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!


The Fact of (Verbi)~ing

The use of modifier -는 (neun)  and 은 (eun) is definitely one of the hardest lessons that i have learned and still learning in the study of Korean Language.  I think until now I am only confident in using these as markers for topic.  I am currently reading the advance book for learning Korean which is Continuing Korean (sort of sequel to Elementary Korean) and the lessons are mostly on the use of these modifiers.

The modifier -는 (neun) is used for processive verbs, it turns a phrase into a topic something comparable to a noun phrase in English.  A processive verb with this modifier (verb+는)  followed by 것 (keot) would mean the fact of doing so-and-so or the fact that one does so-and-so.

Same pattern can be used for plain modifier processive or descriptive verb + 은/ㄴ(ㄴif base ends with vowel)  followed by 것.   This would mean the fact that one did (processive verb) or that is (descriptive verb) .

Here are some examples:

  • 자는 것 (chaneun keot) – the fact that someone is sleeping
  • 잔 것 (chan keot) – the fact that someone slept
  • 한국어 책을 읽는  (hangugeo chaekeul ikneun keot) – someone is reading Korean book
  • 비가 오는 것 (biga oneun keot) – the fact that its raining
  • 비가 온 것 ( biga on keot – the fact that it rained

In practical use, 것 is sometimes abbreviated to 거  (keo) and it still would mean the same.  Now, let me practice how to use this modifier into sentence:

  •  엄마가 자는  것을 몰랐어요.  (Ommaga chaneun keoseul mollaseoyo). I did not know that mother is sleeping.
  • 학생이 한국어 책 읽는 것을 봤어요. (Haksaengi hangugeo chaek ikneun koseul bwasseoyo).  I saw a student reading Korean book.
  • 비가 온  것이  싫어요. (Biga on koshi shiroyo) I hate that it rained.

Choayo 좋아요 vs Choahaeyo 좋아해요

The word 좋다 (choda) is something you always hear in a Korean conversation.  In fact, in this blog of mine the phrase I like you in Korean is one of the most visited posts i have.  좋다 is the base form of the word like.  it’s a verb which can mean is good, like or in some case  it is also used to express wish.

One of the variations in the use of this verb is the expression 좋아요 (choayo) and 좋아해요 (choahaeyo).  It both means the same the only difference is that for clarity of use in the sentence, the verb 좋아요 cannot take an object meaning to say you cannot pertain the use of this verb to something that is marked -을 (eul) or -를 (-reul) which are actually object markers in a Korean statement.  For clarity, 좋아요 is used with a subject marked with either -가 (-ga) or 이 (-i).   Here is an example–  비빔밥이 좋아요 (bibimbap choayo~ I like bibimbap).   The sentence 비빔밥 좋아해요 (Bibimbapeul choahaeyo) would mean the same but this time the object is marked and the verb became compound with the addition of 해 (from 하다 – hada which mean to do or happen).

So i learned for simple sentence you can drop the markers but for complex ones the role of the marker becomes very important to put across the right meaning of a sentence.  Hmmm… I am truly like the  Korean Language.  정말 한국어를 좋아해요!

Turning Descriptive Verb to Processive

This post is sort of a review on one of the most important part of Korean sentence — verb that is.   Korean sentences usually ends with a verb.  There are two types of verb in Korean, processive and descriptive verbs.  The processive verb is the typical action word as we know in English while the descriptive type is actually adjective.

One main difference of a processive verb with a descriptive one is that it can take direct object.  It can take nouns marked with 을 or 를 (eul or reul) unlike descriptive verbs which can only take subjects and topics, these are nouns marked by either 이/가 (i/ga) or 은 는 (eun/neun) respectively.  This thing is very important in turning descriptive verb to processive type.

