How to Conjugate Korean Verbs

If it sends chills down your spine to learn verbs in a language where the very word for verb (동사) also means death by cold (no kidding!), then take comfort. Korean verbs are actually not that bad. Not nearly as bad as death by cold, at least. The good news: you don’t have to change the verb endings (conjugate the verbs) depending on who does the action. The, er… other news: there are lots of endings, sometimes called “patterns” that change the verb’s mood and meaning and you’ll have to learn them. Cheer up, chum. The other good news is that you can start using verbs right away as soon as you know just one conjugation: the present tense polite form.

You may have noticed a lot of Korean words ending with -다. Well, most of these are verbs. The -다 ending has been called the “dictionary” verb form since it’s the form that verbs take in the dictionary. However, verbs usually have to be changed from this form to use them. Changing the verb is called conjugation and there’s one important thing to remember about Korean verb conjugation:

The verb ending agrees with the subject to or about whom you’re talking, NOT the subject doing the action.

I’ll explain.

In many European languages, we conjugate verbs based on who or what’s doing the action. For example, the English verbs eat and be change depending on the subject: “I eat,” vs. “she eats” and “I am,” vs. “we are”. In Korean, however, you don’t have to think about who’s doing the action. Instead, Korean speakers think about the person they’re addressing or the person about whom they’re talking. Basically, verbs change based only on the formality required for the situation. For example, if you’re talking to a close friend then all your verbs will be in the informal whereas if you’re talking to or about your boss you’ll use the formal. But Korean has several other levels of formality in between: informal, polite, honorific polite, and formal.

First, learn how to make informal verb endings

Next, learn how to make polite verb endings

Next, learn how to make honorific polite verb endings

Last, learn how to make formal verb endings

For quickies, use this Korean online verb conjugator

Go back to the Learn Korean page

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7 responses to “How to Conjugate Korean Verbs

  1. Great article on Korean verbs. http://dongsa.net will explain how to conjugate any Korean verb.

    • thoughtfishing

      Thanks Dan. I’ll add a link to dongsa in the links list on the right hand side of the page and add a link to this page.

  2. This site helped explain to me that you don’t have to worry about I, he, she, etc. I already learned how to conjugate verbs and just needed to make sure about this. It actually is easy to conjugate in the present, past, and future..Just change the endings!!

  3. Thanks Meygan! :) Glad the site could help. OR… 매이간씨 고맙습니다. ^^ 우리 웹사잇이 도울 수 있으면 좋아요~~

  4. Oh dear, You saved me.

  5. Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and
    I am waiting for your next post thank you once again.

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