Infinitive Form: The Review

This is sort of a continuation of my post yesterday.  If you can determine the base form of the verb from the dictionary entry then its just proper to learn how to get the infinitive form.  I was talking once with a language exchange partner who is studying Korean but is a native Spanish speaker.  He mentioned that he can easily understand the idea of infinitive in verb as this seems to be the case in Spanish.   From Wikipedia it says in studying Spanish and Portuguese,  infinitives end in -ar, -er, or -ir.  In the case of Korean language, verb in infinitive form can end in eitherㅓ (eo) orㅏ (a).

Learning the infinitive form of the verb in Korean language is important since this form of the verb is where it can already be used in a conversation.   But one must realize that the infinitive form of the verb when used in a sentence without the appropriate style may appear disrespectful when talking to a native Korean.  This is because Korean is spoken in either formal or casual-polite style, verbs normally use a marker to achieve this.  Again this subject may require another post to fully understand.  The style to be used has to be considered with reference to degree of relationship to the person you are talking to.  Likewise there is a concept of honorifics in Korean language.  Aside from the style, verb in honorific form is used if you are talking to someone older or of higher position than you are.  So the infinitive form when used in a conversation without considering the formal or casual-polite style means your relationship to the person is intimate (closer).  This style of speaking is referred to as 반말 (banmal meaning speaking intimately).

There are some rules to follow in deriving the infinitive form and this starts by identifying the base form of the verb.  For vowel ending base verbs these are the things to know:

  • If the base ends with the vowel ㅏ (a), ㅓ(eo) or ㅐ(ae) the infinitive form is equal to the base form.  As such the base form of verb 가 (ka means go),  매 (mae means tie) and 서 (seo means stand) is also it’s infinitive form.
  • For verbs with base form ending inㅣ (i), the infinitive form is made by adding ㅓbut is abbreviated to ㅕ(yeo) so its like ㅣ+ㅓ=ㅕ.  Here are some of the samples under this case, 가르치 (karuchi base form of verb to learn) will become 가르쳐 (karucho) in infinitive form.  Same goes with verb 마시 (mashi – drink) which becomes 마셔 ( masyeo).
  • In the case of base verbs ending in ㅜ (u or oo in some romanization),  the infinitive form is derived by adding ㅓ and abbreviated to ㅝ  (ㅜplusㅓ) .  Here is an example of its application, 주 (ju which means give) becomes 줘 (jwo or jueo). Please note though that verbs ending in ㅝ requires 어 to be added to the base form of the word to get the infinitive form.  This is because there is no abbreviation for ㅝ combined with ㅓ. One sample of this is the word 숴 (sui which means to rest), the infinitive form of this verb is 쉬어 (sui-eo or swi-eo).
  • Applying the same principle for verbs with base ending in ㅗ (o) , ㅏ is added to derived the infinitive form and then abbreviated to ㅘ.  Therefore,  the verb 오 (o) which means to come will become 와 (wa or oa).  Same thing goes for the word 보 (bo which means to see or look), it becomes 봐 (bwa) in the infinitive form.  Just a note that 봐  being one of the mostly used verb can be heard as just 바 (ba) when spoken in Korean.
  • Lastly, for base verbs ending in ㅡ (eu or  short u sound), there is a slight difference in determining the infinitive form.  The ㅡ is dropped and replace by ㅓ. A good example would be the word 쓰 (sseu which means to write), this becomes 써 (seo) in infinitive form.   However when you drop the ㅡ and the ending is a consonant the preceding vowel will be the basis of what will be added to the base to derive the infinitive form.  This means that if the preceding vowel is ㅜ or ㅏ, ㅏ has to be added otherwise its ㅓ.  A example of this case is the word  바쁘  (pappeu which means be busy), it becomes 바빠 (pappa) in infinitive form.

The last rule is something applicable for vowel ending base verbs.  The preceding vowel is indicative whether ㅓorㅏ will be added to form the infinitive.  All consonant ending base verbs ends with  어 (eo) the only exception is if the preceding vowel is 오 or 아 the ending would be 아 instead of 어.  Here are some of the examples the order of the word is dictionary form followed by base form and then the infinitive form:

  • 앉다 –> 앉  –> 앉아 (anja) means sit
  • 읽다 –> 읽 –> 읽어 (ilko pronounced as iko) means read
  • 좋다–>  좋 –> 좋아 (choa or chowa) means like
  • 물다 –> 물 –> 물어  (muleo) means ask

Of course as to any rules there are exceptions.  I may have to make another post for the exceptions but the highlight  is, since verbs in infinitive form can be used in conversation you may hear these verbs as if its a complete sentence when Koreans are engaged  in a conversation.  As simple as 좋아 (choa) would mean something is liked or good  or when you hear 앉아 (anja) it means someone is telling you to take your seat.   This goes the same for a very common verb 괜찮아 (kwaenchna) or expression in Korean.  This means i am okay, it’s okay or are you okay if used with rising tone at the end.


6 thoughts on “Infinitive Form: The Review

  1. Hi. Thanks for this post c:
    But now i’m a little confused. The way i learned it was that the dictionary form was the infinitive :/
    Like 가다 = “to go” and not just “go”.

    And Wikipedia was right; infinitives in spanish, that is, verbs that are not conjugated, always end in -er, -ar, or -ir, and are used a lot in speech. js.

  2. Hi please help me
    i have 3 questions
    i didnt understand 숴 turn 쉬어

    these words are in the present time
    ex: am drinking ….. am teaching or drink ……. teach

    nanın masyeo
    tanşinın masyeo
    urinın masyeo ………..

    so write is true?

  3. I’m getting confused with this, is this for advanced learner?

    I just started learning Hangeul and I’m trying to get as many source as I can then compare them. One of which is Talktomeinkorean(TTMIK)

    in TTMIK, they said to get the root, you just have to remove the ‘DA’ in the word, then add ‘ayo’ or ‘oyo’ to make it in present form.

    For verbs ending in ‘a’ or ‘o’ (not necessarily the last letter, just the last vowel), you will add ‘ayo’, and for other verbs, you’ll use ‘oyo’.

    So for meokda (to eat), it will be meok, and since it end in ‘o’ or ‘eo’ you’ll use ‘ayo’, which makes the present tense of the verb to ‘meok ayo’. I’m guessing you can remove the ‘yo’ to make it less formal.

    kada – ka – kaayo or kayo
    boda – bo – boayo or bwayo

    for verbs ending in ‘ha’, instead of ha ayo, it will be heyo

    kongbuhada – kongbuha – kongbuheyo

    is it a different rule?

    • That’s right, I think the linguistics major like foreigners who studied korean in a university outside of Korea have a different approach in teaching the language since they go beyond just a specific language. they try to relate it to a class or similar language roots. I guess they try to explain principles by which words get formed, conjugated etc. TTMIK is of course an authority in teaching the language since they are native Koreans. In my opinion as long as the bottom line is correct which ever technique suits you, go for it. I am studying the language this way because, I’d like to understand principles in their grammar just like how English has been taught to us since primary days.

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