In this lesson, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Korean conjugation.
We’ll explain what Korean conjugation is, how to use it, and when to use it.
Let’s go over some common Korean conjugations – and rules related to them – so that you can get kickstarted on creating your own, conjugated sentences!
- 1 What is Korean conjugation?
- 2 Are Korean conjugation rules different for verbs and adjectives?
- 3 How many conjugations are there in Korean?
- 4 How do you conjugate verbs in Korean?
- 5 What’s the common Korean verb conjugation?
- 6 How important is it to learn Korean Conjugation?
- 7 Which part of the verb do you conjugate?
- 8 How to make the conjugation form of the verbs?
- 9 How do I combine the verb stem and a conjugation?
- 10 Common Korean conjugations
What is Korean conjugation?
Korean conjugations in Korean grammar determine the meaning, tense, tone, and mood of sentences. It’s important to learn conjugation as you progress in learning Korean.
For example, let’s say you’re going to use the verb “go” in a sentence. The base form is in Korean is:
Base Form: 가다 (gada) – to go
However, you need to change it to the present tense.
Conjugated Korean verb: 저는 가요 (I go)
We’ve added 저는 (“I”) as the subject, and then conjugated 가다 (to go).
However, unlike in any other language, Korean grammar takes conjugation to another level. Korean conjugation isn’t limited to verbs. Other parts of speech such as adjectives can be conjugated.
Are Korean conjugation rules different for verbs and adjectives?
Most of the conjugation rules for Korean verbs also apply to adjectives. Once you learn the Korean verb conjugation rules, it’ll be easy to conjugate adjectives.
How many conjugations are there in Korean?
There are 40 basic verb endings but there are over 400 verb endings when all are combined. They are made up of the different Korean grammar categories such as the different tenses (past, present, and future tense), honorifics, and voices to name a few.
How do you conjugate verbs in Korean?
Korean verb conjugation is pretty easy to do. All you need to do is to drop the 다 verb endings from the verb stem and then add the appropriate verb endings. The correct verb endings to be used when conjugating verbs are determined by the final or last vowel after dropping the 다 verb endings from the verb stem.
We’ll get more into the details of conjugations in Korean in awhile.
What’s the common Korean verb conjugation?
The common Korean verb conjugation is the use of 아요 and 어요 which gives the Korean verb its polite and present tense form.
Let’s use the verbs 자다 and 먹다 as an example. These 2 verbs are both in their verb stem form.
As mentioned earlier, conjugations of verbs in Korean happens by dropping the 다 verb endings from the verb stem.
For the verbs 자다 and 먹다, we’ll need to drop the 다 verb endings which will make them:
자다 → 자
먹다 → 먹
If the final or last vowel after dropping 다 is either ㅏ or ㅗ, you’ll use 아요. But if the final or last vowel after dropping 다 is ㅓ, ㅣ, or ㅜ, you’ll use 어요. So for the 2 example verbs above, they’ll become
자 → 자요
먹 → 먹어요
How important is it to learn Korean Conjugation?
When learning the Korean language particularly the Korean grammar, Korean verb conjugation is very important to learn. As mentioned earlier, it sets the tense, tone, and meaning of your sentences which are basically all essential elements you’ll need when communicating.
Koreans give emphasis to politeness in everything including their language. Korean verb conjugation will help you show your respect and politeness towards a person.
Once you get familiar with the different conjugations, it’ll be easy for you to convey and appear to be respectful and polite.
Which part of the verb do you conjugate?
Before learning which part of the Korean verb we need to conjugate, we need to take note that each Korean verb, adverb, and adjective consist of two pieces: a stem and an ending. The first part is the stem and 다 is the ending. These are usually their dictionary form.
When you conjugate any word, you will drop the 다 and replace it with the conjugation. Whenever you conjugate a verb, you only need to think of your tense and tone. The conjugation doesn’t change for the first person, second person, multiple people, etc.
Let’s take a quick look at some common Korean verbs in their basic form or dictionary form!
These verbs are made up of a verb stem and a 다 ending.
How to make the conjugation form of the verbs?
In addition to what we already know about Korean conjugation, there are many conjugations that come together with a small puzzle piece that connects the stem to the conjugation in the most natural way. Let’s look at some simple examples of this.
말하다 + -아/어 → 말해요
만나다 + -아/어 → 만나요
닫다 + -아/어 → 닫아요
가르치다 + -아/어 → 가르쳐요
As you can see, the puzzle piece slightly changes the verb stem it joins. Most of the time the verbs play nice with them, so the rules are easy to learn.
How do I combine the verb stem and a conjugation?