How is it done?  this is by simply adding 해요 (haeyo) or 합니다 (hamnida) to the verb.  Here are some examples:

  • 좋아요 (choayo) –> 좋아해요 (choahaeyo) means is good, is liked or likes
  • 싫어요 (shireoyo) –>  싫어해요 (shireohaeyo) means is dislikes or dislikes
  • 기뻐요 (gippeoyo) –>기뻐해요 (gippeohaeyo) means is happy or glad

The practical use of descriptive verbs turned into processive is mainly to express what another person feels or thinks.  This is because in Korean, the speaker ordinarily is not allowed to state flatly what other people thinks or feels.  Such transformation makes the indirect pattern.  Here is an example:

  • 제인이 와서 좋아요 (Jeini waseo choayo).  It’s good that Jane has come or I am glad Jane has come.
  • 제인이 와서 좋아해요 (Jeini waseo choahaeyo). Someone is glad that Jane is here or Jane is glad to be here.

Expressing ‘How wonderful it would be…’

Another use of the verb in conditional form is for English expression ‘how wonderful it would be if…’   The conditional form of verb followed by phrase 얼마나 좋겠어요 (olmana chokesseoyo) does it.  The pattern would look like this – (었)으면 얼마나 좋겠어요.   Note that the verb formed with -으면 can be in past or present form.

Here are some of its applications:

  • 시간이 더 있었으면 얼마나 좋겠어요 (Shicani deo isseoseumyeon olmana chokesseoyo) – How wonderful it would be if we had more time.
  • 하얀 색이 아니었으면 얼마나 좋겠어요 (Hayan saeki anieosseumyeon olmana chokesseoyo) – How wonderful it would be if it wasn’t white.
  • 가수 휘성씨 만나면 얼마나 좋겠어요 (Kasu Wheesungshi mannamyeon olmana chokesseoyo) – How wonderful it would be to meet Wheesung the singer.

Uses of Conditional Verb form -(으) 면

There are a handful of practical uses of verb  in conditional form.  One of which is in combination with 좋겠어요 (-chokesseoyo).   I have learned that 좋다 (choda) can either mean to like or is good.  However, when it is used with verb in conditional form and the future form  of 좋다  which is 좋겠어 (chokesseo) it then corresponds to English sentence expressing hope or wish.

To simplify, first sentence clause ending in (으)면 plus final verb 좋겠어요  (chokesseyo) or 좋겠습니다 (chokessumnida) creates the expression ‘It would be good if….’ or ‘I hope or … ‘

We know that in English to say something like ‘It would be good if we have a wine’ is an expression that expresses wish to have wine.   Here are examples of verb in conditional form used side by side 좋겠어요.

  • 여름이 가지 않으면 좋겠어요. (Yeoreumi kagi aneumyeon chokesseoyo) – Literally this means, if summer did not go, it would be good.  [= If summer did not go it would be good.]
  • 한국말을 잘 하면 좋겠어요. (Hangukmareul  jal hamyeon chokesseoyo) – I wish I speak Korean well or I hope speak Korean well.
  • 지금 김치를 사면 좋겠어요. (Chigeum kimchireul samyeon chokesseoyo) – It would be good if we buy kimchi now.

Conditional Verb

I really spend little time now learning and reviewing my Korean.  Now is just high time to learn another type of verb in conditional form.   The conditional form is a two-shape ending;  -으면 (eumyeon)  attached to consonant ending base verbs and plain -면 (myeon) attached to vowel ending base verb.

When this ending is attached to verb its meaning becomes when/if <verb>.   This is how the verb is formed, see how base verb transform into its conditional form:

  • 가 (ka) –> 가면 (kamyeon) – when one goes or if one goes
  • 이쁘 (ippeu) –>  이쁘면 (ippeumyeon) – if something is cute or when its cute
  • 쓰 (sseu) –> 쓰면 (sseumyeon) – if one write or when someone writes
  • 먹 (meok) –> 먹으면 (meokeumyeon) – if one eats or when one eats
  • 받 (pad) –> 받으면 (padeumyeon) – if one gets or when one gets
  • 들 (deul) –>  들으면 (deureumyeon) – if one hears or when one hears

To an -ㄹ extending verb such as 사-ㄹ (sal, means live) the verb ending is attached on the extended form of the verb using 면 — as such 살면 (salmyeon) means if one lives or when one lives.   It’s a bit tricky, supposedly the extended form ends in consonant but the verb ending used if for vowel ending verbs which is 면.

