How to Conjugate Korean Verbs: Formal

Koreans use formal verbs in many business and public speaking situations. Newscasters speak in unremitting formal tones; business people and shop owners will often use the formal when speaking to clients and customers; people use it with those who are significantly older; public officials use the formal when campaigning; even friends and associates sometimes use the formal with one another to express respect, humility or deference to the other person.

Korean Formal Verbs

Making formal verb endings in Korean is very similar to making honorific polite verb endings. Find a verb in the dictionary and drop the -다 dictionary ending to get the verb base. If the letter at the end of the verb base is a vowel, then add -ㅂ니다 to the verb base. If the letter at the end of the verb base is a consonant, then add -습니다 to the end of the verb base. Note that the ㅂ is followed by an ㄴ and is therefore pronounced as an ㅁ since “mn” is easier to say than “pn”

English meaning Dictionary form Base Honorific polite form
If the verb ends in a consonant after dropping -다 wear [clothing] 입다 입- 입습니다
be thankful 고맙다 고맙- 고맙습니다
want to [+verb] 싶다 싶- 싶습니다
be disliked 싫다 싫- 싫습니다
exist; have 있다 있- 있습니다
If the verb ends in a vowel after dropping -다 to do; make 하다 하- 합니다
be right back 갔다오다 갔다오다- 갔다옵니다
sleep 자다 자- 잡니다
learn 배우다 배우- 배웁니다
sell 사다 사- 삽니다

Go back to the Korean Verbs page

Go back to the Learn Korean page

3 responses to “How to Conjugate Korean Verbs: Formal

  1. Should 갔다오다 be 갔다오 for the verb base?


    • Same doubt :/


      • thoughtfishing

        Right! 🙂 To the best of my knowledge, you conjugate 갔다오다 in the same way as 오다:

        올게요! = I’ll* come.
        갔다올게요! = I’ll* go (and come back).
        왔어요. I* came.
        갔다왔어요. = I* went and came back.
        * I’m using “I” as the default subject here, but really the subject is usually inferred from context in Korean.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s