Lesson 5: Korean Conjugation: Past, Present, Future

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Vocabulary
How to say “I/me”
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Basic Conjugation: Past, Present, Future

Verbs:
Present Tense
Past Tense
Future Tense

Adjectives
Present Tense
Past Tense
Future Tense

있다 and 있는다

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Vocabulary

The vocabulary is separated into nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs for the purpose of simplicity.

Click on the English word to see information and examples of that word in use (you probably won’t be able to understand the grammar within the sentences at this point, but it is good to see as you progress through your learning).

A PDF file neatly presenting all of these words, example sentences and extra information can be found here.

Nouns:
동생 = younger sibling

Common Usages:
남동생 = younger brother
여동생 = younger sister
친동생 = biological younger sibling

Notes:
While technically this word means “younger sibling” Korean will refer to a close friend (who is younger than them) using this word. This often leads to dialogues like this:

Korean person: “Hey! This is my 동생!”
Me: “Really?”
Korean person: “No, not really.”

To distinguish that somebody is actually related to you by blood, they use the word “친동생”

Examples:
저 사람은 저의 동생이에요 = That person is my younger sibling
동생
은 왜 울었어요? = Why did your brother/sister cry?

남동생 = younger brother

Examples:
저는 남동생보다 키가 더 커요 = I am taller than my (younger) brother
나는 남동생보다 밥을 더 먹었어 = I ate more than my (younger) brother
너의 남동생은 몇 살이야? = How old is your (younger) brother?
저의 게으른 남동생은 하루 종일 아무것도 안 해요 = My lazy brother doesn’t do anything all day
저는 2주 전에 남동생을 만났어요 = I met my brother 2 weeks ago
남동생은 울었어요? = Did your brother cry?

여동생 = younger sister

Examples:
저의 여동생은 지난 주에 책 두 권을 읽었어요 = My sister read two books last week
너의 여동생은 예뻐요 = Your younger sister is pretty

= older brother

Notes:
This word is only used if the younger person is also a man

Common Usages:
형님 = formal version of 형

Examples:
그 사람은 저의 입니다 = That person is my brother
을 왜 때렸어요? = Why did you hit your brother?
저의 은 똑똑한 남자입니다 = My brother is a smart man

오빠 = older brother

Notes:
This word is only used if the younger person is a female

Example:
저는 공을 오빠한테 던졌어요 = I threw the ball to my brother
오빠
는 바닥에 앉아서 점심을 먹었어요 = My brother ate lunch sitting on the floor
오빠는 밤 늦게 밥을 먹는 것을 좋아해요 = My brother likes eating food late at night
오빤 (오빠는) 강남스타일 = older brother (I am) is Gangnam style

누나 = older sister

Notes:
This word is only used if the younger person is a male

Examples:
저의 누나는 대학생이에요 = My older sister is a University student
저는 저의 누나를 불렀어요 = I called my sister
이 사람은 저의 누나예요 = This (person) is my sister
저는 저의 누나한테 돈만 줄 거예요 = To my older sister, I’ll just give money
저의 누나는 충동적인 여자예요 = My older sister is an impulsive girl

언니 = older sister

Notes:
This word is only used if the younger person is a female

Example:
저는 언니랑 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate with my sister

삼촌 = uncle

Notes: Korean people often pronounce this word as “삼춘”

Example:
저의 삼촌은 선생님이에요 = My uncle is a teacher

이모 = aunt (on mother’s side)

Notes:
This word is only used to refer to the sister(s) of one’s mother

Common Usages:
큰 이모 = the oldest sister of one’s mother
둘째 이모 = the second oldest sister of one’s mother
막내 이모 = the youngest sister of one’s mother

Example:
우리 엄마는 이모와 닮았어요 = My mom looks like our aunt

고모 = aunt (on father’s side)

Notes:
This word is only used to refer to the sister(s) of one’s father

Example:
우리 아버지는 고모와 살고 있어요 = Our father lives with our aunt

아저씨  = older man not related to you

Notes: This word is used to refer to an older man whom you don’t know. More broadly, it can be applied to the position that men have, for example “버스 아저씨” for “bus driver” or “택시 아저씨” for “taxi driver.”

Example:
아저씨! 앉으세요! = Sir, please sit down
아저씨! 맥주 두 잔 주세요! = Sir! Two glasses of beer, please!

아주머니 = older woman not related to you

Example:
아주머니! 소주 두 병 주세요! = Miss! Two bottles of soju please!
동대문시장에서 아주머니가 많아요 = There are a lot of older women in Dongdaemun market

할아버지 = grandfather

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “하라버지”

Common Usages:
산타할아버지 = Santa Clause (Santa Grandpa)

Notes: You can use this word to refer to anybody who looks the age of a grandfather, not just your own grandfather.

Example:
우리 할아버지는 한국전쟁에서 싸웠어요 = Our grandfather fought in the Korean war
할아버지할아버지 친구는 옛날 이야기를 나눴어요 = Grandpa and his friend shared old stories (with each other)
아들은 할아버지께 선물을 줬어요 = The son gave a present to his grandfather
할아버지는 주름이 하나도 없어요 = That grandfather doesn’t even have one wrinkle
할아버지께 선물을 드리고 싶어요 = I want to give my grandfather a present
할아버지가 여기에 계신지 몰랐어요 = I didn’t know you were here, grandpa
할아버
지는 우리 아들에게 돈을 주었어요 = Grandpa gave money to our son
우리 할아버지가 죽어서 저는 너무 슬퍼요 = I am very sad because my grandfather died

할머니 = grandmother

Notes: You can use this word to refer to anybody who looks the age of a grandmother, not just your own grandmother.

