Lesson 18: Present Progressive ~고 있다; To be Getting ~아/어지다

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Present Progressive (I am __ing) ~고 있다
– 살고 있다
– 알고 있다
– 가지고 있다
– Position Verbs
– Adjectives

Adjective + 아/어지다




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 these words and extra information can be found here.

원숭이 = monkey

대부분의 원숭이는 나무에서 살아요 = Most monkeys live in trees
너는 원숭이 같이 보여 = You look like a monkey
는 바나나를 많이 먹어요 = Monkeys eat bananas

교과목 = subject in school

캐나다 선생님들은 항상 두 개의 교과목을 가르쳐요 = Canadian teachers always teach two subjects
학생들은 교과목 두 개 중에 하나를 선택해야 해요 = Students must choose one out of the two subjects

교과서 = textbook

Common Usages:
영어교과서 = English textbook
교과서로 공부하다 = to study using a textbook

학교는 학생들한테 교과서를 제공하지 않아요 = The school doesn’t provide textbooks to the students

소문 = rumor

Common Usages
헛소문 = false rumor
소문을 내다 = to spread rumors

Notes: Often used with the ~는 것 conjugation of ~ㄴ/는다는 것. See Lesson 52 for more information.

그 여자의 남편이 비서랑 바람을 피운다는 소문이 있어요 = There is a rumor that that woman’s husband is having an affair with his secretary
저는 친구를 통해 소문을 들었어요 = I heard a rumor from my friend

충전기 = charger

Common Usages:
핸드폰 충전기 = cell phone charger

Notes: 충전하다 means “to charge.”

충전기가 없어서 핸드폰 충전을 못 해요 = I can’t charge my phone because I don’t have the charger

청구서 = bill

Common Usages:
청구서를 내다 = to pay a bill
전기요금청구서 = electricity bill
가스청구서 = gas bill

저는 은행에서 청구서를 냈어요 = I paid the bill at the bank

계산원 = cashier

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “계사눤”

Notes: 계산하다 means “to pay” or “to calculate”

계산원들은 돈을 많이 벌지 않아요 = Cashiers don’t earn a lot of money

계산기 = calculator

Notes: 계산하다 means “to pay” or “to calculate”

한국학생들은 수학문제를 계산기 없이 풀어요 = Korean students solve math problems without calculators

출장 = business trip

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “출짱”

Common Usages:
출장비 = business trip expense
출장을 가다 = to go on a business trip

부장님은 내일까지 출장을 갔어요 = The boss went on a business trip until tomorrow

밥솥 = rice cooker

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “밥쏟”

Common Usages:
밥솥에 밥을 짓다 = to make rice in a rice cooker

한국에서는 모든 집에 밥솥이 있어요 = All houses in Korea have a rice cooker

소설 = novel

Common Usages:
소설가 = a novelist
단편소설 = short story novel
장편소설 = full length novel

어떤 소설을 읽고 있어요? Which novel are you reading?
소설가의 설명은 아주 섬세해요 = The novelist’s explanation is very delicate/sophisticated

백과사전 = encyclopedia

Common Usages:
위키백과 = Wikipedia
백과사전에서 찾다 = to look up in an encyclopedia

저는 그 사실을 백과사전에 찾았어요 = I looked up that fact in an encyclopedia

전공 = major (in university)

Common Usages:
부전공 = minor
경제를 전공하다 = to major in economics
외국어를 전공하다 = to major in foreign languages

대학생 때 저의 전공은 영어였어요 = In University, my major was English

가위 = scissors

Common Usages:
가위로 자르다 = to cut with scissors

종이를 가위로 잘라요 = To cut paper with scissors

= team

Common Usages:
우리 팀 = our team
홈팀 = home team
원정 팀 = visiting team
팀을 응원하다 = to cheer for a team
팀장 = the leader of a team (usually a team within a business)

