Verb and Adjective Conjugation

I didn’t want to do this lesson, you guys. Is anything more boring and horrible than verb conjugation? Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but it’s sort of the worst. However, you really do need to know what you’re looking at when you see verbs in song lyrics.

But good news! There is one way in which verb conjugation in Korean is simpler than in English: it remains unchanged no matter what pronoun is used in the sentence. You know how in English we say “I run” and “you run”, but then “he runs”, “she runs”, “they run”? Or if you’re talking about objects, “the door closes”, but “the doors close”? Korean doesn’t mess around like that. Learn how to conjugate something and it’ll be the same no matter who or what you’re talking about.

Of course, one thing that complicates conjugation in Korean is the matter of respect. When you boil it down, there are really 3 levels of respect in Korean. In pop lyrics, the form without respect is typically used, so that’s what we’ll teach here.

Note: for most of the “low-respect” conjugations we learn in this lesson, you can add respect to them simply by adding 요 to the end. There’s a level of respect 1 higher than that, but it looks a lot different, so we won’t get into it.

There are also, unfortunately for your brain, other ways to create past and present tense statements. One is used in the present tense to inject a little more feeling, rather just relaying a straight fact. One is used to talk about things that happened in the past tense that you personally experienced. I’ll create separate lessons for those. The ones we’ll learn in this lesson are the basic, straight, no-flavour-added conjugations.

Also, I’ve been saying “verbs” this whole time, but remember that in Korean adjectives are actually descriptive verbs because they include the meaning “to be” in them. So this all applies to adjectives in exactly the same way. Okay, let’s get started.


Present tense:

Good news, everyone! If you’ve read “Adding -아 / -어 particles to verbs & adjectives” you already know how to do present tense conjugation! To conjugate a verb to the present tense, take the dictionary form, cut the 다 off the end, and just add 아 or 어 depending on the rules outlined in the lesson linked above. Then you can 요 to the end of it if you need to speak with respect to someone.

At the most basic level, the rule is that if the vowel in the last syllable of the root is ㅗ or ㅏ, add 아. In all other cases, add 어.

Examples:

쩔어 (Dope)
난 좀 쩔어! ~ “I’m kinda dope!”
Original adjective: “to be dope, awesome” ~ 쩔다 – 다 + 어 = 쩔어

Respect
근데 요샌 뜻이 좀 헷갈려. ~ “But lately its meaning is a bit confusing.”
Original adjective: “to be confusing” ~ 헷갈리다 – 다 + 어 = 헷갈려

Intro: Persona
가끔은 그냥 싹 다 헛소리 같아. ~ “Sometimes it all just sounds like nonsense.”
Original verb: “to be like” ~ 같다 – 다 + 아 = 같아

Singularity
난 문득 잠에서 . ~ “I suddenly awake from sleep.”
Original verb: “to wake up” ~ 깨다 – 다 + 아 = 깨

Save Me
오늘따라 달이 빛나. ~ The moon shines especially bright tonight.
Original verb: “to shine” ~ 빛나다 – 다 + 아 = 빛나

Danger
넌 내가 없는데, 난 너로 가득해. ~ “You don’t have me, but I’m full of you.”
Original adjective: “to be filled with” ~ 가득하다 – 다 + 아 = 가득해


Past Tense:

Past tense follows exactly the same rules as present tense, but you’re adding -았어 or -었어. Here too, you can add 요 for higher respect, resulting in -았어요 / -었어요.

Examples:

Intro: What Am I To You
계속 지고 싶지도 않았어. ~ “I didn’t want to keep losing either.”
Original verb: “to not do X” ~ 않다 – 다 + 았어 = 않았어

상남자 (Boy In Luv)
안달 났어 나 안달 났어. ~ “I’m getting antsy. I’m getting antsy.”
Original verb: “to occur, to appear” ~ 나다 – 다 + 았어 = 났어

Spine Breaker
도대체 왜 이래? 미쳤어 baby. ~ “Why on earth are you like this? I’ve gone crazy, baby.”
Original verb: “to go crazy” ~ 미치다 – 다 + 었어 = 미쳤어

Airplane (by j-hope):
날고 싶었어Airplane에서 ~ “I wanted to fly in that airplane.”
Original verb: “to want” ~ 싶다 – 다 + 었어 = 싶었어

Make It Right
난 찾아내야 했어. ~ “I had to find you.”
Original verb: “to do” ~ 하다 – 다 + 았어 = 했어


Future Tense:

There are two different ways to conjugate to future tense. We’ll do the less commonly used one first, and the more common one second.

-겠어

This one’s super easy. Just add -겠어 to the root, no matter what vowels or consonants we’re dealing with. It’s the same across the board. As with the others, add 요 to add respect.

Examples:

724148 (by Agust D)
이렇게 하겠어. ~ “I’ll do it like this.”
Original verb: “to do” ~ 하다 – 다 + 겠어 = 하겠어

Come Back Home
나를 완성하겠어. ~ “You’ll complete me.”
Original adjective: “to be complete” ~ 완성하다 – 다 + 겠어 = 완성하겠어

Lost
좀 느려도 내 발로 걷겠어. ~ “Even if it’s a bit slow, I’ll walk on my own feet.”
Original verb: “to walk” ~ 걷다 – 다 + 겠어 = 걷겠어

-ㄹ 거야 / -을 거야

Like all other particles, this gets added to the root. Add ㄹ 거야 if the root ends in a vowel, and 을 거야 if it ends in a consonant. A special note is that if the root ends in ㄹ, you don’t add anything to it except 거야.

*If you want to add respect to this one, change 거야 to 거에요.

Examples:

자근 것들을 위한 시 (Boy With Luv)
그저 널 지킬 거야. ~ “I’m just going to take care of you.”
Original verb: “to take care of, to protect” ~ 지키다 – 다 + -ㄹ 거야 = 지킬 거야

Black Swan
절대 끌려가지 않을 거야 다시 또. ~ “I will never be dragged away again.”
Original verb: “to not do X” ~ 않다 – 다 + 을 거야 = 않을 거야

Filter
새로운 우리가 될 거야. ~ “We’ll become a new us.”
Original verb: “to become” ~ 되다 – 다 + ㄹ 거야 = 될 거야