Buy 3 months, get 3 months FREE. Today only!
Buy 3 months, get 3 months FREE. Today only!
KoreanClass101.com Blog
Learn Korean with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Basic Korean Verb & Adjective Conjugation: Rules & Tips

Thumbnail

Understanding Korean conjugation is a fundamental part of learning Korean, and it’s one of the basic skills you need to gain in the process. In this article, we’ll teach you basic Korean verb conjugation, including how to change verbs in the past, present, and future tense, and for different politeness levels. 

Please remember that you apply these Korean conjugation rules to adjectives, too.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Basic Korean Conjugation #1: Past, Present, and Future
  2. Basic Korean Conjugation #2: Politeness Level
  3. Korean Conjugation Practice!
  4. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Your Korean Learning

1. Basic Korean Conjugation #1: Past, Present, and Future

Top Verbs

Korean verbs change depending on the time being referred to. Here’s how to conjugate Korean verbs for the past, present, and future tenses. 

Dictionary Form먹다 (meokda)“to eat”
현재 (hyeonjae) “Present”먹는다 (meongneunda)“I eat”
과거 (gwageo) “Past”먹었다 (meogeotda)“I ate”
미래 (mirae) “Future”먹겠다 (meokgetda)“I will eat”

1) 현재 (hyeonjae) “Present”

More Essential Verbs

Let’s learn a couple fundamental rules about how to conjugate Korean verbs in present tense:

#1: When there is 받침 (batchim), or verb stems that end with a consonant

Rule: Add ~어요 (eoyo) to the stem of the word to complete the present tense.

Example:

Word with 받침 (batchim)Add ~는다 (~neunda)Present tenseEnglish
먹다 (meokda)먹 (meok) +어요 (eoyo)먹어요 (meongneunda)“to eat”
울다 (ulda)울 (ul) +어요 (eoyo)울어요 (ureoyo)“to cry”
Example Sentence:
  • 동생은 김치를 먹어요.
    dongsaengeun gimchireul meogeoyo.
    “My sister eats Kimchi.”

#2: When there is no 받침 (batchim)

Rule: Add ~워요 (woyo) to the last syllable.

Example:

Word with NO 받침 (batchim)Add ~ㄴ다 (~nda)Present tenseEnglish
배우다 (baeuda)배 (bae) + 워요 (woyo)배워요 (baewoyo)to learn
지우다 (jiwuda)지 (ji) + 워요 (woyo)지워요 (jiwoyo)“to erase”
Example Sentence:
  • 한국어를 배워요. 
    Hangugeoreul baewoyo.
    “I learn Korean.”
Old Sound-Recording Equipment

2) 과거 (gwageo) “Past” 

The rules for conjugating Korean verbs in past tense are a little bit trickier than present and future conjugations. Let’s learn the fundamental rules for conjugating Korean verbs in past tense: 

#1: If the last vowel of the stem is NOT ㅏ (a) or ㅗ (o)

Rule: Add ~었어요 (~eosseoyo) next to the word.

Example:

L.V is NOT ㅗ (o) or ㅏ (a)Add ~었어요 (~eosseoyo)Past tenseEnglish
먹다 (meokda)먹 (meok) + 었어요 (eosseoyo)먹었어요 (meogeosseoyo)“ate”
울다 (ulda)울 (ul) + 었어요 (eosseoyo)울었어요 (uleosseoyo)“cried”
열다 (yeolda)열 (yeol) + 
었어요(eosseoyo)
열었어요 (yeoreosseoyo)“opened”
서다 (seoda)서 (seo) +었어요 (eosseoyo)섰어요 (seosseoyo)“stood”
주다 (juda)주 + 었어요 (ju) + (eosseoyo)줬어요 (jwosseoyo)“gave”
나누다 (nanuda)누 + 었어요 (nanu) + (eosseoyo)나눴어요 
(nanwosseoyo)
“shared”
Example Sentence:
  • 어제 김치를 먹었다. 
    Eoje gimchireul meogeotda.
    “I ate Kimchi yesterday.”

#2: If the verb or adjective ends with 하다 (hada)

Rule:  Add ~였어요 (~yeosseoyo) to the stem.