우리는 좋은 공격으로 그 을 이겼어요 = We beat that team using good offense
우리는 다른 을 농구경기에서 이겼어요 = We beat the other team in the basketball game

부모님 = parents

Common Usages:
학부모 = parents of students
부모님을 사랑하다 = to love one’s parents
부모님이 돌아가시다 = a respectful way to say that somebody’s parent has passed away

그의 부모님은 아직 미국에서 살아요 = His parents still live in America
부모님들은 아이에 큰 영향을 준다/미친다 = parents have a big influence on their children
부모님들은 아이에 영향을 미친다 = Parents have an influence on their children
부모님 앞에서 그렇게 행동하지 마세요 = Don’t act that way in front of your parents
제가 저의 여자 친구의 부모님을 만날 때마다 저는 너무 긴장돼요 = Every time I meet my girlfriend’s parents, I am very nervous

피부 = skin

Common Usages:
피부색 = skin color (the color of skin)
피부색깔 = one’s skin color

그 여자의 피부가 너무 부드러워요 = That girl’s skin is very smooth
유럽 사람의 피부는 하얘요 = European people’s skin is white

군대 = army

Common Usages:
군대에/를 가다 = to enter the military
군대를 파견하다 = to dispatch an army
군대를 지휘하다 = to command an army

저의 사촌은 군대에 갔어요 = My cousin went to the army
미국군대는 한국군대보다 더 커요 = The American military is bigger than the Korean military

군인 = soldier

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “구닌”

Common Usages:
군인이 되다 = to become a soldier
군인 생활 = the life of a soldier/soldier life

군인들은 매일 일찍 일어나야 돼요 = Soldiers have to wake up early every day
군인들은 적의 덫에서 못 빠져나갔어요 = The soldiers could not escape the enemy’s trap

지도 = map

Common Usages:
세계지도 = world map

저는 지도를 벽에 걸었어요 = I hung a map on the wall

책상 = desk

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “책쌍”

책상에 책 몇 권이 놓여 있어요 = There are some books on the desk
이 너무 복잡해서 책을 조금 치워야 돼요 = I need to clean up (organize) the books a bit because my desk is very messy/unorganized

어깨 = shoulder

Common Usages:
어깨에 메다 = to put something on one’s shoulders
어깨를 주무르다 = to massage one’s shoulders

저는 가방을 어깨에 맸어요 = I put the bag on my shoulders

백화점 = department store

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “배콰점”

Common Usages:
롯데 백화점 = Lotte Department Store
현대 백화점 = Hyundai Department Store

백화점에 옷이 너무 비싸요 = Clothes are too expensive in department stores
에는 외부 주차장도 있어요 = There is a parking lot outside the department store as well

대학생 = university student

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “대학쌩”

Common Usages:
대학생 때 = when one was a university student
대학생활 = University life

저는 대학생이에요= I am a university student
저의 누나는 대학생이에요 = My older sister is a university student
우리 아들은 지금 대학생이에요 = Our son is a university student now
대학생 때 저의 전공은 영어였어요 = In University, my major was English

중학교 = middle school

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “중학꾜”

Common Usage:
중학교를 다니다 = to attend a middle school

저는 영어를 중학교에서 배웠어요 = I learned English in middle school
Harry Potter의 독자들은 보통 중학교 혹은 고등학생이에요 = Most readers of Harry Potter are middle or high school students

가수 = singer

가수는 한국에서 매우 유명해요 = That singer is very famous in Korea

공기 = air

Common Usages:
공기가 맑다 = for the air to be clear
공기가 좋다 = for the air to be good
공기가 나쁘다 for the air to be bad
공기가 건조하다 = for the air to be dry

캐나다 공기는 아주 건조해요 = The air in Canada is very dry
공기가 나빠서 저는 숨을 못 쉬어요 = I can’t breathe because the air is bad

새벽 = dawn

Common Usages:
새벽에 일어나다 = to wake up early
새벽 2 시에 = at 2:00 in the morning

Notes: The word 오전 generally refers to anything before noon, but 새벽 is used to refer to something that is really early in the morning. Typically, 새벽 refers to the time before the sun rises.

