Verbs Base Form: The Review

I decided to review on this basic component of the Korean Language, verb that is.  I get a lot of questions on how to use the dictionary or  how to use the words in the dictionary to make a sentence.   This isn’t an expert’s advise, I will just attempt to explain on lay man’s term some basics on understanding verbs in Korean.

In most of the books I read, the importance of the verb is always highlighted because in some cases subject or object may be removed and the verb can stand on its own just like the way ‘Run!’ or ‘Sit!’ can be considered a sentence because it expresses a complete thought.

I made a page on English-Korean Dictionary or 사전 (sajon).  Having one, is just one step towards pursuing self study but the Korean dictionary is not your typical English dictionary.  The tricky part is, verbs are normally written in dictionary form.  My language exchange partner before has warned me on using words from the dictionary. This is because the dictionary form of the verb cannot be used as  is in a sentence.  Verbs as listed in 사전 follows base+ ending 다 (da).  This is true for all verbs .  Here are some examples:

  • 읽다 (ikda- to read)
  • 먹다 (mokda – to eat)
  • 자다 (jada- to sleep)
  • 공부하다 (kongbuhada- to study)

These words as mentioned cannot be used as is in a sentence.  You have to extract the base (or root)  from the dictionary form to make use of the verb and that is by removing the ending 다.   I am not sure if it’s right to say this or if it’s the scholarly way to explain it, the manner by which you use base form of the Korean verb maybe similar to the principles of conjugation of verbs.  Korean verbs are conjugated from its base form.  If I may go back to my English 101 conjugation is when you use root word of a verb to derive its other uses.   From the examples above, one can extract the base form as follows –>  읽, 먹, 자 and 공부하.

The base form is where you create verbs in present, past and future tenses.  The present tense is almost always equivalent to what the book says as Infinitive form.  So in other words, verbs in Korean can be used written or spoken at least on the Infinitive form.   Deriving the he infinitive form of the verb involves some rules.  One thing is for sure, the infinitive form of  verbs in Korean can only have two endings,  that is ㅏ (a) or ㅓ (eo).  I may have to make another post to explain the Infinitive form.

With this post, one may be disheartened in pursuing self study because having a dictionary and being able to read Hangul characters are just the very beginning.  As the preface of the book Elementary Korean says,  understanding the verb is the heartbreak hill in learning Korean.  If you are not able to understand the dictionary, base and infinitive forms of the verb then you will not survive learning the language.  If this is how you feel while doing self study (and by self study I mean reading Korean Language text book)  i suggest you try learning the language in a different way maybe by memorizing phrases or using phrase books instead.   I hope to encourage patience in learning the language in a structured manner rather than discourage anyone with this post.  화이팅!

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5 Replies to “Verbs Base Form: The Review”

  1. Hi, I was randomly searching for hangul blogs when I came across yours.. and I think yours is really quite informative! Thank you very much for the effort!

    And well, the dictionary form is good in a sense that we’re able to learn more words.. but once you know the verb stem, then you can change the verb root accordingly! ^^ It’s not an easy language to grasp.. but I’m still pretty happy learning it!

  2. hey Janey..
    thanx 4 this blog its turning out to be of great help especially to a learner like myself….could you help me out (anyone else can help 2) with the romanization and possible explanation as pertains to the verb “to come” 오(verb root) 오다 (dictionary form) 와요 (polite ending) 와 (casual ending)…i guess am confused as to why it moves from ‘o’ verb root to ‘wa’ in casual ending….
    Millie….

    1. in the book they call it infinitive 오 is the root and 와 is infinitive. I just posted how verbs in root form are transformed to infinitive it’s usually by adding ㅓor ㅏ in the base form. some site will say that you simply had to add ㅓ or ㅏdepending on the root’s ending.

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