Simply, when 아 meets 아, it drops out. And when 아 meets 오, they connect together into one syllable; for example, 보 becomes 봐. When the verb stem ends in a consonant after 아 or 오, 아 becomes its own syllable.
For all other verb stems, you connect them with 어. When the verb stem ends with 이 the 이 + 어 combination cooks up 여. Only the verb 하다 is different and turns into 해.
Some conjugations also require the puzzle piece 으 connected to stems ending with a consonant. (으)면, which we will introduce below, is one such conjugation. We’ll go over how to conjugate irregular verbs at a later time.
Common Korean conjugations
In this part of the lesson, we’ll be showing the different conjugations for 2 of the commonly used Korean verb 보다 and 만들다.
보다 and 만들다 are the dictionary form of the verbs “to watch or to see” and “to make”. They both are made up of a verb stem and a 다 ending.
Let’s go over how to conjugate these common Korean verbs so that you can immediately see how all this works!
Conjugating 보다 (boda) “to watch/see”
Below is a table with the different conjugations for the verb 보다 (boda) following the different tenses (Past, Present and, Future Tense) and tones.
|봐요||bwayo||I see (Present Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|봤어요||bwasseoyo||I saw (Past Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|볼 거야||bol geoya||Will see||Informal|
|볼 거예요||bol geoyeyo||Will see (Future Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|볼 겁니다||bol geomnnida||Will see||Formal|
The verb 보다 (boda) can also take other forms of conjugation. Let’s take a look at the table below to get familiar with them.
|보고||bogo||I see, and|
|보면||bomyeon||When/if I see|
|볼 수 있어||bol su isseo||Can see||Informal|
|볼 수 있어요||bol su isseoyo||Can see||Neutral/Polite|
|볼 수 있습니다||bol su isseumnida||Can see||Formal|
|볼 수 없어||bol su eopseo||Cannot see||Informal|
|볼 수 없어요||bol su eopseoyo||Cannot see||Neutral/Polite|
|볼 수 없습니다||bol su eopseumnida||Cannot see||Formal|
|봐야 해||bwaya hae||Must see||Informal|
|봐야 해요||bwaya haeyo||Must see||Neutral/Polite|
|봐야 합니다||bwaya hamnida||Must see||formal|
|보고 싶어||bogo sipeo||Want to see||Informal|
|보고 싶어요||bogo sipeoyo||Want to see||Neutral/Polite|
|보고 싶습니다||bogo sipseumnida||Want to see||Formal|
|보고 싶지 않아||bogo sipji ana||Don't want to see||Informal|
|보고 싶지 않아요||bogo sipji anayo||Don't want to see||Neutral/Polite|
|보지 않아||boji ana||Not see||Informal|
|보지 않아요||boji anayo||Not see||Neutral/Polite|
|보지 않습니다||boji anseumnida||Not see||Formal|
|보고 있어||bogo isseo||Am/are/is seeing||Informal|
|보고 있어요||bogo isseoyo||Am/are/is seeing||Neutral/Polite|
|보고 있습니다||bogo isseumnida||Am/are/is seeing||Formal|
|볼까||bolkka||Shall we see?||Informal|
|볼까요||bolkkayo||Shall we see?||Neutral/Polite|
|봤더라||bwatdeora||Saw it||Informal Fact Declaration|
|봤던데요||bwatdeondeyo||Saw it||Neutral/Polite Fact Declaration|
Conjugating 만들다 (mandeulda) “to make”
Below is a table with the different conjugations for the verb 만들다 (mandeulda) following the different tenses (Past, Present, and Future Tense) and tones.
|만들어요||mandeureoyo||I make (Present Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|만들었어요||mandeureosseoyo||I made (Past Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|만들 거야||mandeul geoya||Will make||Informal|
|만들 거예요||mandeul geoyeyo||Will make (Future Tense)||Polite/Neutral|
|만들 겁니다||mandeul geomnnida||Will make||Formal|
The verb 만들다 (mandeulda) can also take other forms of conjugation. Let’s take a look at the table below to get familiar with them.