저는 매일 새벽 5시에 일어나요 = I wake up every day at 5 a.m.

자르다 = to cut

자르다 follows the 르 irregular

Common Usages:
머리를 자르다 = to cut one’s hair
사람을 자르다 = to fire a person (literally “to cut a person”)

저는 어제 미용실에서 머리를 잘랐어요 = I got my hair cut in the beauty parlor yesterday
손톱을 왜 이렇게 짧게 잘랐어요? = Why did you cut your nails so short (like this)?
옆 집에서 사는 사람은 그 소나무를 잘랐을 것 같아요 = It seems like the person who lives in the house next door cut the pine tree

요청하다 = to ask, to request

Common Usages:
도움을 요청하다 (to ask for help)

저는 선생님에게 숙제에 대한 설명을 요청했어요 = I asked the teacher for an explanation of the homework

궁금하다 = to be curious about

Notes: 궁금하다 often translates to “to wonder,” which makes learners assume that it is a verb. Rather, 궁금하다 is an adjective and is more about the feeling of wondering (or being curious) about something.

Common Usages:
궁금한 것이 있다 = to wonder something, to have a question
궁금한 게 있는데… = I’m wondering something…

Example: 그가 언제 올지 궁금해요 = I wonder when he is coming
그 여자의 나이가 궁금해서 몇 살인지 물어봤어요 = I was curious of that girl’s age, so I asked how old she is

안타깝다 = to be unfortunate

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “안타깝따”

안타깝다 follows the ㅂ irregular

Common Usages:
안타까운 상황 = unfortunate situation

Example: 엄마가 우리랑 같이 못 먹어서 안타까워요 = It’s too bad that your mom can’t eat with us

젖다 = to be wet

The pronunciation of this word is closer to “젇따”

수영장에 들어간 후에 옷이 완전히 젖었어요 = My clothes are completely wet after going into the pool

Adverbs and Other Words
주로 = mainly, mostly

Notes: 주로 is an adverb that sounds a lot like an adjective in sentences. It is often put before nouns (like adjectives) to mean “mainly/mostly (noun).”

Example: 저의 친구는 주로 남자예요 = My friends are mostly men
저는 주로 과일과 야채를 먹어요 = I mainly eat fruits and vegetables

내부 = in

It is easy to understand the meaning of 내부 and 외부 if you understand their simple Hanja origins. 내() means “inside” and 외() means “outside.” You don’t need to worry about the Chinese characters just yet, but knowing that 외 and 내 usually have these meanings can help you tremendously when learning new words. If you want to go further, 부() (as in, 내부 and 외부) means “part.” 내부 then means “the inside part/the inside”, and 외부 means “the outside part/the outside.”

스타벅스의 내부 분위기는 매우 안락해요 = The atmosphere inside Starbucks is very comfortable

외부 = out

It is easy to understand the meaning of 내부 and 외부 if you understand their simple Hanja origins. 내() means “inside” and 외() means “outside.” You don’t need to worry about the Chinese characters just yet, but knowing that 외 and 내 usually have these meanings can help you tremendously when learning new words. If you want to go further, 부() (as in, 내부 and 외부) means “part.” 내부 then means “the inside part/the inside”, and 외부 means “the outside part/the outside.”

이 쪽은 건물 외부로 나갈 수 있는 길이다 = This way/direction will take you outside (to the outer part of the) the building

저쪽 = in that direction

Common Usages:
저쪽으로 가다 = to go in that direction

우리는 저쪽으로 가야 돼요 = We need to go in that direction
그 사람이 저쪽으로 갔어요 = That person went (in) that direction

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


Present Progressive (I am __ing): ~ 있다

Attaching ~고 있다 to the stem of verbs gives it the meaning of “I am ____ ing,” – as in, I am currently doing something. It is called the “present progressive” because the action is being done in the present, and is currently “progressing” as time goes on.