Example:
저의 할머니는 요리를 너무 잘해요 = My grandmother cooks very well
저의 할머니가 여기에 자주 안 오셔요 = My grandmother doesn’t come here often
저는 할머니를 위해 식사를 준비했어요 = I prepared a meal for grandmother
할머니
는 어제 아파서 입원했어요 = Grandma checked into the hospital yesterday because she was sick

친구 = friend

Common Usages:
여자 친구 = girlfriend
남자 친구 = boyfriend
친구를 만나다 = to meet a friend

Example:
저는 어제 친구를 만났어요 = I met a friend yesterday
저는 저의 친구를 자주 만나요 = I meet my friend often
저는 친구랑 같이 있어요 = I’m with my friend
저는 저의 친구에게 돈을 줬어요 = I gave my friend money
저는 친구와 집에 갔어요 = I went home with my friend
저는 그것을 친구한테서 들었어요 = I heard that from my friend
저의 친구는 저 쪽으로 갔어요 = My friend went that way
저는 친구와 비슷해요 = I am similar to my friend
저의 친구는 (여기) 근처에 살아요 = My friend lives close (to here)

사진 = picture

Common Usages:
사진기 = camera
사진을 찍다 = to take a picture

Notes: The word “그림” is used to refer to a picture that somebody painted.

Example:
여행했을 때 사진을 많이 찍었어요 = When I travelled, I took a lot of pictures
이 사진 어때? = How about this picture?
이것은 나쁜 사진입니다 = This is a bad picture
저의 사진은 침대 위에 걸려 있어요 = My picture is hanging above my bed
저는 사진을 하나도 안 찍었어요 = I didn’t even take one picture
저는 사진을 벽에 걸었어요 = I hung a picture on a wall

안경 = glasses

Common Usages:
안경을 쓰다 = to wear glasses

Example:
저는 새로운 안경을 샀어요 = I bought new glasses

비밀 = secret

Common Usages:
비밀을 밝히다 = to let a secret go/tell somebody else about a secret
비밀을 지키다 = to protect a secret/not tell somebody else about a secret

Examples:
그것이 비밀이라서 말하지 마세요 = Don’t say anything because it is a secret!
그것은 큰 비밀이었어요 = That was a big secret
그의 과거는 큰 비밀이에요 = His past is a big secret

= rain

Common Usages:
비가 오다 = to rain
이슬비 = drizzle
산성비 = acid rain

Example:
어제 가 많이 왔어요 = Yesterday it rained a lot
가 아직 와요 = It is still raining
가 왔어요? = Is it raining?
내일 가 올지 모르겠어요 = I don’t know if it will rain tomorrow

가게 = store/shop

Example:
저는 가게에서 사과를 샀어요 = I bought apples at the store
저는 이 가게에서 잠깐 구경하고 싶어요 = I want to look around for a bit in this store
가게는 싼 음식을 팔아요 = this store sells cheap/inexpensive food
가게에 18세 미만은 못 들어가요 = Those under 18 years of age can’t enter that store

박물관 = museum

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “방물관”

Examples:
박물관은 특별해요 = That museum is special
저는 박물관에 다음 번에 갈 거예요 = I will go to the museum next time
병원은 박물관 뒤에 있어요 = The hospital is behind the museum
선생님은 학생들과 박물관에 갔다 = The teacher went to the museum with the students

가스 레인지 = stove (gas range)

Notes:
Literally the English pronunciation of “gas range” in Korean.

Example:
이 집은 가스 레인지가 없어요 = This house doesn’t have a stove

오리 = duck (animal)

Common Usages:
오리고기 = duck meat

Example:
우리는 급식으로 오리고기를 먹었어요 = We had duck for the school lunch

꼬리 = tail

Common Usages:
꼬리뼈 = tailbone

Example:
그 강아지의 꼬리는 아주 귀여워요 = That puppy’s tail is very cute

= ball

Common Usages:
공을 던지다 = to throw a ball
공을 잡다 = to catch a ball
야구공 = baseball
축구공 = soccer ball
농구공 = basketball

Example:
야구선수는 을 세게 던졌어요 = The baseball player threw the ball hard

Verbs:
보고 싶다 = to miss a person

Common Usages:
친구를 보고 싶다 = to want to see a friend

Notes: This word used with word 보다 (to see) and the grammatical principle ~고 싶다 (to want to) to literally mean “to want to see.” Therefore, you can only use “보고 싶다” when talking about missing a person and not a thing. 싶다 is actually an adjective so “보고 싶다” should be conjugated as an adjective.

Example:
제가 미국에 있었을 때 가족을 보고싶었어요 = When I was in the US, I missed my family
저는 친구를 보고 싶어요 = I miss my friend/I want to see my friend

기대하다 = to expect

The noun form of this word translates to “expectation”

Notes:
The passive version of this word (기대되다) is commonly used to say that one is excited for something to happen. For more information on passive verbs, see Lesson 14.