|만들고||mandeulgo||I make, and|
|만들면||mandeulmyeon||When/if I make|
|만들 수 있어||mandeul su isseo||Can make||Informal|
|만들 수 있어요||mandeul su isseoyo||Can make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들 수 있습니다||mandeul su isseumnida||Can make||Formal|
|만들 수 없어||mandeul su eopseo||Cannot make||Informal|
|만들 수 없어요||mandeul su eopseoyo||Cannot make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들 수 없습니다||mandeul su eopseumnida||Cannot make||Formal|
|만들어야 해||mandeureoya hae||Must make||Informal|
|만들어야 해요||mandeureoya haeyo||Must make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들어야 합니다||mandeureoya hamnida||Must make||Formal|
|만들고 싶어||mandeulgo sipeo||Want to make||Informal|
|만들고 싶어요||mandeulgo sipeoyo||Want to make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들고 싶습니다||mandeulgo sipseumnida||Want to make||Formal|
|만들고 싶지 않아||mandeulgo sipji ana||Don't want to make||Informal|
|만들고 싶지 않아요||mandeulgo sipji anayo||Don't want to make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들지 않아||mandeulji ana||Not make||Informal|
|만들지 않아요||mandeulji anayo||Not make||Neutral/Polite|
|만들지 않습니다||mandeulji anseumnida||Not make||Formal|
|만들고 있어||mandeulgo isseo||Am/are/is making||Informal|
|만들고 있어요||mandeulgo isseoyo||Am/are/is making||Neutral/Polite|
|만들고 있습니다||mandeulgo isseumnida||Am/are/is making||Formal|
|만들까||mandeulkka||Shall we make?||Informal|
|만들까요||mandeulkkayo||Shall we make?||Neutral/Polite|
|만들었더라||mandeureotdeora||Made it||Informal Fact Declaration|
|만들었던데요||mandeureotdeondeyo||Made it||Neutral/Polite Fact Declaration|
Conjugating 하다 (hada) “to do”
The verb 하다 (hada) generally means “to do” in English. It is usually attached to words to make them either action verbs or descriptive verbs. For example:
공부 (gongbu | study) + 하다 (hada | to do)= 공부하다 (gongbuhada | to study)
요리 (yori | cook)+ 하다 (hada | to do) = 요리하다 (yorihada | to cook)
Below are the conjugation examples of the verb 하다 (hada):
- 하다 (hada) = standard form
- 해요 (haeyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel or consonant, present
- 했어요 (haesseoyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel or consonant, past*
- 했었어요 (haesseosseoyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel or consonant, past perfect*
Conjugating 이다 (ida) “to be”
The verb 이다 (ida) is the Korean equivalent of “to be” in English. It is usually used to identify people and objects. When using it to form sentences, it can be used with the following sentence structure:
Subject and particle + Noun입니다
Here are conjugation examples for the verb 이다 (ida) – to be.
- 입니다 (imnida) = honorific verb, present tense
- 입니까 (imnikka) = honorific question verb, present
- 이에요 (ieyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a consonant, present
- 예요 (yeyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel, present
- 이었어요 (ieosseoyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a consonant, past*
- 였어요 (yeosseoyo) = polite/formal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel, past*
- 야 (ya) = casual/informal ending verb for nouns ending in a vowel, present
- 이야 (iya) = casual/informal ending verb for nouns ending in a consonant, present
*Note: if you wish to use the past tense for 이다 (ida) on a casual level, use this form and simply drop the 요 (yo) from its tail
You may be thinking, “that’s quite a bit of vocabulary to remember!”
It gets easier with practice, and this grammar rule allows sentences to be more specific. Read these example sentences for 이다 (ida) to see:
- = I am Joana
- = How old are you?
- = I am a Vietnamese
- = I am a singer.
- = He was a soldier.
- = He was a good friend.
- = I am a man
- = I am a student
Let’s take a closer look at the verb, 있다 (itda) – to have. Here are its basic conjugations in Korean grammar:
- 있습니다 (itseumnida) = honorific verb, present
- 있습니까? (itseumnikka) = honorific verb, present
- 있었습니다 (isseotseumnida) = honorific verb, past
- 있어요 (isseoyo) = polite/formal verb, present*
- 있었어요 (isseosseoyo) = polite/formal verb, past*
*Note: to create the casual/informal form, simply use these without the 요 (yo) at the end
You’ll notice that 있다 (itda) conjugates much like 이다 (itda), with only slight changes in the letters because of the word itself.
있다 operates more like an adjective than a verb, changing how it works with particles. Hopefully, these examples will help illustrate that:
- = I have a question
- = Do you have a question?
- = I had a girlfriend
- = I have a little brother
- = I have a bag
- = I had a boyfriend
- = I had an appointment
Conjugating 없다 (eopda) “to not have”
Next, 없다 (eopda) is the opposite of 있다(itda), meaning “to not have”. It is conjugated the same as 있다 (itda). Here are some grammar examples:
- = I don’t have a big sister
- = I don’t have a car
- = I didn’t have time
- = I don’t have cash
Success! You are now ready to start putting Korean conjugations to use in your Korean studies.
There are a lot of useful conjugations in here, so make sure you refer to this list often. In addition to these conjugations, there are many more you’ll later get to learn. You can also learn about Korean particles and how they fit into Korean grammar in general.
What Korean verb conjugation do you think is most useful? Let us know in the comments below!