/ㅗ vowels. For example to see 보다 contains bright vowel and먹다 to eat contains a dark vowel.

Korean verb Conjugation
Verbs in korean language

Korean verb conjugation rules

We learned what to be careful of and now let’s learn the conjugation rule of making the dictionary form to the informal polite form. So the rule is mentioned below.

아요 어요 grammar

   If the verb stems vowel contains a bright vowel likeㅏ (aa) or ㅗ (o) then attach -아요 at the end of the verb stem. For example

보다 conjugation

보다 (to see). 보다 is a dictionary form.보 is verb stem of 보다. It contains a bright vowel 오. So we attach 아요. 

보다 – 보 – + 아요 = 봐요. Will see

먹다 conjugation

  먹다 is a dictionary form. 먹다 means (to eat). Its verb stem is 먹 and final vowel is 어, it’s a dark vowel so we attach 어요.

먹다 – 먹 – + 어요 = 먹어요. Will eat

This is how we conjugate verbs. We learned how to conjugate from the dictionary form to the informal polite form which is the basic conjugation.

Korean past tense verbs

Now lets learn korean verb conjugation in past tense. We have already learned

  • Korean verbs and verb conjugation, 
  • Dictionary form of Korean verb,
  • Korean verb stem,
  • Bright vowel dark vowels

In  this section you are going to learn

  • How to conjugate Korean verbs into past tense?
  • How to make past tense sentences?
  • How to make verbs in past tense in Korean?

 Bright vowels, dark vowels, dictionary form, verbs stem are used many times during verb conjugation so you have to understand the meaning of these terms and usages.

  It’s very easy to make past tense verbs once you know the basics of Korean verb conjugation. You just need to know what is the suffix for Korean past tense which is 았어요, 었어요.

Difference between 았어요 and 었어요

았어요, 었어요 is a past tense polite ending. How to know which ending to use?

If the verb stem has a bright vowel then you can use 았어요. (Bright vowels means ㅏ/ㅗ vowels).

If the verb stem has a dark vowel then you can use 었어요. (Dark vowel means ㅓ/ㅜ vowels)

Now lets see examples of bright vowels and dark vowels. The first verb example is 보다 ( to see)

It is in a dictionary form which is a form that you can search in a dictionary but you never use this in real life except for writing.

Any verbs that are in dictionary forms ( which have 다 ending) are never used in real life. They are used only for writing.

The verb stem of 보다 is 보 (after erasing 다 of dictionary form) which is bright vowel (ㅗ). So we choose to use 았어요.

Now if we conjugate 보 and 았어요 it becomes 봤어요.보 + 았어요 = 보았어요 = 봤어요.(saw)

나는 김정은을 봤어요. I saw KIM JONG UN.

나는 김정은을  싱가포르에서 봤어요. I saw KIM JONG UN in Singapore.

Now let’s look at another example that contains a dark vowel.

Let’s take 먹다 for example (To eat). Which is in a dictionary form we need to find the verb stem. It’s so easy just erase the 다 from dictionary form the remaining 먹 is the verb stem.

 Does 먹 have a bright vowel or a dark vowel? 먹 (ㅓ) is a dark vowel.So we attach the suffix 었어요.

먹 + 었어요 = 먹었어요

나는 점심을 안 먹었어요.I didn’t eat lunch or I didn’t have lunch.

자다 (to sleep)

Now let’s look at another confusing verb 자다 (to sleep). After erasing 다 from the dictionary form (자다) the remaining part is 자 which is a verb stem.

자 already has a bright vowel ending (ㅏ). 자 already ends with the vowel  (ㅏ) ah so you don’t need to attach another vowel  (ㅏ) ah so just attach ㅆ어요 and it becomes 잤어요.

나 어제 네시간만 잤어요.I slept four hours only yesterday.

나 어제 네시에 잤어요.I slept at four o’clock yesterday.

The particle 에 is making the meaning difference so we need to learn about the particles as well.

Korean Future Tense

How To Conjugate Korean Verbs Into Future Tense?