Example:
선생님이 3시에 올 것을 기대했어요 = I expected the teacher to come at 3:00

건너다 = to cross (a road/etc)

Common Usages:
길을 건너다 = to cross a road

Example:
빨리 건너자! = Quick! Let’s cross!
저는 거리를 안전하게 건넜어요 = I crossed the street safely

던지다 = to throw

Common Usages:
공을 던지다 = to throw a ball)

Example:
수업시간 동안 종이를 던지지 마세요 = During class, don’t throw paper please
야구선수는 공을 세게 던졌어요 = The baseball player threw the ball hard

싫어하다 = to not like

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “시러하다”

Notes: 싫다 is an adjective that means “not good.” 싫어하다 is a verb. Therefore, ~을/를 should be attached to the object in the sentence that one does not like.

Examples:
저는 그 사람을 싫어해요 = I don’t like that person
저는 과일을 싫어해요 = I dislike fruit
처음에 그 여자를 싫어했어요 = I didn’t like that girl at first
그들은 저를 처음부터 싫어했어요 = They didn’t like me from the start
저는 사람들이 지하철을 급히 타는 것을 싫어해요 = I don’t like people getting on the subway in a rush
제가 그 여자를 싫어해도 그녀를 위해 선물을 사야 되었어요 = Regardless of how much I dislike that girl, I still had to buy her a present

떠나다 = to leave somewhere

Common Usages:
세상을 떠나다 = to die (literally, “to leave the world”)

Notes:
This word is usually only used if you are leaving something forever or for a very long time. If you want to say that you left your house (and are returning), you should use the words “출발하다” (to depart) or “나가다” (to go out).

Example:
한국은 언제 떠났어요? = When did you leave Korea?
아버지가 벌써 떠났다는 것을 몰랐어요 = I didn’t know (the fact) that dad already left

농담하다 = to joke

The noun form of this word translates to “a joke”

Example:
나의 남자친구는 나에게 농담을 많이 = My boyfriend tells me a lot of jokes

공부하다 = to study

Common Usages:
열심히 공부하다 = to study hard

Examples:
저는 한국어를 4년 동안 공부했어요 = I studied Korean for 4 years
저는 저녁에 공부했어요 = I studied in the evening
여름에 저는 공부하겠어요 = I will study in the summer
저는 30분 동안 공부했어요 = I studied for 30 minutes
저는 내일부터 한국어를 공부할 거예요 = I’m going to study Korean from tomorrow
저는 아침부터 밤까지 공부했어요 = From morning to night I only studied

Adjectives:
지루하다 = to be boring

Notes: In English we use similar words to describe that one is bored, and that something is boring. However, in Korean, these are separate words. If you are bored, you can use “심심하다.” If something is boring (and thus, making you bored), you can use “지루하다”

Example:
수업은 매우 지루해요 = Class is so boring

마르다 = for a person to be too thin

마르다  follows the 르 Irregular. See Lesson 7 for more information.

Notes: This is usually used in a negative way.

If you are telling somebody that they look (too) thin, this is usually used in the past tense. For example: 형! 너무 말랐어! = (Brother!) You look so thin!

Example:
보통 모델들은 말라요 = Models are usually thin

멀다 = to be far away

멀다 follows the ㄹ Irregular. See Lesson 7 for more information.

Example:
우리 집은 너무 멀어요 = Our home is very far
저는 먼 병원에 갔어요 = I went to a far away hospital (a hospital that is far away)

마르다 = to be dry

마르다  follows the 르 Irregular. See Lesson 7 for more information.

Notes:
Most commonly used as “목 마르다” (literally: dry throat) to indicate that one is thirsty.

Example:
그 강은 완전히 말랐어요 = That river has completely dried up

비슷하다 = to be similar

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “비스타다”

Examples:
저와 저의 아버지는 너무 비슷해요 = I am very similar to my father
저는 친구와 비슷해요 = I am similar to my friend

싫다 = to not be good

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “실타”

Common Usages:
가기 싫다 = to not want to go
먹기 싫다 = to not want to eat

Notes: 싫다 can be used to say “one does not like” by attaching ~이/가 to an object. For more information, see Lesson 15.

Example:
저는 그 사람이 싫어요 = I don’t like that person
학교가 싫어요 = I don’t like school
맥주가 싫어요 = I don’t like beer

오래되다 = for an object to be old

Notes:
Like 낡다, 오래되다 can only be used to describe objects – but 낡다 implies that the object in question is also damaged/rugged in some form. Using 오래되다 simply implies that it is has been a long time since something was built/released/bought, etc…

Example:
저는 저의 오래된 핸드폰을 팔았어요 = I sold my old phone
그 식당이 오래되었다 = That restaurant is old
우리는 오래된 집에 갔다 = We went to the old house
한국문화는 오래됐고 흥미로워요 = Korean culture is long/old and interesting
오늘 새로운 복사기가 올 거라서 이 오래된 것을 버려야 돼요 = The new photocopier will come today, you we have to throw out this old one

배고프다 = to be hungry

Notes: This is sometimes as “배가 고프다”

