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Verbs in the Korean language come in last place in a clause.

Verbs are the most


complex part of speech, and a properly conjugated verb may stand on its own
as a complete sentence. This article uses the Yale Romanization in bold to show
morphology.
Classification.
Korean verbs are typically classified into four categories: action, state (or
description), existential, and the copulas.

Action or processive verbs involve some action or internal movement.


For a list of Korean action verbs.

Stative or descriptive verbs are sometimes called adjectives. For a list of


Korean stative verbs.

Existential verbs convey the existence of something, or its presence in a


particular location or a particular being's possession. This category was
created for the verb iss ta [itta] "to exist" and its opposite, eops
ta [pta] "not to exist."

Copulative verbs allow a non-verb to take verbal endings. In Korean this


category was created for the affirmative and negative copula. The
affirmative copula is i ta [ida]"to be," and the negative copula ani
ta [anida] "not to be." However, there are many other verbs in
Korean that also serve to attach verb endings to nouns, most notably ha
ta "to do."

The distinction between action verbs and descriptive verbs is visible in verb
conjugation in a few places. The copulas conjugate like stative verbs, but the
existential verbs conjugate like action verbs. Some verbs can be either stative
or active, depending on meaning.
Forms
Korean verbs are conjugated. Every verb form in Korean has two parts: a verb
stem, simple or expanded, plus a sequence of inflectional suffixes. Verbs can
be quite long because of all the suffixes that mark grammatical contrasts.
A Korean verb root is bound, meaning that it never occurs without at least
one suffix. These suffixes are numerous but regular and ordered. There are
over 40 basic endings, but over 400 when the combinations of these endings
are counted. Grammatical categories of verb suffixes include voice (passive or
causative), tense (past, present, or future), aspect (of an action - complete,
experienced, repeated, or continuing), honorification (appropriate choice of
suffix following language protocol), and clause-final conjunctives or sentence
enders chosen from various speech styles and types of sentences such as
interrogative, declarative, imperative, and suggestive.
Sound changes
A great many verbs change the pronunciation of the final consonant of the root
after the addition of a suffix. Some of these changes are the result of
regular consonant assimilation or cluster simplification, but some of them are

irregular. The irregular verbs contain root-final consonants that were


historically lenited and which, as a result disappeared or mutated between
vowels but remained next to a consonant.
Citation form
The lemma or citation form of a Korean verb is the form that ends in ta .
Infinitive form
Besides a verbal root itself that precedes ta in the citation form, there is also a
long stem with an additional harmonic vowel, called by linguist Samuel E.
Martin the "infinitive" form. This so-called infinitive, however, must not be
confused with the citation form mentioned above. It is formed by
attaching e/a / to the root, according to vowel harmony. If the verbal root
ends in a vowel, the two vowels may merge or contract.
Without vowel contraction

al "know" + e/a al.a [aa]

mok "eat" + e/a mok.o [m]

With vowel contraction

ka "go" + e/a ka

o "come" + e/a wa

so "stand" + e/a so

i (copula) + e/a ye

ssu "use" + e/a sso

Toy da /dda/ "to become" may or may not undergo contraction. Ha ta


/hada/ "to do" is irregular.
This infinitive form is not used as a noun, but it is used in compound
verbs, serial verb constructions, and before certain (not all) verb endings. It
may be compared to thecombining stem in Japanese.
Finite verb endings
Verbs are the most complex part of speech in Korean. Their structure when
used as the predicate of a clause is prefix + root + up to seven suffixes, and
can be illustrated with a template:
Finite verb template
Prefix