This grammatical form is very common in Korean. Simply attach ~고 있다 to a verb stem:

As you know, 있다 has many usages and meanings in Korean. Sometimes 있다 is a verb, and sometimes it is an adjective. When used as ~고 있다 as described here, 있다 is a verb. For now, this is only important to you when conjugating in the plain form. In the future, there will be other times when this distinction will be important.

나는 음악을 듣고 있어 = I am listening to music
저의 아버지는 자고 있어요 = My father is sleeping
여자들은 지금 영화를 보고 있어요 = The girls are watching a movie now
저는 사과를 자르고 있어요 = I am cutting the apple
저는 청구서를 지금 내고 있어요 = I am paying the bill now

This same form can be used in the past tense to mean “I was ___ing.”

저는 밥을 먹고 있었어요 = I was eating
학생들은 수업 시간 동안 자고 있었어요 = The students were sleeping during class

You learned previously that 동안 has the meaning of “for” when placed after an indication of time (10년 동안 = for 10 years). However, when placed after a noun, it has the meaning of “during” (방학 동안 = during vacation/수업 시간 동안 = during class)

However, using ~고 있다 in the past tense is slightly awkward in Korean. It can be used like this, but it is often more natural to use the regular past tense conjugation instead. For example:

저는 밥을 먹고 있었어요 = I was eating
학생들은 자고 있었어요 = The students were sleeping

In most situations the sentences above could be said in the following way without any real difference in meaning:

저는 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate
학생들은 잤어요 = The students slept

Nonetheless, if you really want to stress that you were doing something, you can use this form. More examples:

저는 백화점에서 쇼핑했어요 = I shopped at the department store
대학생은 책상에서 공부를 했어요 = The university student studied at his desk

저는 백화점에서 쇼핑하고 있었어요 = I was shopping at the department store
대학생은 책상에서 공부를 하고 있었어요 = The university student was studying at his desk

~고 있다 can also be conjugated into the future tense. For example:

나는 다음 주에 시험 공부를 하고 있을 거야 = Next week, I will be studying for an exam

But, just like with the past tense of this form, the same meaning can be expressed by just using a regular future tense conjugation. Therefore, although the sentence above is correct, the same meaning can be expressed by saying:

저는 다음 주에 시험 공부를 할 거예요 = Next week, I will study for an exam

~고 있다 can usually be used very easily with most verbs, but there are some special situations that we need to talk about before we move on.



1) 살고 있다

In English, we can say “I live in Canada.” You could also say “I am living in Canada,” but to me it sounds more natural to say “I live in Canada.” In Korean, however, “살고 있다” is often used when you want to say “I live in ________:” For example, both of these are acceptable:

저는 한국에서 살고 있어요 = I live in Korea
저는 한국에서 살아요 = I live in Korea

살다 (to live) is a little bit strange because you can actually use ‘에서’ or ‘에’ to indicate the place that you are living. For example, these are also correct, and have the same meaning as the previous examples:

저는 한국에 살고 있어요 = I live in Korea
저는 한국에 살아요 = I live in Korea

Although they both sound natural to Korean speakers, I’ve heard that ~에서 is probably the correct one.


2) 알고 있다

In English, almost every verb can go into the “I am ___ing” form. For example:

I am studying
I am praying
I am listening
I am walking
I am playing

However, one word that we would never say that way is

I am knowing

In Korean, however, it is very common to say “알고 있다.” Instead of translating this to “I am knowing” it needs to be translated to “I know,” because we would never say “I am knowing” in English.

나는 그것을 알고 있어 = I know that
나는 그것을 알아 = I know that

While we are on the subject of “알다,” let’s talk about other ways that this word is commonly used.