Common Usages:
배고파 죽겠다 = I’m so hungry I could die

Examples: 나는 별로 배고프지 않아 = I’m not really hungry
저는 먹고 싶지만 배고프지 않아요 = Even though I want to eat, I am not hungry
밥을 안 먹으면 배고플 거야 = If you don’t eat, you will be hungry

Adverbs and Other Words:
오늘 = today

Common Usages:
오늘밤 = tonight
오늘아침 = this morning
오늘날 = the present time, these days

Notes: ~에 is typically not attached to 오늘 as it can be assumed

Examples:
저는 오늘에 시험을 봐 야 돼요 = I need to write an exam today
저는 오늘 두 번 운동할 것입니다 = I will exercise twice (two times) today
저는 오늘 아침식사를 못 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat breakfast today
오늘 날씨가 너무 더워요 = Today the weather is too hot
어제 운동을 해서 오늘 저의 팔이 아파요 = My arms are sore today because I exercised yesterday
저는 오늘 네 개의 수업을 가르쳤어요 = I taught four classes today
이 수업은 오늘 저의 열 번째 수업입니다 = This is my tenth class today
저는 오늘 오후에 낮잠을 잤어요 = I took a nap in the afternoon today

어제 = yesterday

Common Usages:
어젯밤 = last night

Notes: ~에 is typically not attached to 어제 as it can be assumed

Examples:
저는 어제 학교에 못 갔어요 = I couldn’t go to school yesterday
저는 어제부터 아팠어요 = I have been sick since (from) yesterday
그 건물은 어제와 달라요 = That building is different from yesterday
나는 어제 친구 다섯 명을 만났어 = I met five friends yesterday
저는 어제 선생님을 처음 만났어요 = I met my teacher for the first time yesterday
저는 어제 한 시간 동안 야구를 했어요 = I played baseball for an hour yesterday
저는 어제 여자친구랑 이야기했어요 = I talked with my girlfriend yesterday
저는 어제 학교에 세 번 갔어요 = I went to school three times yesterday

내일 = tomorrow

Common Usages:
내일 봐 = informal: see you tomorrow
내일 뵙겠습니다 = formal: see you tomorrow
(내일)모레 = the day after tomorrow
내일 밤 = tomorrow night

Notes: ~에 is typically not attached to 내일 as it can be assumed.

Example:
저는 내일 공원에 갈 거예요 = I am going to the park tomorrow
내일
뭐 하고 싶어요? = What do you want to do tomorrow?
선생님은 내일 학생들을 만날 거예요 = The teacher will meet the students tomorrow
저는 내일 사람 두 명 더 만날 거예요 = I will meet two more people tomorrow
내일
학교에 갈 것입니까? = Are you going to school tomorrow?
너는 내일 누구(를) 만날 거야? = Who will you meet tomorrow?
저는 내일부터 건강한 음식만 먹을 거예요 = From tomorrow, I am going to eat only healthy food

모레 = the day after tomorrow

Notes: Often said as “내일모레”

This word is commonly misspelled as “모래” (which actually means “sand”)

Example:
학교가 모레 닫혀 있을 거예요 = The school will be closed two days from now

= year

Common Usages:
작년 = last year
내년 = next year
매년 = every year
학년 = grade level

Notes:
This word is more commonly used in compilation with other words rather than by itself.

Example:
저는 작에 한국에 갔어요 = I went to Korea last year
저는 5 이내에 외국어를 다섯 개 배우고 싶어요 = I want to learn 5 languages within five years
우리는 1 안에 결혼할 거예요 = We will get married within one year
제가 한국에서 산 지 1 됐어요 = I have been living in Korea for a year
그 선생님은 영어를 가르친 지 20 됐어요 = That teacher has been teaching English for 20 years
저는 7 동안 한국에서 살았어요 = I lived in Korea for seven years
저는 내에 한국에 갈 거예요 = I will go to Korea next year

= day

Common Usages:
The days of the week = 일요일, 월요일, 화요일, etc…
생일 = birthday
내일 = tomorrow
매일 = every day
마감일 = deadline (day)

Notes: When talking about a day, “날” should be used. For more information, see Lesson 11.

Examples:
저는 토요에 한교에 안 가요 = I don’t go to school on Saturday
저는 3 동안 학교에 안 갔어요 = I didn’t go to school for 3 days

시간 = time

Common Usages:
한 시간 = one hour
두 시간 = two hours
두 시간 동안 = for two hours
영업 시간 = business hours
시간표 = timetable

Notes:
You can use this word to indicate that something was done for a certain amount of hours. In addition, it can mean “time” as in “last time” or “this time.” For more information, visit Lesson 11.

Examples:
저는 두 시간 동안 공부했어요 = I studied for two hours
저는 세 시간 동안 잤어요 = I slept for three hours
저는 어제 두 시간 동안 TV를 봤어요 = I watched TV for two hours yesterday
우리는 다음 시간에 더 배울 거예요 = We will learn more next time
시간
이 있으시면 술을 마시러 술집에 갑시다 = If you have time, let’s go to a bar to drink alcohol!
저는 그것을 지난 시간에 배웠어요 = I learned that (thing) last time
수업시간 동안 종이를 던지지 마세요 = During class (time), don’t throw paper please

Days of the Week:
월요일 = Monday
화요일 = Tuesday
수요일 = Wednesday
목요일 = Thursday
금요일 = Friday
토요일 = Saturday
일요일 = Sunday

There are 1050 vocabulary entries in Unit 1. All entries are linked to an audio file.
You can download all of these files in one package here.