negativ
e*

ROO valen
T
cy

II

III

IV

VI

honori
fic

tenseaspect

formali
ty

syntactic pragmati
mood
c mood

VII
polit
e

*The negative prefix is an "not"; the word mos mot "can't" also occurs in
this position.
I Valency may be passive or causative. These often involve a stem change,
followed by the suffix i (the spelling of this suffix may change, depending on
the stem change of the verb).
II The honorific suffix is -usi -eusi- after a consonant, -si after a vowel.
The i is reduced to a glide before another vowel. For example, with a
following past tense, sie-ss -si-eoss- reduces to sye-ss -syeoss-. This shows
deference towards the topic of the conversation, for example when speaking of
one's elders.
III If there is no suffix in this slot, the verb is in present or gnomic tense. Future
tense & prospective aspect is key-ss -get-, past perfective is -e/a-ss / eot-/-at but withvowel harmony. If there is no intervening consonant, this
reduces, both in pronunciation and in writing: aa-ss to at-, and oa-ss to
wat-. The verb o "to come" is thereforewa-ss wat- in the perfective.
The verb ha ha "to do" is an irregular hay hae- in the perfective.
There are also compound tenses: remote past -e/a-ss-e-ss / -eosseot-/asseot-, past-future -e/a-ss-key-ss / -eotkket-/-atkket-, remote pastfuture -e/a-sse-ss-key-ss / -eosseotkket-/-asseotkket-.
IV The formal suffix is -p after a vowel (it is normally written in the same
block as that vowel), -sup -seup after a consonant in a declarative or
interrogative verb, -up -eup after a consonant in a proposition. (After a
consonant s or ss the letter in the suffix drops.)
This shows deference towards the audience of the conversation, for example
when speaking to one's elders. If speaking both to and of one's elders, one
would use both the formal and the honorific suffixes.
V The syntactic moods, for want of a better term, are the indicative -nun neun, -ni , or n ;
the retrospective (imperfective) -ten -deon, ti -di, or t -d-; and
thesubjunctive si -si or s . None of these are used in the casual or intimate
styles, and the formal plain indicative declarative can only occur in the gnomic
tense.
-nun -neun and -ten -deon are used in the formal plain and familiar
interrogative styles. After a vowel, -nun -neun reduces to n . Before
declarative la ra, -ten -deon reduces to te -deo.
-ni , -ti -di, and -si are used in the formal polite style.
-n , t -d-, and s are used in the familiar declarative and subjunctive
styles.

VI The pragmatic moods, for want of a better term, are the declarative -ta da (formal polite), -la -ra (formal plain), and ey e (familiar); interrogative kka , ya (formal) and -ka ga (familiar); propositive -ta -da (formal polite), -ca -ja (formal plain),
and ey -e (familiar); and the imperative o (formal polite), -e/a la / eola/-ala (formal plain), and -key -ge (familiar).
Style: These distinctions are not made in the intimate and casual styles.
Instead, this slot is taken by the intimate suffix -e/a -eo (a after an a
or o ) or the casual suffix -ci -ji.
VII The polite suffix yo (-i yo after a consonant) appears in the informal
styles. It expresses one's relationship to the audience.
Negative prefixes[edit]
A verb is typically negated in Korean by using a suppletive negative form, if it
exists, or by putting a negative prefix in front of it.
There are two possible negative prefixes, mos /mot/, and an(i) /
. Mos and an(i) are negative prefixes. Mos is used for when a person or
animate being subject tries to accomplish an action, that is, begins and is
unable to finish it successfully. An(i) is a more common negative which is used
in all other instances. The two prefixes are mutually exclusive.
Derivational suffixes
Derivational endings are attached directly to the verb root, and are followed by
the tense suffixes. These derivational suffixes end with the high vowels i
or wu which is reduced to a glide in the long stem form. For example, with a
following past tense, -(u)si () reduces to -(u)sye-ss ().
Valency
Valency in Korean is partly lexical and partly derivational. Many forms can
change their valency by the addition of the passive or causative derivational
suffixes, -i , -hi , -li ,-ki , -wu , -kwu , or -chwu , sometimes with
additional changes to the stem.
Subject Honorific
The subject honorific suffix -(u)si derives an honorific verb, that is, a verb
which is used when the subject of a sentence is higher in social status than the
speaker. Such verbs are used, for example, when speaking of one's elders,
one's social superiors (parents, teachers, bosses), or strangers. The full form usi is only used after a consonant. Otherwise, the initial vowel is absorbed,
becoming -si.