When a person tells you something and you want to say “okay,” Korean people would use “알다” in these situations. One common time you would want to say “okay” or “알다” in this respect is when responding to a command. I haven’t taught you how to give commands yet (you will learn that in Lesson 40), but for the moment just accept that “집에 빨리 와” means “come home quickly.”

Person 1: 집에 빨리 와! = come home quickly
Person 2: 알았어 = Okay

However, this doesn’t need to be used in response to a command. It could just be any piece of new information that you want to say “okay” to. For example:

Person 1: 우리는 내일 6시에 출발 할 거야 = We will leave at 6:00 tomorrow
Person 2: 알았어 = Okay

In formal situations, it is possible to use “알았어요,” but it is also very common to use the future tense formal conjugation of 알겠습니다. For example:

Person 1: 이 일을 내일까지 해야 합니다 = You have to finish this work by tomorrow
(You haven’t learned the grammar for this sentence yet, so don’t worry about the Korean sentence. Focus more on the English sentence, because what I am trying to teach you here is the response to that question in Korean)
Person 2: 네, 알겠습니다 = Yes, okay. (I got it)



3) 가지고 있다
A word that you learned in a previous lesson is “가지다.” 가지다 is a verb that means “to have/posses.” You also know that you can use 있다 to state that you “have” something. For example:

나는 펜이 있다 = I have a pen (remember that this usage of 있다 requires that 이/가 be added to the object, because 있다 is actually an adjective in this form).

When using 가지다, however, you would think that you could simply do this:

나는 펜을 가져 – I have a pen – But, it is not usually said like this. If you want to say that you have something using 가지다, you should say “가지고 있다” instead of just “가지다.” For example:

나는 펜을 가지고 있어 = I have a pen
Just like how we don’t say “I am knowing” in English, we also wouldn’t say “I am having.” Therefore, when translating “~를/을 가지고 있다” into English, you need to say “I have ____.”

If you want to talk about ‘people’ that you ‘have,’ you should never use “가지고 있다.’ Instead, you should use just ‘있다.’ For example:

나는 여자 친구가 있어 = I have a girlfriend
나는 여자 친구를 가지고 있어 – this technically means “I have a girlfriend,” but it’s meaning is more similar to “I possess a girlfriend.” If you say something like this in Korean, Korean people will probably understand you, but laugh at your mistake (similar to if somebody told me that they possess a girlfriend in English).


Using 고 있다 with Position Verbs

In the previous lesson, you learned that you cannot add ~고 to position verbs. Examples of these verbs were:

앉다 = to sit
서다 = to stand

Specifically, I said:

“These position verbs usually act differently than regular verbs (not just in this situation, but in many situations).”

~고 있다 is another situation where these position verbs act differently than regular verbs.

First of all, adding ~고 있다 to these verbs can be done. For example:

저는 앉고 있다 = I am sitting – but note that this only means that you are actually in the process of sitting; as in, you are currently bending your knees getting ready to sit.
“저는 앉고 있다” is grammatically correct, but you need to ask yourself when you would ever say this.

What you want to say, is “I am (in the state of) sitting”… as in, your butt is on the floor/on a chair, etc.. If you want to do this, you have to add ~아/어 있다 to these verbs instead of ~고 있다. For example:

나는 앉아 있어 = I’m sitting
나는 학교 옆에 서 있어 = I’m standing next to the school
나는 침대에 누워 있어 = I’m lying in bed

In theory, this is the same concept that you used when you added ~아/어 있다 to “state” like words in Lesson 14. For example:

컴퓨터가 켜져 있어요 = The computer is (in the state of) on
TV가 꺼져 있어요 = The TV is (in the state of) off
문이 잠겨 있어요 = The door is (in the state of) locked

One more time, for good measure:

나는 서고 있다 = This means that you are currently in the process of standing up – which probably wouldn’t be said… especially since Korean people have a specific word for “getting up” – 일어나다.
나는 서 있다 = This means that you are in the state of standing (probably what you want to say in almost every situation)