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.

 

How to say “I” or “me” in Korean

First of all, I want to point out the difference between “I” and “me” in English. This is something that I never knew/realized until I started to learn Korean as you will find that learning a foreign language will vastly increase your understanding of your mother tongue and languages in general. In English “I” and “me” have the same meaning, but they differ in their usage. When the speaker is the subject of a sentence “I” is used. When the speaker is the object (or other part) of a sentence “me” is used. For example:

I love you (“I” is the subject of the sentence)
You love me (“me” is the object of the sentence)

In Korean, the same word is used to say “I” or “me.” That is, there is no difference in the Korean word if it used as a subject or object. However, remember that different particles will have to be attached to these words.

Although the word in Korean for “I/me” doesn’t change based on its usage in a sentence, it does change based on the politeness of a sentence. For example:

저 means “I/me” and is used in formal situations
나 means “I/me” and is used in informal situations

~는 can be attached to 저 and 나 to indicate “I” is the subject of a sentence. For example:
저는
나는
(I am purposely not providing example sentences because you still haven’t learned proper conjugations. You will finally learn about conjugations in this lesson)

~를 can be attached to 저 and 나 to indicate that “me” is the object of a sentence. For example:
저를
나를
(I am purposely not providing example sentences because you still haven’t learned proper conjugations. You will finally learn about conjugations in this lesson)

~가 can be attached to 저 and 나 to indicate “I” is the subject of a sentence or clause. I have already briefly distinguished the difference between ~이/가 and ~은/는 in Lesson 2. The difference between these particles is very subtle and takes years to fully grasp. I discuss these differences more deeply in Lesson 17 and Lesson 24, but this isn’t immediately important to you right now. What is immediately important to you is that you remember that when ~가 is attached 나 changes to 내, and 저 changes to 제. For example:

내가
제가
(I am purposely not providing example sentences because you still haven’t learned proper conjugations. You will finally learn about conjugations in this lesson)

In the lesson below, all of the sentences are conjugated in an informal style. Therefore, all of the example sentences below use the informal “나” or “내.” In this lesson, don’t worry about formality and just focus on the information that I present. In the next lesson, you will learn more about formal and informal speech, and you will see “저” and “제” being used.

 

How to say “you”

You may have noticed that I still haven’t taught you one of those most common words in the English language. I know this sounds weird, but the word ‘you’ is not said very often in Korean. Korean people get around saying the word ‘you’ through a number of ways:

  1. Most of the time, you use somebody’s (usually job) position when referring to them or talking about them. For example, boss (부장님), principal (교장선생님), vice principal (교감선생님), Mr. Name (for a teacher) (Name선생님), customer (고객님), guest (손님), 회장님/사장님 (president/CEO of a company).
  2. It is very common in Korean to refer to people that you are close with as your own family member. For example, 오빠 means “older brother” (when you are a woman). But even if somebody is not your older brother, you can call him ‘오빠’ if you are close to him.
  3. You can usually call any woman or man that looks very old “grandmother” and “grandfather” (할머니/할아버지). But other than that, you don’t really call somebody part of your family unless you are close with that person.
  4. You can generally call any strange man or woman that you don’t know ‘아저씨’ (man) and ‘아주머니’ (woman).
  5. In informal situations, you can use the word “너.” ~는 and ~를 can attach to “너” when “you” is the subject or object of a sentence, respectively. If ~가 is added to ~너, it changes to “네가.” In order to distinguish the pronunciation of “네가” and “내가” from each other (which, technically should be pronounced the same), “네가” is pronounced as “knee-ga.”
  6. You can also use the word “당신” which means “you.” You may use this word when talking to anybody, but Korean people hardly ever use it. Most people that say ‘당신’ are foreigners and only do so because they are so used to saying “you” in a sentence.

 

Basic Conjugation: Past, Present, Future

As I have mentioned in every lesson so far – every sentence that you have learned thus far has not been conjugated. All the sentences you have learned so far would never actually be used in Korean because they are not conjugated. I felt you needed to know basic sentence structure before you learned how to conjugate. The good news, however is that conjugating in Korean is much easier than other languages (including English and especially French!).

 

An important note before you begin

This lesson will show you how to conjugate past/present/future verbs in the most basic way. Although all of these conjugations are grammatically correct, they are rarely used in conversation. This form is sometimes called “diary form” because it is usually used when writing to yourself in a diary. It is also used when writing tests, books (not in dialogue), research papers, newspaper articles, magazine articles, and other times when one is not speaking/writing to a specific audience. It is also sometimes called the “plain form.”

If you used this form in a sentence, you should use the informal “나,” as this conjugation is seen as informal. As such, throughout this lesson, you will see the word “나” used for “I.” However, as I mentioned, this conjugation form is also used in print (books, newspapers, articles, etc…). When this is done, the sentence is neither formal or informal – as it is just relaying facts. When used like this, no specific person is the speaker, and nobody is getting directly spoken to. Therefore, you don’t generally see “저” or “나” in these forms of Korean, and there is no need to see these writings as formal or informal.

