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!
For the past months, i gained better understanding of Korean words. From my confusion in using the English-Korean Dictionary to how words are used in the different styles or manner of speaking in Korean, i think I have better appreciation now.
I am almost done reading my Elementary Korean book. After nearly a year and half, I am finally seeing last part of the book’s pages and now looking forward to read Continuing Korean (sequel to Elementary Korean). Since the last portion of the book deals with the more advance verb ending and expressing future events, I decided to make a review of the word formation. This would likewise give preview on changing verbs into future tense.
Just to recap when looking for words in a dictionary specifically for verbs, you will notice a pattern. Verbs normally ends in -다 (da). So Korean words for verbs like eat and drink can be found as 먹다 (meokda – pronounced as meoktta) and 마시다 (mashida – pronounced as mashitta). Removing the 다 leaves you with the regular or plain base of the verb, 먹 and 마시 (meok and mashi). The plain base form of verb is important, a lot of verb endings are attached to this form.
Infinitive form of the word is derived using some rules but basically verb in its infinitive form either ends in ㅏ (a) or ㅓ (eo). Consonant ending verbs follows rules on which to add. For the example above the infinitive form of 먹다 is 먹어 (meogeo). This is covered by rule that last vowel of a consonant ending verb will determine which character to add to form the infinitive form. Except for ㅗ andㅏthe rest of vowel takes ㅓ as verb ending. Now for the other word, 마시다 becomes 마셔 (masyo). Verb ending in ㅣ takes ㅓ in infinitive ㅣ(ee)+ㅓ(eo) = ㅕ(yeo). Search for my post on infinitives for the complete rules. Just remember that the infinitive verb is alreay usable in a conversation on intimate style. It is also in this form that the polite casual style verb ending 요 (yo) is attached.
The other base form is the ‘past base’. This is formed by taking the plain infinitive of the verb plus -ㅆ (ss). Just like the regular infinitive, past infinitive is achieved by adding ㅓsuch that 먹었 (meogeott – past base) becomes 먹었어 (meogeotteo).
The last base word form is the ‘future base’ which is formed by adding 겠 to the plain infinitive form of a verb. Using our previous example 먹어 (infinitive form) becomes 먹어겠 (meogeokett) and by adding ㅓ makes the future infinitive for the verb, that is 먹어겠어 (meogeokesseo).
It’s going to be all about the future on the succeeding post.
When I was trying to check my English-Korean / Korean-English dictionary, I was actually making a big mistake of using the word as is, moreover using the same pattern that English is spoken which is the Subject-Verb-Object pattern. This is the big difference, in Korean the pattern is Subject-Object-Verb. Verb being the last part of the sentence is the most important part of the speech as Subject and Object can be dropped in Korean conversation.
The dictionary entry with 다 -da as marker suggest what the base word is. The base word is the one that is used to form infinitive (words as used in conversation). I have not mastered deducing the base form of a word from its dictionary entry but somehow I am more familiar now. Using my favorite verb ‘go’:
가다 – Ka-Da is the dictionary entry of this word and is never used as is.
가 – Ka is the base form of this word and at the same time the infinitive form. Common rule in deriving the infinitive is to add 아 (a) or 어 (eo) to the base form. There are some complication but normally consonant ending words takes the 어 to get the infinitive except on cases where the previous vowel to the consonant ending word is either ㅗ or ㅏ in that case 아 is the infinitive ending.
Words have honorific base and infinitive too, similar to the exercise of putting 아 or 어 to the base word to create the regular infinitive. To make the honorific base, ~으시 or ~시 is added to the base word. 으시 if the word ends in consonant and 시 when word ends in vowel. Then to make the honorific infinitive ㅓ is added to ~으시 or ~시. In most cases 으시어 or 시어 is abbreviated to 으셔 or 셔.
Let’s take the word ‘write’ as an example:
쓰다 – Ss-eu-da is the dictionary form of the word (again never used in a conversation unless you are asked what write is in Korean)
쓰 – Ss-eu is the base form of the word
써 – Ss-eo is the regular infinitive form, as mentioned earlier, infinitive form ends with either ㅓor ㅏ. In the case of the word write which end in ㅡ the rule is to drop this and replace with ㅓ but if the word still has a vowel before it which ends in ㅗ ㅏ then ㅏ will be the ending. For this word ㅡ is the last and only vowel so the ending will be ㅓ.
쓰시 – Ssu-shi is the honorific base form.
쓰셔 – Ssu-syo is the infinitive form
Other verbs in their honorific infinitive:
Read (dictionary entry 읽다 — ikda)
읽 – ik (where s sound is silent) is the regular base form
읽어 – i-ko is the regular infinitive form
읽으시 – i-ku-shi is the honorific base form
읽으셔 – i-ku-syo is the honorific infinitive form
Walk (dictionary entry 걷다 geot-da)
걷 – geot is the base form
걷어 – geo-to is the infinitive form
걷으시 -geo-tu-shi is the honorific base form
걷으셔 – gee-tu-syo is the honorific infinitive form
Come (dictionary entry 오다 oda)
오 – eo is the base form
와 – wa is the infinitive form
오시 – eo-shi is the honorific base form
오셔 – eo-syo is the honorific infinitive form