Korean Conjugation – How to Use Verbs & Adjectives

Last Updated on October 5, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
A boy standing while reading a book

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!

A boy standing while reading a book

Below is a free PDF guide for “Korean Conjugation” that you can download and take with you:

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. Conjugations in Korean aren’t limited to Korean 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.

Korean verb endings

These are a few of the common Korean verb endings you can use for verb conjugation.

  1. 입니다, 이에요 or 예요 – Is, am, are
  2. 있다 – To have, To exist and
  3. 없다 – Not to have, To not exist
  4. ~지 않아요 – Don’t
  5. ~지 않았어요 – Didn’t
  6. ~지 않을 거예요 – Won’t
  7.  ~지 못 해요 –Can’t
  8. ~지 했어요 – Couldn’t
  9. ~지 할 거예요 – Won’t be able to

Korean Present Tense

When expressing Korean verbs in the present, the Korean verb conjugation used are 아요 or 어요 and ㅂ니다 or 습니다.

Korean Past Tense

When expressing Korean verbs in the past, the Korean verb conjugation used are the 았어요 and 었어요.

Korean Future Tense

The Korean verb conjugation used for future tense is the 겠어요 and (으)ㄹ 거예요.

Korean verb conjugator

If you want to easily make a verb conjugation, you can use a Korean verb conjugator. You can use the link below for making a verb conjugation:

Korean Verb Conjugator

Korean verb conjugation can be a bit tough to learn when you’re just beginning to learn Korean. It’ll become easier as you progress by learning more Korean verb endings and practice using them more often.

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 a while.

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 Korean verbs 자다 and 먹다 as an example. These 2 verbs are both in their verb stem form.

As mentioned earlier, verb conjugations in Korean happen by dropping the 다 verb endings from the verb stem.

For the Korean verbs 자다 and 먹다, we’ll need to drop the 다 verb endings which will make them:

자다

먹다

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

자요

먹어요

A group of people dining together in one table

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!

말하 (malhada)

to speak

만나 mannada)

to meet

가르치 (gareuchida)

to teach

These Korean 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 how we conjugate verbs in Korean, 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 Korean 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.

Girls and boys doing activities, walking, jumping, having fun.

 

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 and tones.

KoreanRomanizationEnglishTone
bwaI seeInformal
봐요bwayoI see (Present Tense)Polite/Neutral
봅니다bomnidaI seeFormal
봤어bwasseoI sawInformal
봤어요bwasseoyoI saw (Past Tense)Polite/Neutral
봤습니다bwasseumnidaI sawFormal
볼 거야 bol geoyaWill seeInformal
볼 거예요bol geoyeyoWill see (Future Tense)Polite/Neutral
볼 겁니다bol geomnnidaWill seeFormal

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.

Korean RomanizationEnglishTone
봐라bwaraSee!Informal Command
보세요boseyoSee!Polite Command
보십시오bosibsioSee!Formal Command
보자bojaLet's see Informal/Neutral
봅시다bopsidaLet's see Polite/Formal
보고 bogoI see, and
보면bomyeonWhen/if I see
볼 수 있어bol su isseoCan seeInformal
볼 수 있어요bol su isseoyoCan seeNeutral/Polite
볼 수 있습니다bol su isseumnidaCan seeFormal
볼 수 없어bol su eopseoCannot seeInformal
볼 수 없어요bol su eopseoyoCannot seeNeutral/Polite
볼 수 없습니다bol su eopseumnidaCannot seeFormal
봐야 해bwaya haeMust seeInformal
봐야 해요bwaya haeyoMust seeNeutral/Polite
봐야 합니다bwaya hamnidaMust seeformal
보고 싶어bogo sipeoWant to seeInformal
보고 싶어요bogo sipeoyoWant to seeNeutral/Polite
보고 싶습니다bogo sipseumnidaWant to seeFormal
보고 싶지 않아bogo sipji anaDon't want to see Informal
보고 싶지 않아요bogo sipji anayoDon't want to see Neutral/Polite
보지 않아boji anaNot see Informal
보지 않아요boji anayoNot seeNeutral/Polite
보지 않습니다boji anseumnidaNot seeFormal
보고 있어bogo isseoAm/are/is seeing Informal
보고 있어요bogo isseoyoAm/are/is seeing Neutral/Polite
보고 있습니다bogo isseumnidaAm/are/is seeing Formal
볼까bolkkaShall we see?Informal
볼까요bolkkayoShall we see?Neutral/Polite
봤더라bwatdeoraSaw itInformal Fact Declaration
봤던데요bwatdeondeyoSaw itNeutral/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.