It is possible to use this “diary” or “plain” form in conversation, but you are more likely to hear one of the conjugations discussed in the next lesson. Although the plain form is not very common in conversation, the conjugation itself is incredibly important if you want to understand more complex grammar later on or learn to read most printed forms of Korean (books, newspaper, etc…). You will learn the most important conjugations for conversation in the next lesson, but I highly recommend you to understand the conjugations presented in this lesson first.

The only part of speech that gets conjugated in Korean is verbs and adjectives (and 이다). As you already know, a sentence must end in either a verb or adjective or 이다.

Let’s look at how to conjugate verbs and adjectives into the past, present and future tenses.

 

Verbs
Present Tense

When the last syllable of the stem ends in a consonant, you add ~는다 to the stem of the word:

먹다 = 먹는다 = to eat (먹 + 는다)
닫다 = 닫는다 = to close (닫 + 는다)

Examples:

나는 문을 닫는다 = I close the door
나는 밥을 먹는다 = I eat rice

When the last syllable of the stem ends in a vowel, you add ~ㄴto the last syllable followed by 다

배우다 = 배운다 = to learn (배우 + ㄴ다)
이해하다 = 이해한다 = to understand (이해하 + ㄴ다)
가다 = 간다 = to go (가 + ㄴ다)

Examples:
나는 친구를 만난다 = I meet a friend
나는 그것을 이해한다 = I understand that
나는 한국어를 배운다 = I learn Korean
나는 집에 간다 = I go home

 

.

.

Past Tense

Before you learn this, you need to know something important. Korean grammar is based on adding things directly to verbs or adjectives to create a specific meaning. For example, earlier in this lesson you saw how ~는다 or ~ㄴ다 can be added to the stem of a verb in order to conjugate that verb to the present tense.

Hundreds of grammatical principles (not just conjugations, but grammatical principles that have actual meanings in sentences) are created by adding certain things to the stems of verbs and adjectives. You will learn about these in later lessons as you progress through your studies. For example, the following is a short list of additions that can be added to the stems of verbs and/or adjectives to create a specific meaning:

  • ~기 to create a noun form of a verb or adjective (Lesson 29)
  • ~아/어서 to give reason (Lesson 37)
  • ~(으)시 to denote an honorific acting agent (Lesson 39)
  • ~(으)세요 to make a command (Lesson 40)
  • ~자 to make a suggestion (Lesson 44)
  • ~아/어야 하다 to indicate that one must do something (Lesson 46)
  • ~ㄴ/는다고 to quote somebody (Lesson 52)

The list could go on and on forever.

Notice that some of these grammatical principles require the addition of “~아/어.” Many grammatical principles (or conjugations, or any other thing) require the addition of “~아/어” to the stem of a verb or adjective. Notice that the “slash” indicates that you need to choose what actually gets added to the stem. In some cases it is “~아”, and in some cases it is “~어”. The following is the rule that you can use to determine if you should add “~아” or “~어”:

  • If the last vowel in a stem is ㅏ or ㅗ (this includes rare cases of the last vowel being ㅑ or ㅛ) you add ~아 followed by the remainder of the grammatical principle. (The only exception is “하.” If the last syllable in a stem is ““, ~ must be added to the stem followed by the remainder of the grammatical principle instead of ~아.
  • If the last vowel in a stem is anything but ㅏ or ㅗ you add ~어 followed by the remainder of the grammatical principle

When conjugating to the past tense, we need to add “~았/었다” to the stem of a word (or 였다 in the case of 하다). Following the rule above, ~았다 is added to words with the last vowel being ㅗ or ㅏ and ~었다 is added to words with the last vowel being anything but ㅏ or ㅗ. Finally, ~였다 is added to words with the last syllable being “하.” For example:

나는 밥을 먹다 = I eat rice (note that this sentence is unconjugated)
The last vowel in the stem is ㅓ. This is not ㅏ or ㅗ. So, we add 었다 to the stem:
나는 밥을 먹었다 = I ate rice (먹 + 었다)

나는 문을 닫다 = I close the door (note that this sentence is unconjugated)
The last vowel in the stem is ㅏ. So we add 았다 to the stem:
나는 문을 닫았다 = I closed the door (닫 + 았다)

나는 창문을 열다 = I open the window (note that this sentence is unconjugated)
The last vowel in the stem is ㅕ. This is not ㅏ or ㅗ. So we add 었다 to the stem:
나는 창문을 열었다 = I opened the window (열 + 었다)

나는 한국어를 공부하다 = I study Korean (note that this sentence is unconjugated)
The last syllable in the stem is “하”. Therefore, we add ~였다 to the stem:
나는 한국어를 공부하였다 = I studied Korean (공부하 + 였다)

What makes this complicated (at first) is that for verbs that have a last syllable that end in a vowel (including 하다), the ~았다/었다 gets merged to the actual stem itself. This is how ~아 and ~어 merge with syllables ending in a vowel:

  • 아 + 아 = 아 (example: 가 + 았다 = 갔다)
  • 오 + 아 = 와 (example: 오+ 았다 = 왔다)
  • 우 + 어 = 워 (example: 배우+ 었다 = 배웠다)
  • 이 + 어 = 여 (example: 끼+ 었다 = 꼈다)
  • 어 + 어 = 어 (example: 나서 + 었다 = 나섰다)
  • 여 + 어 = 여 (example: 켜다 + 었다 = 켰다)
  • 하 + 여 = 해 (example: 공부하다 + 였다 = 공부했다)
    Although 하 + 여 can be written as “,” there will be some situations (usually official documents) where you will see “하여” used instead of “”:
  • Words where the last vowel is “ㅡ” (for example: 잠그다) are complicated and will be covered in Lesson 7.