Example:

L.V is ㅗ (o) orㅏ(a)Add ~였어요 (~yeosseoyo)Past tenseEnglish
사랑하다 (saranghada)사랑하 + 였어요
(sarangha) + (yeosseoyo)
사랑했어요
(saranghaesseoyo)
“loved”
공부하다
(gongbuhada)
공부하 + 였어요
(gongbuha) + (yeosseoyo)
공부했어요 
(gongbuhaesseoyo)
“studied”
평가하다
(pyeonggahada)
평가하 + 였어요 
(pyeonggaha) + (yeosseoyo)
평가했어요
(pyeonggahaesseoyo)
“evaluated”
강하다 (ganghada)하 + 였어요
(gangha) + (yeosseoyo)
강했어요
(ganghaesseoyo)
“was strong”
신고하다 (singohada)신고하 + 였어요
(singoha) + (yeosseoyo)
신고했어요
(singohaesseoyo)
“reported”
기대하다 (gidaehada)기대하 + 였어요
(gidaeha) + (yeosseoyo)
기대했어요
(gidaehaeosseoyo)
“anticipated”
Example Sentence:
  • 어제 저녁 공부를 두시간 했다.
    Eoje jeonyeok gongbureul dusigan haetda.
    “I studied for two hours last night.”

 #3: If the last vowel of the stem is ㅏ(a) or ㅗ (o)

Rule: Add ~았어요 (~asseoyo) to the stem of the word.

Example:

L.V is ㅗ (o) orㅏ (a)Add ~았어요 (~asseoyo)Past tenseEnglish
알다 (alda)알 + 았어요 (al) + (asseoyo)알았어요 (arasseoyo)“knew”
보다 (boda)보 + 았어요 (bo) + (asseoyo)봤어요 (bwasseoyo)“saw”
오다 (oda)오 + 았어요 (o) + (asseoyo)왔어요 (wasseoyo)“came”
닫다 (datda)닫 + 았어요 (dat) + (asseoyo)닫았어요 (dadasseoyo)“closed”
만나다 (mannada)나 + 았어요 (manna) + (asseoyo)만났어요 (mannasseoyo)“met”
살다 (salda)살 + 았어요 (sal) + (asseoyo)살았어요 (sarasseoyo)“lived”
Example Sentence:
  • 어제 할아버지를 만났어요. 
    Eoje harabeojireul mannasseoyo.
    “I met my grandfather yesterday.”

3) 미래 (mirae) “Future”

Now let’s learn about Korean future tense conjugations.

Rule: Add -(으)ㄹ 거예요 / -(eu) l (koeyo) to the stem of the word.

Example:

WordAdd -(으)ㄹ 거예요Future tenseEnglish
여행하다
(yeohaenghada)
여행하 + ㄹ거예요
(yeohaengha) + (l geoeyo)
여행할거예요
(yeohaenghalgeoyeyo)
will travel
자다 (jada)자 + ㄹ거에요 (ja) + (l geoeyo)잘거예요 (jalgeoyeyo)“will sleep”
먹다 (meokda)먹 + ㄹ 거예요 (meok) + (l geoeyo)먹을거예요 (meogeulgeoyeyo)“will eat”
마시다 (masida)마시 + ㄹ거예요 (masi) + (l geoeyo)마실거예요 (masilgeoyeyo)“will drink”
가다 (gada)가(ga) + ㄹ거에요 (l geoeyo)갈거예요 (-galgeoyeyo)“will go”
오다 (oda)오 (o) + ㄹ거에요 (l geoeyo)올거예요 (olgeoyeyo)“will come”
Example Sentence:
  • 오늘 내로 학교로 가겠다. 
    Oneul naero hakgyoro gagetda.
    “I will go to the school by the end of today.”
A Lady with a Book on the Bus

2. Basic Korean Conjugation #2: Politeness Level

Pay close attention to conjugations based on politeness level, too. Depending on who you’re talking to, you should change the verb appropriately. Let’s take a look at three different politeness levels that Koreans use on a daily basis.

Dictionary Form먹다 (meokda)“to eat”
Formal Polite (1)먹습니다. (meokseumnida.)“I eat.”
Casual Formal (2)먹어요. (meogeoyo.)“I eat.”
Casual Speech먹어. (meogeo.)“I eat.”

1) Formal Polite

The first language level is usually spoken to people who are older than you, or are in a higher position of authority. (E.g. parents, professors, managers, etc.) Let’s look at how to use Korean formal conjugations for this language level.

In order to use formal speech, you need to:
Add ~(스)ㅂ니다/~(seu)b+nida) to the stem of the word.

Example:

WordAdd ~(스)ㅂ니다Formal politeEnglish
먹다 
(meokda)
먹 + 습니다 
(meok) + (seu)b+mnida)
먹습니다
(meokseumnida)
“to eat”
사랑하다 (saranghada)사랑하 + ㅂ니다
(sarangha) + (b+nida)
사랑합니다
(saranghamnida)
“to love”
자다 (jada)자 + ㅂ니다 (ja) + (b+nida)잡니다 (jamnida)“to sleep”
마시다 (masida)마시 + ㅂ니다 (masi) + (b+nida)마십니다 (masimnida)“to drink”
가다 (gada)가 + ㅂ니다
(ga) + (b+nida)
갑니다 (gamnikda)“to watch”
오다 (oda)오 + ㅂ니다 (o) + (b+nida)옵니다 (omnida)“to come”
Example Sentence:
  • 영화를 봅니다. 
    Yeonghwareul bomnida.
    “(I) watch a film.”

