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Verb Tenses

As we all know, there are three normal verb tenses; past, present, and future. Korean has them as well! So far, you have been working using a normal present tense form of verbs. These use the 어요/아요 ending.

I will briefly review the present tense. Then you will learn about another form for the present tense, followed by past and future.

Present Tense

The present tense is just as you have learned. You take the dictionary form of a verb, drop the 다, add the appropriate ending.

먹다 - 먹 + 어요 = 먹어요
마시다 - 마시 + 어요 - 마시어요 - 마셔요.

This tense is used to represent what happens in the present. I eat. I drink. It is a general term for the present.

Currently Happening

There is a form you have not learned yet that is very common dealing with the present tense. Although you can say 먹어요 to mean you are eating, as in 밥을 먹어요...there is a more specific way to say you are currently eating rice. As you speak, it is happening. The pattern is:

~고 있어요.

It is quite simple. You take the verb from the dictionary form, drop the 다 and you are left with the stem. You add 고 있어요 to the verb stem and that is all! This will form a present tense of the verb of something that is currently happening. To form the casual style, you would just add 고 있어.

밥을 먹고 있어요 - I'm eating rice (as we speak)
우유를 마시고 있어요 - I'm drinking milk (as we speak)
반바지를 입고 있어요 - I'm wearing shorts (as we speak).

It is commonly used :) I'm currently eating... I'm currently wearing this...I'm currently reading.

There will be practice at the end of all the tenses. Otherwise, you already know what the sentences say! :)

Past Tense

Past tense is another easy verb tense. Here is the basic pattern.

1.Take the dictionary form, drop the 다
2.Add the ending 어 or 아, which makes it the casual form (everything but the 요 at the end)
3. Add ㅆ under the last syllable
4. Add 어요 on the end.

먹 + 어 - 먹어
먹어 + ㅆ - 먹었
먹었 + 어요 = 먹었어요.

마시 + 어 - 마셔
마셔 + ㅆ - 마셨
마셨 + 어요 = 마셨어요

가 + 아 - 가
가 + ㅆ - 갔
갔 + 어요 = 갔어요

밥을 먹었어요 - I ate rice.
텔레비전을 봤어요 - I watched tv.
학교에 갔어요 - he went to school.
뭐 했어요? - What did you do?

If you wish to say something you 'currently' were doing something in the past (say you were saying something happened while you were doing something..'currently' isn't exactly the word, because it's not current..but it was current)...

Then you can use the form from above and make 있어요 past tense - 있었어요.

I think a couple examples would explain better than words :)

밥을 먹고 있었어요 - I was eating rice.
텔레비전을 보고 있었어요 - I was watching tv.

Does that make a little more sense? Just another form you will see and can use when making sentences and reading them.

Future Tense

There are a couple different forms of the future tense you will see. None match up exactly to what we see the future tense in English as, but they are simple and easy to understand.

Probable Future

One common future tense is the probable future tense. It can be used to mean "I probably will eat." "I probably will go to school tommorrow." This is probably the most similar (in my opinion) to our English future tense. If you just intend to say Will go, will eat...this future tense may be your best bet.

The basic formation of this future tense is as follows:

Take the verb base, 먹 for our example using 먹다.

Attach (으)ㄹ 거에요 to the verb base. If the base ends in a consonant, you attach 을 거에요. If it ends in a vowel, you attach ㄹ 거에요.

난 먹을 거에요 - I will probably eat.
난 갈 거에요 - I will probably go.
비가 올 거에요 - It will probably rain.

*One thing to keep in mind. Remember back to when you learned some irregular verb cases? 듣다 being one. It appears as 듣다 in the dictionary form, and 들어요 when conjugated? Well, when using this for these few special verbs, use the ㄹ ending on the base and not the ㄷ. 들을 거에요 Will listen.

Also, remember how some verbs pick up a ㅂ and sometimes not? Example - 춥다...well, in this case, it will not take the ㅂ, but will pick up an 우. 추울 거에요 Will probably be cold.*

Past Probable

You can also use this form with a past tense verb, to mean 'must have' or 'probably have'. The example with 먹다 would be 먹었을 거에요. Notice the past tense ending is attached to the verb base, not the 거에요 verb part. 먹었을 거에요 would mean 'must have eaten.' 'Probably ate.'

Intentional Future

The other form of the future tense you will see often will use 겠. The meaning is similar to the above future tense, but varies slightly. This form is more of the meaning "I intend to, I'm positive it will happen, etc." Here is how it is formed.

Take your verb base (whatever is before 다 in the dictionary form, no exceptions. 듣다 does not change to 들 as above. 듣겠어요.)

Attach 겠 to that base. Then simply add your 어 or 어요 ending you normally would use. Note the ending is always 어요 and never 아요, even for verbs such as 자다. 먹겠어요 means I intend to eat. 비가 오겠어요 means I'm sure it will rain. See how it is a little different from the previous future tense? This form has more certainty.


Now that you know the three tenses, you should practice them. Try not to look above for the following!

학교에 갈 거에요.
앤나가 한국말 공부했을 거에요.
어제 모자를 썼어요.
내일 모자를 사겠어요.
어디 있어요?
어디 있었어요?
뭐 해요?
뭐 했어요?
뭐 할 거에요?

What were you doing?
Where did you go?
Where will you probably go?
What do you intend to eat?
I intend (certainty) to eat rice.
I will probably eat kimchi.
I am eating bulgogi (now).
I was eating bulgogi.
Did you drink beer?
Do you intend to drink beer?
No. I intend to drink water.

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