Now we are going to learn how to conjugate Korean verbs into future tense. we just learned how to conjugate Korean verbs into basic form like informal polite form which is basically present tense and we also learned how to conjugate Korean verbs into past tense.

     If you want to understand better you need to know the basic things like dictionary form, verb stem, bright vowels and dark vowels, even though dark vowels and bright vowels are not going to be used in the future tense.

  Korean verb conjugation will be super easy as a piece of cake if you have basic understanding of dictionary form, verb stem, bright vowels and dark vowels.

Korean Grammar 을 거예요

The suffix for Korean future tense conjugation is (으)ㄹ 거예요. Which means you just simply attach this suffix (으)ㄹ 거예요 at the end of the verb stem.

 In future tense there is no role of verb stem vowel(bright vowel or a dark vowel) but it depends on whether the verb stem ends with a vowel or a consonant. Let’s get right into the example our first verb example is going to be 

 하다 verb conjugation

   하다 means to do. 하다 is a dictionary form ( A form that can be found when you search in a dictionary but you never use these verbs in real life but you only write them).

Now we need to check what is a verb stem? Just simply erase the 다 and 하 is the verb stem. Does 하 ends with the consonant or vowel?  (ㅏ) is a vowel. So you have to attach -ㄹ거예요.

하 + ㄹ거예요 = 할거예요.

  • 공부할 거예요.I will study
  • 할 거야. hey, I will do it.
  • 이따가 할 거야.  I will do it later.

만나다 conjugation

Next example is 만나다 (to meet) which is a dictionary form. After erasing 다 the remaining part (verb stem) is 만나 obviously. Because it ends with (ㅏ) so we have to attach -ㄹ거예요.

만나 + -ㄹ거예요 – 만날 거예요 = will meet

나는 유명한 가수를 만날 거예요.I will meet a famous singer.

나는 대통령을 만날 거예요.I will meet the president.

먹다 conjugation future

Our last example is 먹다 (To eat) which is a dictionary form. After removing 다 the remaining 먹 is a verb stem. Which ends with a consonant. So we have to attach 을 거예요.

먹다 – 먹 + 을 거예요 = 먹을 거예요 = I will eat

  • 나 치킨 먹을 거예요.I will eat chicken.
  • 나 피자 먹을 거예요.I will eat pizza.

That’s how we conjugate Korean verbs into future tense.

Korean verb conjugation practice

We learned how to conjugate Korean verbs from dictionary form to informal polite form. In this section we are going to practice conjugating Korean verbs with actual verbs that are used often in Korean. Let’s start

보다 (To see)

This is in a dictionary from. Before conjugating any korean verbs you have to change dictionary form into verb stem so 보 is verb stem of 보다. Now we need to check if the vowel of the verb stem is a bright vowel (ㅗ, ㅏ) or a dark vowel (rest of the vowels other than ㅗ, ㅏ).

Bright vowel – 아요 Dark vowel – 어요.

So 보다 becomes 봐요 after conjugation. 봐요 is informal polite form of 보다.

보다 – 보 + 아요 = 보아요 = 봐요.

있다 (To have)

이 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 있 is a dark vowel. We need to attach 어요. Now it becomes 있어요. 

있다 – 있 + 어요 = 있어요.

돈이 있어요. I  have money.

없다 (Not to have)

없 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 없 is a dark vowel. We need to attach 어요. Now it becomes 없어요. 

없다 – 없 + 어요 = 없어요.

현금 없어요. I don’t have cash.

되다 (To be)

되 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 되 is other than 아/오 so it is a dark vowel. We need to attach 어요. Now it becomes 되어요.

되다 – 되 + 어요 = 되어요.

하다 (To do)

하 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 하 is a bright vowel. We need to attach 아요. Now it becomes 해요

하다 – 하 + 아요 = 해요.

Remember It’s not 하아요. 하다 verb is an exceptional verb. It always conjugate as 해요. Any verbs that end with 하다 verb should conjugate as 해요.For example

  • 사랑하다 – 사랑해요.
  • 결혼하다 – 결혼 해요.
  • 뽀뽀하다 – 뽀뽀해요.