Want vs. Like

A year ago when I started the difficult battle of learning Korean Language, i seek refuge with websites that offer Language Exchange Partners which I fondly called my LEPs.   I had a few and they come and go.  One of the earliest question I asked was how to express ‘i would like to…’   At that time I learned about -고 싶다 (-go shipda) verb which is used to express wish, desire or want.  But one of my LEPs told me to use the verb 좋겠어  (jokesso).   He told me this is commonly used because -go shipda can only be used to express one’s (first person sentence).  I was confused then.

One’s desires, wants  and wishes are expressed by using the auxiliary verb -고 싶어요 (-go shipeoyeo).   To say someone other than you desires, wants and wishes  to… -고 싶어해요 (-go shipeohaeyo)  is used.  However to say someone likes something, one can use 좋아세요 (choaseyo) or 좋아해요 (choahaeyo).

Here are some sample application:

  • 비빔밥을 먹고 싶어요.  ( Bibimbapeul mokko shipeoyeo) – I want to eat bibimbap.
  • 친구는 비빔밥을 먹고 싶어해요. ( Chinguneun bibimbapeul mokko shipeohaeyo) – My friend wants to eat bibimbap.
  • 친구는 비빔밥을 좋아해요.  (Chinguneun bibimbap choahaeyo) – My friend likes bibimbap.

Denying Obligation

Last time I learned how to express obligation by using the particle -야 (-ya) and 해요 (haeyo).   Now I learned how to deny such obligation something like the English expression ‘you don’t have to’ or ‘you may not’ or ‘you need not’.

This is not something really offensive, the tone is rather it’s all right even if <verb>.  The expression is formed by using a particle I just recently post, 도 (do) that is, added to a negative verb followed by 좋아요 (choayo), 돼요 dwaeyo) or 괜잖아요 (gwaenchanayo).   So it’s necessary to know first how negative verbs are formed to be able to make use of this new expression.

A quick recap verbs are made negative by adding 안 in front of it this is the short cut or the longer way which is verb+지 (ji)  않아요.

Here are examples of the practical use of this expression:

  • 밥을 안먹어도 괜잖아요. (Bapeul anmokodo gwaenchanayo) – It’s alright if you don’t eat the rice.
  • 내일 집에 가지 않아도 돼요.  (Jipe kaji anado dwaeyo).  You don’t have to go home tomorrow.
  • 아무선물을 가져오지 않아도 좋아요. (Amuseonmureul kajyeo.oji anado choayo).  It’s okay even if you don’t bring any gift.

Expressing Obligation with -야 해요

This new particle  I learned simulates the way English statements stress the need to do something from just doing it.  I will clean the room tomorrow is a  bit lax compared to saying I must clean the room tomorrow.  The latter sends out something like a higher level of   urgency or an obligation.    This ‘must’ or ‘need to’ message  I learned is expressed by using the particle -야 (-ya) then ending the statement with verb 해요 (haeyo).  The particle is attached to a verb’s infinitive form both for plain and honorific verbs.

  • 학교에 가야 해요 (Hakyoe kaya haeyo) – I need to go to school.
  • 내일 공부해야 해요 (Naeil gongbuhaeya haeyo) – I must study tomorrow.
  • 언니 이 책을 읽어야 해요 (Eonnie i chaekeul ilkoya haeyo) – My (older) sister needs to read this book.

야 attached to the verb gives it the ‘only if you <verb>” meaning and the 해요 as verb ending means ‘will do it’.  As such the combination of this particle and verb ending  therefore results to meaning  you have to <verb>.

나는  한국어 책을 읽어야 해요 =)