Verbs: Forming Past Tense

For the longest time, i have been reading and studying Korean words and grammar in present tense.  At this point I finally reached the lesson on past tense.  Forming the past tense of a verb is easy, it’s the infinitive form of the verb + ㅆ to get the verb’s past tense base form.  As we all know base form of the word is not used in a conversation so its has to be in the infinitive form (for intimate conversation) or in the infinitive form + polite ending 요 (yo).

To show how verbs will progress its form to past tense here is a sample:

  • Base Form – 쓰 (ssu) this verb means write
  • Infinitive form – 써 (sseo) rule in deriving infinitive form of  verb ending in ‘ㅡ’ (u sound in English) is to drop it (ㅡ) and add the infinitive marker ㅓ.
  • Past Base Form – 썼 (sseoss) simply add ㅆ after the infinitive marker to get the past base form.
  • Past Infinitive – 썼어 (sseo-sseo) again the past base form cannot be used in a conversation so it is always followed by 어 to get the past infinitive form, this way the word can be used already during intimate conversation (talking to someone younger than you).
  • Past Polite – 썼어요 (sseo-sseo-yo) this is the polite ending.

 Let’s have another example:

오  (ow) is the base form of the word come.  To get the infinitive form of this word, ㅏ (a) should be added, based on the rules on forming infinitive of verbs ending ㅗ, thus 와 (wa).  This is therefore the present tense form which can be used on intimate conversation.  Past tense base form of the word will be 왔 (romanizing the word it becomes wass, ㅅ is normally swallowed or not pronounced if used as final consonant so this will still sound wa).  왔 already means came but since this can’t be used on a normal conversation you have to derive its past infinitive form therefore the word ‘came’ in Korean is 왔어 (wasseo) just add 요 (yo) then you have the polite ending verb 왔어요 (wasseoyo).

I have old postings on deriving the infinitive form of a word check it out here.