KoreanRomanizationEnglishTone
만들어mandeureoI makeInformal
만들어요mandeureoyoI make (Present Tense)Polite/Neutral
만듭니다mandeumnidaI makeFormal
만들었어mandeureosseoI madeInformal
만들었어요mandeureosseoyoI made (Past Tense)Polite/Neutral
만들었습니다mandeureosseumnidaI madeFormal
만들 거야mandeul geoyaWill makeInformal
만들 거예요mandeul geoyeyoWill make (Future Tense)Polite/Neutral
만들 겁니다mandeul geomnnidaWill makeFormal

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.

KoreanRomanizationEnglishTone
만들어라mandeureoraMake!Informal Command
만드세요mandeuseyoMake!polite command
만드십시오mandeusibsioMake!formal command
만들자mandeuljaLet's make Informal/Neutral
만듭시다mandeupsidaLet's make Polite/Formal
만들고mandeulgo I make, and
만들면mandeulmyeonWhen/if I make
만들 수 있어mandeul su isseoCan makeInformal
만들 수 있어요mandeul su isseoyoCan makeNeutral/Polite
만들 수 있습니다mandeul su isseumnidaCan makeFormal
만들 수 없어mandeul su eopseoCannot makeInformal
만들 수 없어요mandeul su eopseoyoCannot makeNeutral/Polite
만들 수 없습니다mandeul su eopseumnidaCannot makeFormal
만들어야 해mandeureoya haeMust makeInformal
만들어야 해요mandeureoya haeyoMust makeNeutral/Polite
만들어야 합니다mandeureoya hamnidaMust makeFormal
만들고 싶어 mandeulgo sipeoWant to make Informal
만들고 싶어요 mandeulgo sipeoyoWant to make Neutral/Polite
만들고 싶습니다 mandeulgo sipseumnidaWant to make Formal
만들고 싶지 않아mandeulgo sipji anaDon't want to make Informal
만들고 싶지 않아요mandeulgo sipji anayoDon't want to make Neutral/Polite
만들지 않아mandeulji anaNot makeInformal
만들지 않아요mandeulji anayoNot make Neutral/Polite
만들지 않습니다mandeulji anseumnidaNot make Formal
만들고 있어mandeulgo isseoAm/are/is making Informal
만들고 있어요mandeulgo isseoyoAm/are/is making Neutral/Polite
만들고 있습니다mandeulgo isseumnidaAm/are/is making Formal
만들까mandeulkkaShall we make? Informal
만들까요mandeulkkayoShall we make? Neutral/Polite
만들었더라 mandeureotdeoraMade itInformal Fact Declaration
만들었던데요mandeureotdeondeyoMade itNeutral/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 a noun that ends 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*
  • (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:

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) conjugate verbs 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:

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:

Success! You’ve finished learning how to conjugate Korean words and 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. Slowly, you will be able to master Korean verb conjugation. In addition to these verb 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!

    21 replies to "Korean Conjugation – How to Use Verbs & Adjectives"

    • Avatar for Ana Ana

      Also in the Korean verb endings section, the lists of endings for present tense, past tense and future tense are incomplete (not specifying the informal, formal and polite endings), compared to the actual verb conjugation examples later on. I think it would help to have the same information in both sections to make it less confusing.

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Thanks for your suggestions, Ana! I’ll talk to the team about updating the article. ^^

    • Avatar for Ana Ana

      Typo: in the Korean verb endings section there is an unfinished second sentence (You ca)

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Thanks for your correction, Ana! We will correct it soon. ^^

    • Avatar for Livie Livie

      I am just starting to learning Korean and have a question on conjugation. I have a basic rules down on how to conjugate. You drop the 더 and depending on the last consonant or vowel you add the proper ending. But what does for example 가요 mean? Like is it I go? She goes? And depending on the subject or topic do I have to add a different ending?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Livie! “가요” usually means “Let’s go” if no subject was attached. ^^

        • Avatar for Livie Livie

          Thank you for replying. How do I add a subject? Do you have a lesson on adding subjects to a verb or adjective?

    • Avatar for Em Em

      annyeong, i would like to learn more in Korean Language and correct pronunciation of it. Any recommendation? Gamsahabnida!

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