2) Casual Formal

Negative verbs

The second “casual formal” language is used to show respect to people that you meet everyday (e.g. strangers).

In order to use this politeness level, you need to:
Add ~아/어요 / (~a/eoyo) to the stem of the word.

Example:

WordAdd ~아/어요 (~a/eoyo)Casual formalEnglish
먹다 (meokda)먹 + 어요 (meok) + (eoyo)먹어요 (meogeoyo)“to eat”
사다 (sada)사 + 아요 (sa) + (ayo)사요 (sayo)“to buy”
있다 (itda)있 + 어요 (it) + (eoyo)있어요 (isseoyo)“to be”
보다 (boayo)보 + 아요 (bo) + (ayo)봐요 (bwayo)“to see”
가다 (gada)가 + 아요 (ga) + (ayo)가요 (gayo)“to go”
오다 (oda)오 + 아요 (o) + (ayo)와요 (wayo)“to come”
Example Sentence:
  • 오늘은 학교에 안가요.
    Oneureun hakgyoe angayo.
    “I don’t go to school today.”

3) Casual Speech: 

In Korean, casual conjugations are used when speaking to friends, close family members, or people who are younger than you. Let’s review the rules of conjugation again; you’ll add either 아 (a), 어 (eo), or 여 (yeo) to use casual speech.

Rule: Add 아 (a) if the last vowel of the word ends with ㅗ (o) orㅏ(a).
Add 여 (yeo) if the last vowel ends withㅣ(i).
Add 어 (eo) for the rest.

Example:

WordAdd 아 (a) / 여 (yeo) / 어 (eo)Casual speechEnglish
먹다 (meokda)먹 + 어 (meok) + (eo)먹 + 어 (meok) + (eo)“to eat”
사다 (sada)사 + 아 (sa) + (a)사 (sa)“to buy”
있다 (itda)있 + 어 (it) + (eo)있어 (isseo)“to be”
보다 (boayo)보 + 아 (bo) + (a)봐 (bwa)“to see”
가다 (gada)가 + 아 (ga) + (a)가 (ga)“to go”
오다 (oda)오 + 아 (o) + (a)와 (wa)“to come”
Example Sentence:
  • 점심시간 오분 남았어. 빨리 좀 먹어. 
    Jeomsimsigan obun namasseo. Ppalli jom meogeo.
    “We only have five minutes left for lunchtime. Eat quickly!”

Take a look at “18 Useful Korean Greetings You Should Learn” from our blog. It introduces eighteen essential phrases to learn with different levels of politeness. 

A Smiling Lady with Headphones, Listening to KoreanClass101

3. Korean Conjugation Practice!

Let’s practice Korean conjugations. Can you conjugate the present, past, and future tenses for the verb 자다 (jada)?

Dictionary Form자다 (jada)“to sleep”
현재 (hyeonjae) “Present”자+요자요 (jayo)
과거 (gwageo) “Past”자+ㅆ어요잤어요 (jasseoyo)
미래 (mirae) “Future”자+ㄹ거예요잘거예요. (jalgeoyeyo.)

The answers are already in the table above. Select the cell to see the answer. 

Not sure how to conjugate the word? Revisit Basic Conjugation #1: Past, Present, Future and try it again!


Let’s try a different Korean conjugation. Can you conjugate 먹다 (meokda),”to eat,” for each politeness level?

Dictionary Form먹다 (meokda)“to eat”
Formal Polite (1)먹습니다. (meokseumnida.)“I eat”
Formal Casual (2)먹어요. (meogeoyo.)“I eat”
Casual Speech먹어. (meogeo.)“I eat”

The answers are already in the table above. Select the column to see the answer. 

Not sure how to conjugate the word? Revisit Basic Conjugation #2: Politeness Level and try it again!

A Guy Speaking in Korean to a Lady Next to Him

4. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Your Korean Learning

In summary, we introduced how to conjugate Korean verbs in the present, past, and future forms. In addition, we also looked at different conjugations for three different politeness levels. Have a look at these pages on KoreanClass101.com to practice Korean conjugations a little more: 

And here are some pages on other sites you can practice with:

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you have any questions, please leave us a comment below. We are more than happy to help you improve your Korean skills in any way! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Korean