Many people have asked me “how do I merge ~아/어 to complex vowels like  ㅠ, ㅑ, ㅔ, etc…?” You will find that the stem of almost all verbs and adjectives in Korean do not end in these complex vowels. The most common words I can think of that have stem that ends in one of these complex vowels are:

바래다 (to fade)
매다 (to tie up)
메다 (to put on/carry something on one’s shoulder)

With these words (and others like it), the same rule applies as above. That is, the final vowel does not end in ㅏ or ㅗ, so we need to add “어” plus whatever we are adding. With these complex vowels, it is irrelevant if you merge the addition to the stem. Both forms (merged and non-merged) would be correct.

For example:

바래 + 었다 = 바랬다 or 바래었다
매다 + 었다 = 맸다 or 매었다
메다 + 었다 = 멨다 or 메었다


 

Here is a more detailed breakdown:

가다 = to go
The last vowel in the stem is ㅏ. So we add 았다 to the stem.
나는 박물관에 가았다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 았다 can merge with 가:
나는 박물관에 갔다 = I went to the museum

오다 = to come
The last vowel in the stem is ㅗ. So we add 았다 to the stem.
삼촌은 가게에 오았다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 았다 can merge with 오:
삼촌은 가게에 왔다 = (My) uncle came to the store

배우다 = to learn
The last vowel in the stem is ㅜ. So we add 었다 to the stem.
오빠는 영어를 배우었다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 었다 can merge with 우:
오빠는 영어를 배웠다 = (My) older brother learned English

던지다 = to throw
The last vowel in the stem is ㅣ. So we add 었다 to the stem.
나는 공을 던지었다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 었다 can merge with 지:
나는 공을 던졌다 = I threw the ball

건너다 = to cross
The last vowel in the stem is ㅓ. So we add 었다 to the stem.
나는 길을 건너었다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 었다 can merge with 너:
나는 길을 건넜다 = I crossed the street

만나다 = to meet
The last vowel in the stem is ㅏ. So we add 았다 to the stem.
나는 친구를 만나았다
But, because the stem ends in a vowel, 았다 can merge with 나:
나는 친구를 만났다 = I met friends

공부하다 = to study
The last vowel in the stem is 하. So, we add 였다 to the stem.
나는 한국어를 공부하였다
But, 하 and 여 can be merged to formed 해:
나는 한국어를 공부했다 = I studied Korean

 

Future Tense

Future tense is easy, and is simply a matter of adding “~겠다” to the stem of a word. Unlike the past and present tense conjugations, there is no difference if the stem ends in a vowel or a consonant. For example:

나는 먹다 = I eat (unconjugated)
나는 먹겠다 = I will eat

나는 가다 = I go (unconjugated)
나는 가겠다 = I will go

나는 배우다 = I learn (unconjugated)
나는 배우겠다 = I will learn

Two verbs specifically that are often conjugated in the future tense without actually having a meaning in the future tenses are 알다(to know) and 모르다(to not know). I don’t want to make any example sentences (because they would be too complicated at this point), but it would be good to remember that the words 알다 and 모르다 are often conjugated to 알겠다 or 모르겠다. Although they are conjugated to the future tense, those two words are typically used to express that somebody knows/doesn’t know something in the present tense.

Also note that the ending of the conjugation will often change as well depending on the different honorifics that you will learn in the next lesson.

Check out the table giving a breakdown of verbs in the past, present and future forms:

Verb Stem Past tense Present tense Future tense
먹다 먹었다 먹는다 먹겠다
닫다 닫았다 닫는다 닫겠다
배우다 배우 배웠다 배운다 배우겠다
가다 갔다 간다 가겠다
이해하다 이해하 이해했다 이해한다 이해하겠다
오다 왔다 온다 오겠다
던지다 던지 던졌다 던진다 던지겠다

 

Adjectives
Present Tense

You learned previously that you need to add ~ㄴ/는다 to a verb stem in order to conjugate it in the present tense. In order to conjugate an adjective into the present tense you don’t need to do anything! Just leave the adjective as it is, and it is conjugated in the present tense. Some examples:

그 선생님은 아름답다 = that teacher is beautiful
그 길은 길다 = that street is long
나의 손은 크다 = my hand is big

 

Past tense

In order to conjugate adjectives to the past tense, you must follow the same rule as when you conjugate verbs to the past tense. This rule, again, is:

You must add 았다 or 었다 to the stem of a word. 았다 is added to words with the last vowel being ㅗ or ㅏ, and 었다  is added to words with the last vowel being anything but ㅏ or ㅗ. For example:

그 길은 길었다 = That street was long (길 + 었다)
그 음식은 맛있었다 = That food was delicious (맛있 + 었다)
그 선생님은 좋았다 = That teacher was good (좋 + 았다)
그 식당이 오래되었다 = That restaurant is old*** (오래되 + 었다)


The meaning of “오래되다” is not “old” in a bad, negative sense. Rather, it is indicating that something has existed for a long time, and now it is “old.” A more appropriate way to indicate that something is “old and decrepit” is to use the word “낡다”… not to be confused with the word “늙다”, which refers to an “old” person.

