Ready for Action: Conjugation and Korean Verb Stems

Ready for Action: Conjugation and Korean Verb Stems


 

In Korean, various meanings are added by attaching different endings to verbs – action verbs and descriptive verbs (adjectives). Conjugation always starts from the verb stem. We can consider it the root from which we grow any usage.

Searching for verbs in a Korean dictionary, you’ll first see the dictionary form—for example, 먹다 [meokda], as below.

 

How to get verb stems

1. Search for a verb in the dictionary.

e.g. eat

2. Find the dictionary form ending in 다 [da].

e.g. 먹다 [meokda]

3. Drop the 다 [da] and get the verb stem.

e.g. 먹 [meok]

I recommend building up verbs from here by attaching various endings. You shouldn’t memorize a bunch of verb forms with tenses, negatives, or voices. That’s inefficient and frustrating.

 

How to grow verb stems

The ways Korean verbs behave depend on whether the stem ends in a vowel or a consonant. And like all languages, Korean also has some irregularities when it comes to conjugation.

In this post, I don’t want you to look at all the conjugation rules one by one. When studying Korean, you can master all conjugations more naturally. I hope this post will guide you to understanding verb stems and being prepared for conjugation all on your own.

I’ve listed common regular and irregular verbs below so that you can observe how they conjugate in general and start getting the hang of it.

 

1. One-shape verb endings

It has only one form and is attached to the verb stem.

e.g. -고 [go]: and

-지만 [jiman]: but

 

2. Two-shape verb endings

It has two forms and is attached to the verb stem depending on whether stems end in a consonant or a vowel. If a consonant, then the ending with ㅡ [eu] is attached; if a vowel, then the ending without  [eu] is added.

e.g. -(으)니까 [eunigga]: because

-(으)면 [eumyeon]: if

 

The following tables demonstrate –고 [go], a one-shape ending, and -()니까 [eunigga], a two-shape ending.

 

Korean Regular Verbs (한국어 규칙 동사)

Type of Regular VerbsVerbsMeaningVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
Consonant stem (ㅏ/ㅗ)받다 [batda]to receive받고받으니까
Consonant stem (other)먹다 [meokda]to eat먹고먹으니까
Vowel stem ending in ㅏ가다 [gada]to go가고가니까
Vowel stem ending in ㅐ보내다 [boneda]to send보내보내고보내니까
Vowel stem ending in ㅗ오다 [oda]to come오고오니까
Vowel stem ending in ㅜ주다 [juda]to give주고주니까
Vowel stem ending in l마시다 [masida]to drink마시마시고마시니까
Vowel stem ending in ㅡ쓰다 [sseuda]to write쓰고쓰니까

 

Korean Irregular Verbs (한국어 불규칙 동사)

1. ㄷ Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
걷다 [geotda]to walk걷고걸으니까
듣다 [deutda]to listen듣고들으니까
묻다 [mutda]to ask묻고물으니까

 

2. ㅂ Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
굽다 [gupda]to grill굽고구우니까
가깝다 [gaggapda]to be near가깝가깝고가까우니까
더럽다 [deoreopda]to be dirty더럽더럽고더러우니까
가볍다 [gabyeopda]to be light가볍가볍고가벼우니까
눕다 [nupda]to lie down눕고누우니까
맵다 [mepda]to be spicy맵고매우니까
무겁다 [mugeopda]to be heavy무겁무겁고무거우니까
쉽다 [shwipda]to be easy쉽고쉬우니까
어렵다 [eoryeopda]to be difficult어렵어렵고어려우니까
춥다 [chupda]to be cold춥고추우니까
덥다 [deopda]to be hot덥고더우니까
아름답다 [areumdapda]to be beautiful아름답아름답고아름다우니까

 

3. ㅅ Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
짓다 [jitda]to build짓고지으니까
낫다 [natda]to be better낫고나으니까

 

4. 르 Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
다르다 [dareuda]to be different다르다르고다르니까
모르다 [moreuda]to not know모르모르고모르니까
누르다 [nureuda]to press누르누르고누르니까
흐르다 [heureuda]to flow흐르흐르고흐르니까
빠르다 [bbareuda]to be fast빠르빠르고빠르니까

 

5. ㄹ Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
놀다 [nolda]to play놀고노니까
들다 [deulda]to lift들고드니까
멀다 [meolda]to be far멀고머니까
물다 [mulda]to bite물고무니까
살다 [salda]to live살고사니까
알다 [alda]to know알고아니까
열다 [yeolda]to open열고여니까
팔다 [palda]to sell팔고파니까
길다 [gilda]to be long길고기니까
울다 [ulda]to cry울고우니까

 

6. ㅎ Irregular Verbs

VerbsMeaningsVerb Stems-고 ‘and’-(으)니까 ‘because’
이렇다 [ireota]to be like this이렇이렇고이러니까
그렇다 [geureota]to be like that그렇그렇고그러니까
하얗다 [hayata]to be white하얗하얗고하야니까

 

Reference:

  1. Jaehoon Yeon, Lucien Brown. Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar (Routledge Comprehensive Grammars). 1st ed. Routledge; 2011.
  2. Richard H. Harris. Roadmap to Korean. 2nd ed. Hollym International Corporation; 2005.
  3. Kim Jung-sup, Cho Hyun-yong, Lee Jung-see. Korean Phrase Book for Travelers. 2nd ed. Hollym International Corporation; 2012.
  4. Talk to me in Korean. The Korean Verbs Guide. Kong & Park Inc; 2013.
  5. Dictionary, eat. “Eat Translate English To Korean: Cambridge Dictionary”. Dictionary.Cambridge.Org, 2018, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-korean/eat. Accessed 23 Aug 2018.