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How To Conjugate Verbs In Korean | All Tenses and Politeness Levels

Updated: Nov 17, 2023


Does trying to conjugate Korean verbs feel like this gif? Don't worry I will explain it in the easiest to understand way and by the end of this lesson, you'll be able to conjugate verbs in the present, past, and future tense - in formal, polite, and informal forms.



PRESENT TENSE


SIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION:


Step One: Remove -다


Step Two: Look At The Last Letter or Vowel


Step Three: Choose The Correct Sentence Ending

> Formal: 습니다, ㅂ니다

> Casual/Polite: 아요, 어요, 해요

> Informal: 아, 어, 해


In Korean, there are different politeness levels. Depending on the person you’re speaking to

or the situation, you’ll use a different ending.



POLITE/CASUAL FORM:

This conjugation can be the most tricky and most common, so we'll start looking into this one first.


Step One: Remove -다


보다 > 보


Step Two: Look At The Last Vowel

(not the very last letter but last VOWEL!)


보 <- it’s ㅗ and happens to be the last letter too


Step Three: If the last VOWEL is ㅏ or ㅗ

Attach -아요 to the verb stem


보 + 아요 = 보아요 = 봐요


If the last vowel is NOT ㅏ or ㅗ (for example, if the last vowel wasㅓ,ㅣ,ㅡ,ㅜ,ㅑ,ㅕ,ㅛ,ㅗ, etc.) we have to attach -어요 to the verb stem.


The informal conjugation will follow the exact same rules, except you will leave off -요 (봐요 becomes 봐)



FORMAL FORM:


Rules To Know:


If the verb stem (last letter) ends in a consonant: attach 습니다


Ex: 찾다 > 찾 + 습니다 = 찾습니다


If the verb stem (last letter) ends in a vowel: attach ㅂ니다


Ex: 보다 > 보 + ㅂ니다 = 봅니다





PAST TENSE


SIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION:


Step One: Remove -다


Step Two: Look At The Last Letter Vowel


Step Three: Choose The Correct Sentence Ending

> Formal: 았습니다, 었습니다, 했습니다


Notice that the formal past tense will always end with 습니다 as the ㅆ is a consonant.


> Casual/Polite: 았어요, 었어요, 했어요


Another thing you'll notice is that for the polite/casual form, It follows the same rule as present tense, so if you know how to conjugate a verb in the present tense you can just add on -았어요/었어요.


> Informal: 았어, 었어, 했어


In the informal form, we again just remove the -요 from the previous



POLITE/CASUAL PAST FORM:


Step One: Remove -다


 입다 > 입


Step Two: Look At The Last Vowel

(not the very last letter but last VOWEL!)


입 <- last vowel is ㅣ


Step Three: If the last VOWEL is ㅏ or ㅗ

Attach -았어요 to the verb stem


Doesn’t apply to 입다


If the last vowel is NOT ㅏ or ㅗ (for example, if the last vowel wasㅓ,ㅣ,ㅡ,ㅜ,ㅑ,ㅕ,ㅛ,ㅗ, etc.) we have to attach -었어요 to the verb stem.


입 + 었어요 = 입었어요 (informal - remove 요)


For the past tense the same rules above apply to all politeness levels, just change the ending.


입었습니다 (Formal) 입었어요 (Polite)

입었어 (Informal)




POLITE/CASUAL FUTURE FORM:


Step One: Remove -다


 입다 > 입


Step Two: Look At The Last LETTER

(not vowel this time LETTER!)


입 <- last LETTER is ㅂ


Step Three: If the last letter is a consonant

attach (으)ㄹ 것이다


입 + 을 것이다 = 입을 것이다


If the last vowel is a vowel

attach -ㄹ 것이다


Doesn’t apply to 입다


The rules above apply to all politeness levels, just change the ending.


입을 것입니다 (Formal)

입을 거예요 (Polite)

입을 거야 (Informal)



WANT MORE PRACTICE FROM ME? You can get conjugation drill worksheets HERE.


 

That's all for this lesson! I really hope it helped you feel less frustrated about conjugations, although this can be an overwhelming amount of information to take on all at once. I would suggest coming back over the course of 2-3 days to give your brain the best chance at taking it all in. When it comes to conjugation, It's good to practice conjugating verbs a lot. Find yourself a list of verbs and get to work!


Need a list? I got you covered. Look here for a list of common Korean verbs.

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