Another common word that this is used with is 살다. Earlier in this lesson, you learned how you can use ~고 있다 with 살다. For example:

저는 한국에서 살고 있어요 = I live in Korea

By adding “~아/어 있다” to 살다, you can create the meaning of “in the state of living” (as in, the opposite of dead. For example:

그 돼지는 살아 있어요 = That pig is living (alive)
그 소는 살아 있지 않아요 = That cow isn’t living (alive)


Using ~ 있다 with Adjectives
You cannot attach ~고 있다 to adjectives. Adjectives, by their nature, are not able to “progress” as verbs do. This is the same as in English. For example:

저는 행복해요 = I am happy – this is okay.
저는 행복하고 있어요 – I am… being happy? Doesn’t make any sense.

In English, you can say I am getting happy. The next section will teach you how to do that.


Adjective + ~/어지다

Another powerful grammatical form in Korean is adding ~아/어지다 to the stem of an adjective. This changes the meaning of an adjective from “be (adjective)” to “get/become (adjective).” For example:

행복하다 = to be happy
행복해지다 = to get/become happy

춥다 = to be cold
추워지다 = to get cold

비싸다 = to be expensive
비싸지다 = to get expensive

크다 = to be big
커지다 = to get/become big

따뜻하다 = to be warm
따뜻해지다 = to get warm

You can technically use these adjectives in the present tense, but just like with verbs, you only ever really use the present tense conjugation to indicate common truths or to indicate the frequency of something happening. For example, you would rarely every say:

I eat rice
But you might be more inclined to say:
I eat rice everyday

Same thing here:

날씨가 추워져 = The weather gets cold
날씨가 매일 밤에 추워져요 = The weather gets cold every night

It is more natural to use these types of words in sentences in the past/future tense:

날씨는 주말에 추워졌어 = The weather got cold over the weekend
기름 값은 비싸졌어요 = The price of oil got expensive
그 사람은 밥을 먹고 나서 행복해졌어요 = That person ate, and then became happy
우리 강아지는 지난 1년 동안 많이 커졌어요 = Our puppy got a lot bigger in the last year
저는 군대에 갔고 똑똑해졌어요 = I went to the army and got smart
대학교 수업은 내년에 어려워질 거예요 = University classes will get difficult next year

When ~아/어지다 is added to an adjective, the entire construction is a verb. In practice, this is rarely an issue because most times the conjugation of an adjective and a verb is the same. However, there are some conjugation patterns (which you learned about in Lessons 5 and 6) that are different depending on if the word is an adjective or verb. For example, when conjugating these using the “diary form,” it should be conjugated as:

날씨가 매일 밤에 추워진다 = The weather gets cold every night, instead of:
날씨가 매일 밤에 추워지다 = The weather gets cold every night

Keep this on your mind when you reach Lessons 26 – 30, where I introduce the ~는 것 principle. In those lessons, you will learn about another grammatical principle that is treated differently depending on if it is added to verbs or adjectives. It also allows grammatical principles that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be attached to adjectives to be attached to this new “verb” word.

As I mentioned earlier, you cannot attach ~고 있다 to an adjective. However, by attaching ~아/어지다 to an adjective, you can indicate that something “becomes” an adjective. It is then possible to attach ~고 있다 to an adjective that has ~아/어지다 already attached. For example:

저의 여자 친구는 예뻐지고 있어요 = My girlfriend is getting pretty
집 값은 비싸지고 있어 = House prices are getting expensive
피부가 부드러워지고 있어요 = My skin is getting soft

In the previous lesson, you learned that you cannot add ~고 싶다 to an adjective. By attaching ~아/어지다, you can indicate that something “becomes” an adjective. It is then possible to attach ~고 싶다 to an adjective as with ~고 있다. For example:

나는 행복해지고 싶어 = I want to become happy (I want to be happy)
나는 예뻐지고 싶어 = I want to become pretty (I want to be pretty)

That’s it!

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