This is a little bit complicated for you now, but although ~었다 is attached to to make “되었다”, this can be contracted. Teaching this is not the focus of this lesson, so don’t worry about this for now. You will learn more about 되다 in future lessons. See Lesson 9 or Lesson 14 for lessons nearby that discuss ‘되다.’

Also, while 되다 is commonly used and conjugated as a verb, in this case, 오래되다 is an adjective. Which means that [in addition to other ways it will change when used with other grammatical principles], ~ can be added to it to describe an upcoming noun.

For example: 우리는 오래된 집에 갔다 = We went to the old house


 

Just like with verbs, if the final letter of a verb/adjective stem is a vowel, ~았다/었다 can be merged to the actual stem itself:

이것은 비쌌다 = This was expensive (비싸 + 았다)
그 남자는 잘생겼다 = That man was handsome (잘생기 + 었다)
그 사람은 뚱뚱했다 = That person was fat (뚱뚱하 + 였다)

 

Future tense

Conjugating adjectives into the future tense is the same as conjugating verbs into the future tense. All you need to do is add 겠다 to the stem of the adjective:

나는 행복하겠다 = I will be happy
그것은 맛있겠다 = That thing will be delicious
나는 배고프겠다 = I will be hungry

In general, not only is this basic form rare in conversation, but Korean people do not use adjectives in the future as often as English speakers.

Check out the table giving a breakdown of adjectives in the past, present and future forms

Adjective Stem Past tense Present tense Future tense
행복하다 행복하 행복했다 행복하다 행복하겠다
비싸다 비싸 비쌌다 비싸다 비싸겠다
길다 길었다 길다 길겠다
맛있다 맛있 맛있었다 맛있다 맛있겠다
낡다 낡았다 낡다 낡겠다

 

Conjugating 있다 and 있다

있다 is one of the most complex and versatile words in Korean. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common words. It is often very difficult for learners of a language to fully understand some of the most commonly used words in whatever language they are studying. For example, and native English speaker might think that the word “the” is one of the easiest words as it is used so frequently. However, try explaining the meaning and purpose of “the” to a Korean person and you will quickly discover that its usage is very complex.

있다 can be an adjective, or it can be a verb. Whether it is an adjective or a verb depends on its usage.

있다 is an adjective when it is used to indicate that one “has” something. You learned these sentences in Lesson 2:

나는 펜이 있다 = I have a pen
나는 차가 있다 = I have a car
나는 가방이 있다 = I have a bag

Because this 있다 is considered an adjective, we follow the rule for conjugating an adjective to the present tense – which is do nothing and leave the adjective the way it is. So, those three sentences above are perfectly conjugated and grammatically correct.

When 있다 is used to indicate that something/someone is “at/in” a location, it is also an adjective. This is also very difficult for an English speaker to wrap their head around. You learned these sentences in Lesson 2:

나는 은행 안에 있다 = I am inside the bank
개는 집 안에 있다 = The dog is in the house
고양이는 의자 밑에 있다 = The cat is under the chair

Again, because this usage of 있다 is considered an adjective, we follow the rule for conjugating an adjective to the present tense – which is do nothing and leave the adjective the way it is. So, those three sentences above are perfectly conjugated in the plain form and grammatically correct.

However, the usage of 있다 is much more complex than just these two meanings. 있다 has many usages. In fact, there are times when 있다 is considered a verb. At this point, your understanding of Korean is not strong enough to see example sentences of 있다 as a verb because you haven’t learned some critical grammatical principles yet. What I want you to take from this is that 있다 can be a verb – and thus – is conjugated as a verb sometimes. Therefore, although the example sentences above with 있다 are properly conjugated, there are times when the proper conjugation of 있다 in the “plain form” would be 있는다.

있다 is considered a verb when a person (or animal) is not only “at” a location, but “staying” at a location or in a state for a period of time. The difference between the adjective “있다” (to indicate something/someone is at a location) and the verb “있다” (to indicate that someone stays at a location or in a state) is confusing.

Below are some complicated ways that 있다 can be seen as a verb. You absolutely do not need to understand these now. I suggest that you worry about them when you reach that particular lesson in your studies:

  • In Lesson 14 when ~아/어 있다 is used to indicate the passive state of a verb
  • In Lesson 18 when ~고 있다 is used to indicate one continues doing something
  • In Lesson 40 when telling somebody to stay in a location or in a state
  • In Lesson 44 when ~자 is used to make a suggestion to stay in a place

Wow, that is a lot of grammar. Understanding this will probably be your the hardest step you will need to make in learning Korean. I really mean that. If you can get through this lesson, almost everything you will learn will relate back to the principles in this lesson in one way or another. Don’t give up!

There are 1250 example sentences in Unit 1.
All entries are linked to an audio file. You can download all of these files in one package here.

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