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Lesson 108: Past Perfect: ~었~

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Vocabulary
Introduction

The Past Perfect: ~었~

 

 

Vocabulary

Nouns:
붓 = paint brush
여유 = sufficiency in time/space
시장 = mayor
흉터 = scar
연꽃 = lily pad, lotus flower
풍경 = landscape
애교 = charm
연금 = pension
멸치 = anchovy
지름 = diameter
지름길 = shortcut
초보 = beginning, beginner
초보자 = beginner
녹음실 = recording studio
불꽃 = flame/flare/blaze
불꽃놀이 = fireworks

Verbs:
존재하다 = to exist
녹음하다 = to record audio
수비하다 = to defend

Adjectives:
질기다 = to be tough, leathery
알뜰하다 = to be frugal, thrifty
풍족하다 = to be rich, to be well off

Adverbs:
아예 = not at all

 

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn the meaning of a grammatical principle that, by this point, you have probably noticed a few times in your Korean studies. Have you ever seen words in the past tense conjugated with an additional ~었~? As in, 했었다 instead of 했다? In this lesson, we will look at the meaning of this additional ~었~. Let’s get started.

 

 

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The Past Perfect: ~었~

You learned way back in Lesson 5 how to conjugate verbs adjectives and 이다 to the past tense using ~았/었다. For example:

제가 고등학교 때 불꽃놀이를 아주 좋아했어요
= When I was in high school I really liked fireworks

어렸을 때 멸치를 아예 안 먹었어요
= When I was young I didn’t eat anchovies at all

사람들이 그 시장이 나쁘다고 했어요
= People said that mayor is bad

제가 운전을 처음 배웠을 때 초보 운전자 스티커를 붙이고 운전했어요
= When I first learned how to drive, I drove around with a “beginner driver” sticker (on my car)

You can attach an additional ~었~ to these past tense conjugations is to indicate that that action has since finished and is no longer occurring. Note that in most situations, when something is conjugated into the regular past tense this could be the case. For example, if we look at the first sentence above:

제가 고등학교 때 불꽃놀이를 아주 좋아했어요

In this sentence, the speaker is indicating that he/she liked fireworks. Just by the context of the sentence, it can probably be assumed that the speaker no longer likes fireworks. However, this is not specifically indicated and it is only implied from the situation in the sentence. Therefore, the person could technically still like fireworks, but there is no way of knowing from this one sentence.

The same could be said for the next sentence as well:

어렸을 때 멸치를 아예 안 먹었어요

In this sentence, the speaker is indicating that he didn’t eat anchovies at a young age. From this sentence alone, it is possible that he eats anchovies now. It could also be possible that he still doesn’t eat anchovies. The only information that is given is that he did not eat them when he was younger. We can’t make any assumptions regarding the present tense without more information.

The purpose of adding the additional ~었~ to a past tense conjugation is to eliminate this ambiguity. For example:

제가 고등학교 때 불꽃놀이를 아주 좋아했었어요

In this sentence, the use of ~었~ indicates that the situation in the past, it is not continuing to the present. In English this is called the “Past Perfect Tense,” which describes that something happened in the past and is no longer happening in the present. Compare this simply to the  “Past Tense,” where it is ambiguous as to whether the action has continued to the present or not.

For example:

어렸을 때 멸치를 아예 안 먹었었어요
= When I was young I didn’t eat anchovies at all (but now I do)

사람들이 그 시장이 나쁘다고 했었어요
= People used to say that mayor was bad

제가 운전을 처음 배웠을 때 초보 운전자 스티커를 붙이고 운전했었어요
= When I first learned how to drive, I drove around with a “beginner driver” sticker (on my car) (but now I don’t)

~았~ is often used with 갔다 to indicate that one went somewhere and has since returned. When the speaker is the subject (the person who went) in a sentence like this, the meaning is essentially the same regardless of if you use ~었~ or not. For example:

저는 붓을 사거 서울에 갔어요
= I went to Seoul to buy paint brushes (it would be assumed from the situation that you are no longer in Seoul)

저는 붓을 사러 서울에 갔었어요
= I went to Seoul to buy paint brushes (and it is stated that you are no longer in Seoul)

저는 연금을 받으러 캐나다에 갔어요
= I went to Canada to receive my pension (and it is ambiguous if he is still there or not)

저는 연금을 받으러 캐나다에 갔었어요
= I went to Canada to receive my pension (and I am no longer there)

If the speaker is not the subject of the sentence, the effect of ~었~ is more apparent. For example:

아빠가 풍경을 보러 제주에 갔어요
= Dad went to Jeju to see the landscape (and it is ambiguous if he is still there or not)

아빠가 풍경을 보러 서울에 갔었어요
= Dad went to Jeju to see the landscape (and he has come back)

One way of conjugating this into English is to use the word “had.” For example:

제가 고등학교 때 불꽃놀이를 아주 좋아했었어요
= When I was in high school I had liked fireworks

어렸을 때 멸치를 아예 안 먹었었어요
= When I was young I had never eaten anchovies

제가 운전을 처음 배웠을 때 초보 운전자 스티커를 붙이고 운전했어요
= When I first learned how to drive, I had driven around with a “beginner driver” sticker (on my car)

사람들이 그 시장이 나쁘다고 했었어요
= People had said that major was bad

Below are many more examples:

오래 전에는 공룡이 실제로 존재했었어요
= A long time ago dinosaurs had once actually existed

제가 어렸을 때 얼굴에 흉터가 있었었어요
= When I was younger I used to have a scar on my face

옛날에 그 도시에는 사기꾼이 엄청 많았었어요
= A long time ago in that city, there used to be a lot of scammers

그녀가 애교가 많아서 그녀를 잠깐 좋아했었어요
= She has a lot of carm, so I used to like her for a little bit

어렸을 때  등교할 때마다 이 지름길로 다녔었어요
= When I was young I used to take this shortcut everytime I went to school

거기 가기 전에는 연꽃이 얼마나 예쁜지 몰랐었어요
= Before I went there I had no idea how beautiful the lotus flowers were

제가 옛날에 이 녹음실에서 노래를 많이 녹음했었어요
= I used to record a lot of songs in this recording studio

그전에는 돈이 없어서 싼 질긴 고기밖에 못 먹었었어요
= Before then, we didn’t have any money so we couldn’t eat anything but cheap, tough meat

옛날에 돈이 없어서 아주 알뜰했었지만 지금 여유가 생겨서 풍족하게 사고 싶은 것을 사요
= A long time ago we didn’t have any money so we were very thrifty, but now we’ve got some to spare, so we are living well and can buy what we want

That’s it for this lesson!

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