알다 (To know)

알 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 알 is a bright vowel. We need to attach 아요. Now it becomes 알아요.

알다 – 알 + 아요 = 알아요.

아리랑 노래 가사 알아요? Do you know the lyrics of the Arirang song?

맞다 (To become correct)

맞 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 맞 is a bright vowel. We need to attach 아요. Now it becomes 맞아요.

맞다 – 맞 + 아요 = 맞아요.

선생님 말 맞아요. The Teacher’s word is correct.

주다 (To give)

주 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 주 is a dark vowel. We need to attach 어요. Now it becomes 주어요

주다 – 주 + 어요 = 주어요 = 줘요.

나 한 장 찍어줘요.Take a picture of me.

받다 (To Receive)

받 is the verb stem. The last vowel of 잗 is a bright vowel. We need to attach 아요. Now it becomes 받아요.

받다 – 받 + 아요 = 받아요.

나 한 장 찍어줘요.Take a picture of me.

How to conjugate korean verbs in past tense

In this section you will learn how to conjugate korean verbs that you know in Korean – past tense. Let’s get started. The verbs we are going to use are

살다 – To live

울다 – To cry

가다 – To go

오다 – To come

앉다 – To sit

서다 – To stand up

The rule of korean verb conjugation in past tense is simple after the verb you need to attach (았/었)어요.

All korean verbs always end with 다 but there’s always a verb stem (when you remove 다 from the verb then there is a word remaining we call that a verb stem). For example 

Verb – Meaning – Verb stem

살다 – To live  – 살

울다 – To cry  – 울

가다 – To go  – 가

오다 – To come – 오

앉다 – To sit  – 앉

서다 – To stand up – 서

When you look at the verb stem some verbs like (살다 – 살) ends with the consonant(받침) and some verbs like (서다 – 서) ends with vowel.

so when a verb stem ends with consonant you it always need to attach vowel(았어요/었어요). 살다 – 살 – 살았어요. And when a verb stem ends with a vowel it always need to attach a consonant (..ㅆ요). 서다 – 서 – 섰어요.

WE just learned when there is a consonant at verb stem we need to attach (았어요/었어요). But how do we know which one to use? At the beginning of this lesson we learned about bright vowels and dark vowels. If verbs stem has bright vowel(ㅏ, ㅗ) we need to attach 았어요 and if verb stem vowel ends with vowels  (ㅓ, ㅜ) we need to attach 었어요. Now lets start all these verbs one by one.

살다

Verb stem is 살. The verb stem has final consonant so need either 았어요or 었어요. There is a bright vowel at the last of verb stem so you need to attach 았어요.

살 + 았어요 = 살았어요

울다

Verb stem is 울. The verb stem has final consonant so need either 았어요or 었어요. There is a dark vowel at the last of verb stem so you need to attach 았어요.

울 + 었어요 = 울었어요.

앉다

Verb stem is 앉. The verb stem has final consonant so need either 았어요or 었어요. There is a bright vowel at the last of verb stem so you need to attach 았어요.

앉 + 았어요 = 앉았어요.

서다

Verb stem is 서. There is no final consonant so need to attach ㅆ어요. 

서 + ㅆ어요 = 섰어요.

가다

Verb stem is 가. There is no final consonant so need to attach ㅆ어요. 

가 + ㅆ어요 = 갔어요.

오다

Verb stem is 오. There is no final consonant so need to attach ㅆ어요 according to rule. (오 + ㅆ어요 = 옸어요) but its incorrect. This is an exceptional case so we have to attach 오 + 았어요 = 왔어요. We attached 았어요 because there is a bright vowel at the verb stem. 

오 + 았어요 = 왔어요

 We learned how to make Korean verbs into past tense.

Korean verb to be

The verb be/ to be  in Korea is 이다. This is one of the most essential verbs.the first thing you need to learn about is an infinitive.