While the honorific suffix is necessary, some verbs have honorific alternatives
which must be used in addition to -(u)si. For instance, iss ta
becomes kyey'si ta .
Tense and aspect.
Following the derivational endings, Korean verbs can contain up to three
suffixes in a row which represent a combination of tense, aspect, and mood.
Perfective.
This suffix is an enclitic consonant 'ss after the infinitive form of the verb
(ending in e/a), forming e/a'ss / (the final consonant is pronounced ss before a
vowel and t before a consonant). This suffix, which is conventionally called
"perfective" or "past" by various linguists, has many different meanings,
depending on the semantics of the verb that it is attached to and the context;
it may be a simple past or a present perfect.
Etymologically, 'ss is a contraction of the existential verb iss via vowel
absorption. The contracted form -e/a iss, was originally a present perfect.
Remote Past.
A verb can superficially have two copies of the above-mentioned suffix, the
second of which, however, is always -ess and represents a true past tense.
[4]
This results in the combination e/a'ss.ess /. This combination
communicates a more remote past or a past perfect.
Irrealis.
The irrealis suffix is -keyss , which is used for a conditional,
or inferential tense, depending on context. It is used to describe an action
which has not (yet) occurred or been confirmed.
Because this infix is so often used to describe future events, it is frequently
called "the future tense," but it may be used together with the perfective and
remote past suffixes, or in a present tense context. If used with the perfective
suffix, this makes an inferential or conditional past -e/a'ss-keyss /
"should have, would have, must have." If used with the remote past suffix it
makes an inferential or conditional remote past -e/a'ss-ess-keyss /,
though this is rare.
Etymologically, the irrealis is the result of the merger of a resultative verb
ending -key and the existential root iss , via vowel absorption, as
mentioned above. This contraction and change in meaning has its parallel in
the future tense of Vulgar Latin.
Sentence-final endings.

Finite verb template

VI

VII

VIII

IX

formality

syntactic moods

pragmatic moods

politeness su

Not all combinations of the suffixes in the template above are possible. The
most common sequences after the tense suffix (that is, after the root or
honorific -usi in the present tense, after the -e/ass or -keyss in the past and
future) are,
Formal
polite

Formal
Familia
(book
r
style)

F
p

declarative

-(su)pni ta
()

-(nun)
ta
()

-n' ey

-n
y

interrogativ
e

-(su)pni kka
()

-nun
ya

-nun ka

-n
y

declarative

-(su)pti ta
()

-te la

-t' ey

-t
y

interrogativ
e

-(su)pti kka
()

-ten ya -ten ka

-t
y

propositive

-(u)psi ta
()

-ca

-s' ey

-s
y

imperative

-(u)psi o
()**

-e/a la

-key

-k

Indicative

Retrospectiv
e

Subjunctive

*This indicative -nun is only found in the present tense of action verbs.
**The formal-polite imperative almost always takes the subject honorific suffix (u)si ().
The intimate, intimate polite, casual, and casual polite endings are simpler.
Intimate

Intimate
polite

Casual

C
p

indicative/
subjunctive

declarative/
interrogative/
imperative

-e/a
/

-e/a yo
/

-ci

Formality
The formal suffix is -(su)p /. The short form is used after a vowel and the
long form is used after a consonant. (In the Korean writing system hangul, the
is written at the bottom of the previous syllable. In South Korea, after or
, the syllable was written as . This rule was modified at the end of 80s,
and '.' is not the standard language. So, nowadays, the syllable is
written as as its own pronunciation.) [5] This shows deference towards the
audience of the conversation, for example when speaking in a formal situation,
such as to (but not necessarily about) one's elders. If speaking both to and of
one's elders, one would use the formal and the honorific suffixes together.
Syntactic Moods.
The syntactic moods, for want of a better term, are indicative -nun , -n(i) /
; retrospective (imperfective) -ten , -t(i) /; and jussive -s(i)/.
Style

Indicative

Retrospective

Ju

Familiar interrogative
Formal plain

-nun

-ten

Formal polite
Familiar non-interrogative

-ni *

-ti *

-s

Casual or intimate

*-Ni , -ti , and -si contract to -n' , -t' , and -s' respectively
before ey .
None of these are used in the casual or intimate styles, and only the formal
plain indicative declarative can occur in the gnomic tense.
Pragmatic Moods
The pragmatic moods, for want of a better term, are
the declaratives ta , la , and ey ; interrogatives kka , ya ,
and ka ; propositive ta , -ca , and -ey ; and theimperative o , e
/a la /, and -key .
These distinctions are not made in the intimate and casual styles. Instead, this
place is taken by the intimate suffix -e/a / or the casual suffix -ci .
Declarative
Polite

da

Plain

ra

Propositive

-ja

Interrogative

Imperativ

kka

ya

-e/ala /

Familiar

ga

Intimate

-e/a /

Casual

-ji

-ge

Politeness Suffix.
The polite suffix yo appears in the lower speech levels. It raises the level of
politeness of those styles.
Attributive Endings
Attributive verb endings modify nouns and take the place of attributive
adjectives. Korean does not have relative pronouns. Instead, attributive
verbs modify nouns, as adjectives do in English. Where in English one would
say "I saw the man who walks the dog", the structure of Korean is more like
"The dog-walking man I saw".
The structure is ROOT + valence + attributive suffix, with little of the
complexity of finite verbs above.
Attributive verb template
Prefix

