No homework makes ShenaniTims an antsy boy. As mentioned earlier, I decided to get a jump start on my upcoming chapter and its vocabulary, but even then there’s no real meat. Which is what makes having an accessible Korean-learning partner in crime so invaluable.
While walking around Jeonju looking for the night’s dinner spot, my friend asked me if I was interested in learning how to conjugate Korean verbs. (I believe I had mentioned that I wanted to practice conjugating in the present tense, but I was having problems because my book only teaches one of the four conjugations.)
Working while knowing that knowldge is being withheld from you is incredibly frustrating, so naturally I jumped at the chance to learn more.
So it turns out that conjugating Korean verbs in the present tense is almost insanely simple. Just a few basic rules to remember, nowhere near as difficult as you would assume after learning that your book is splitting the topic into different pieces instead of tackling it all at once.
So present tense verbs have four forms in Korean: the base (infinitive), informal, formal, and superformal. The infinitive is how you’ll find verbs taught in books (-다). The informal, used amongst friends has you dropping the “다” and instead adding “-은다.”
The formal is the trickiest, as it has a number of considerations factoring into how it’s conjugated. Essentially you’ll be looking at the last vowel before the “다.” If the last vowel is either 아, or 오, then you add a -아요. Any other vowel? Add an -어요; unless it’s one of the neutral vowels (이 or 으), at which point you add an -여요. Honestly, not that difficult to learn once you start practicing with it daily (see pic above).
Finally you have the superformal used for bosses and the elderly, or anyone you hold great respect for. Similar to the informal, just add -읍니다. See? Quite simple.
And that’s literally it. All you need to know. In Korean, verbs are conjugated according to the level of respect, not necessarily who the subject is. So there’s no I am…, You are…, He/She/It is…, nonsense. No plurals to worry about; nothing.
Using our “Be” example, but this time in Korean: 하다.
See how easy that is? Now, for more detailed notes. #1 is the infinitive, so no changes made.
#2 – had us dropping the original -다, and adding a -은다. As mentioned in a prior blog, Korean syllables follow either a CV or CVC pattern. 하 is CV (consonant vowel) leaving room for a final consonant (ㄴ), thus giving us 한.
#3 – okay 하다 was probably a bad example, as 하다’s formal form is irregular. You’d expect the 하 to swallow the -아, leaving us with 하요. Instead -아 morphs into -애. So it’s irregular, but, as a consolation prize, 하다 (as the verb “to be”) is used quite often, so once you learn form #3’s special rules, you’re set. Making things less complicated is the fact that these special rules only apply if the verb ends with a vowel.
Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll run through a series of verbs to (hopefully) cover all the irregularities common to form #3.
그리다 – to draw
(So here we’re conjugating 그리,ㅣ is neutral, thus being paired with ㅓ will give us ㅕ.)
비싸다 – to be expensive
(Form #3 ends with ㅏ, which swallows the new ㅏ.)
바가지 쓰다 – to be a rip off
(쓰 ends with 으, which doesn’t pair with 어, leaving us with the textbook 어요.)
So these were just of a few of the potential tricky endings. Now, to further ease your pain, please remember that these endings only come into play when the verb ends with a vowel. If you’re looking at a consonant, then you’re still looking at the last vowel and following the rules: verbs with a ㅗ, orㅏ add on a -ㅏ요. And all others (besides the neutrals mentioned above, and 하다, adding on ㅓ요.
#4 – the same steps as #2 above. Drop the -다, then hitch -읍니다 onto the dangling 하. BAM! You’re done.