II

III

negative

ROOT

valency

tense

attributive
(tense)

Active verbs use the attributive suffix -un -eun after a consonant, or -n
after a vowel, for the past tense. For descriptive or stative verbs, often
equivalent to adjectives in English, this form is used for generic (gnomic)
descriptions; effectively, "eaten food" is food which once was eaten (past),
whereas "a pretty flower" is a flower which has become pretty, and still is
(present/timeless). To specify the ongoing action for an active verb, the
invariable suffix -nun -neun is used instead. This is not found on descriptive
verbs, as it makes no sense to say that *"a flower is being pretty". For the
future, the suffix -(u)lq / (-(eu)l with reinforcement of the following
consonant) is used, and in the imperfective/retrospective (recalling what once
was) it is -ten -deon.
For example, from the verb mek "to eat", the adjective yeppu ' "pretty",
and the nouns pap bap "cooked rice" and kkoch kkot "flower", we get:
Attributive forms
Active verb

Descriptive verb

Present
progressiv
e

Perfective

Imperfectiv
e

Future

meongneun
bab

"cooked
rice
which is
being
eaten"

meogeun
bab

"eaten
cooked
rice
(cooked
rice
which
was
eaten)"

meokdeon
bab

"cooked
rice
which
one
used to
eat"

meogeul
ppap

"cooked
rice to
be
eaten"

The perfective suffix -e-ss -eoss- is sometimes used as well, with the same
meaning, on active verbs. It precedes the attributive suffix:

meogeotdeon bap " cooked rice which had been eaten"

For action verbs, -e'ss - is used for completed actions or processes that result
in a present state. The individual verbs meaning can help determine which
interpretation is appropriate. Hence kyel.hon-hay'ss ta gyeorhon
haetta can mean got married, focusing on the past event, or is married,
focusing on the present state resulting from the past event. But kong ul
cha'ss ta gongeul chatta kicked the ball can only denote a past
action and cal sayngkye'ss ta jal saenggyeotta is handsome can
only denote the present state. (sayngkita saenggida is an action verb,
meaning get formed/ created.) [to add: quotative -ula/-la; -ke-na]
Conjunctive Endings[edit]
Verbs can take conjunctive suffixes. These suffixes make subordinate clauses.

yeppeun
kkot

"
p
fl

yeppeudeo
n kkot

"
fl
w
w
o
p

yeppeul
kkot

"
fl
w
w
p

One very common suffix ko , can be interpreted as a subordinating


conjunction. That is, mek.ko means approximately "eating," koki'l ul
mek.ko means "eating meat," and nay ka koki'l ul mek.ko
means "I eat meat and..." or "My eating meat."
Another suffix, somewhat similar in meaning, is se which is, however,
attached to the long stem of a verb ending in -e/a.
Both juxtapose two actions, the action in the subclause and the action in the
main clause. The difference between them is that with se the action in the
subclause necessarily came first, while -ko conveys more of an unordered
juxtaposition. Se is frequently used to imply causation, and in many common
expressions like manna se pankapsupni ta (literally, "Since
I met you, I'm happy" -or- "Having met you, I'm happy"). If -ko was used
instead, the meaning would be closer to "I meet you and I'm happy," that is,
without any implied logical connection.
These are both subordinating conjunctive suffixes and can not (in the more
formal registers, at least) derive complete sentences of their own without the
addition of a main verb, by default the existential verb iss ta .
Syntax
As a typical right-headed subjectobjectverb language, verbs are typically the
last element in a Korean sentence, and the only one necessary. That is, a
properly conjugated verb can form a sentence by itself. The subject and the
object of a sentence are often omitted when these are considered obvious in
context. For example, the sentence:chac.ass.ta ! ("[I] found [it]!")
consists of only a verb because the context in which this sentence would occur
makes the identity of the arguments obvious.