Irregular Verbs (불규칙 동사)
Hey guys! So I’m back with another post on 한글! And today I’m going to talk to you guys about irregular verbs! These verbs will be the most annoying when learning Korean. I won’t sugar-coat it, you will likely be pestered and confused by them even after you reach an advanced level of Korean. It’s just so easy to get mixed up! However, unlike the romantic languages, (such as French, Italian, Spanish, etc), Korean irregular verbs fall into categories which all follow the same pattern – just one that is different from the regular verbs.
For simplicity sake we’ll assume that Korean doesn’t have any “adjectives” (as they are all conjugated the same way verbs are) but what we’ll call “static verbs”.
These are verbs that end in “ㅂ”, such as 가깝다 (to be close), 어렵다 (to be to be difficult), 쉽다 (to be easy), 아쉽다 (to feel sorry/bad), etc.
When conjugating these verbs we do not simply add “어요/아요” as we do with regular verbs – we must first drop the “ㅂ” and then add “우” or “오” in its place (more commonly “우” is added, the only exception I can currently think of is “돕다”, which means “to help”. Once the “ㅂ” is dropped here “오” is added”). Then we simply add “어요/아요”.
So for example;
가깝다 → 가까 (drop “ㅂ”) → 가까우 (add “우”) → 가까우 + 어요 = 가까워요
BUT for 돕다 → 도 à 도오 + 아요 (because “아요” is added when the last vowel of the verb stem is “오” or “아”) = 도와요
There are a few exceptions to this rule – the most common one is “좁다”, which means “to be narrow”. This verb is conjugated in the regular way – 좁다 → 좁아요
Verbs that end in “ㄷ” are also conjugated irregularly. For example, verbs like 듣다 (to listen), 걷다 (to walk), 묻다 (to ask), etc. HOWEVER, NOT EVERY VERB THAT ENDS IN “ㄷ” IS CONJUGATED IRREGULARLY. You must memorize which verbs are and which are not.
For the verbs that I’ve mentioned here, the way you conjugate them is to drop “ㄷ” and add “ㄹ” instead, and then conjugate the verb the way you normally would.
So for example;
듣다 → 들 + 어요 → 들어요
걷다 → 걸 + 어요 → 걸어요
묻다 → 물 + 어요 → 물어요
HOWEVER, verbs such as 받다 (to receive), 믿다 (to believe/trust), 닫다 (to close), are conjugated regularly; so they would become: 받아요, 믿어요, 닫아요.
Verbs ending in “ㄹ”
These verbs are not exactly “irregular” but ㄹ is a tricky consonant. For verbs that end in ㄹ, such as, 놀다 (to play/hang out), 멀다 (to be far), 살다 (to live), when they are followed by a grammar point that starts with “ㄹ/을” the “ㄹ/을” is not added.
For example: ~ 을 수 있다, which means “can/be able to”
오늘 놀 수 있어? ← O (Can you hang out today?)
오늘 놀을 수 있어? ← X
Also, when followed by “ㄴ”, the “ㄹ” is completely dropped.
노는게 제일 좋지? ← O (Hanging out is the best, isn’t it?)
놀은게 제일 좋지 ← X
“르” irregular verbs:
These are verbs where the last syllable in the stem is “르”, such as, 빠르다 (to be quick), 다르다 (to be different), 모르다 (to not know). These verbs, when conjugated, drop “으” and add another “ㄹ” before adding the ending “~어요/아요”.
빠르다 → 빨 + ㄹ + 아요 → 빨라요
다르다 → 달 + ㄹ + 아요 → 달라요
모르다 → 몰 + ㄹ + 아요 → 몰라요
“으” irregular verbs:
When a verb ends in “으” the “으” is dropped and the “~아요/어요” is added, however, it is contracted so that it attaches to the preceding consonant.
Some examples of these verbs are: 예쁘다 (to be pretty), 크다 (to be big), 바쁘다 (to be busy).
This is what it would look like if you conjugated these verbs:
예쁘다 → 예ㅃ + 어요 → 예뻐요
크다 → ㅋ + 어요 → 커요
바쁘다 → 바ㅃ + 아요 → 바빠요
“ㅅ” irregular verbs:
Some verbs that end in “ㅅ” are irregular. Some examples of these verbs are: 낫다 (to get better), 짓다 (to build), 긋다 (to draw/rule). The irregular verbs are conjugated by dropping the “ㅅ” and simply adding “어요/아요”.
낫다 → 나 + 아요 → 나아요
짓다 → 지 + 어요 → 지어요
긋다 → 그 + 어요 → 그어요
Even when using the noun modifiers – 은/는 and 을/를 the “ㅅ” is still dropped. So that:
짓다 + 은 becomes 지은 (it’s as though the “ㅅ” is still there, but invisible, so we do not add “는” but “은”)
HOWEVER, there are some verbs that end in “ㅅ” that follow the regular conjugation patterns, such as, 벗다 (to take off), 웃다 (to laugh), 씻다 (to wash [oneself]).
So that they would be conjugated: 벗어요, 웃어요, 씻어요.
“ㅎ” irregular verbs:
Not all verbs that end in “ㅎ” are conjugated irregularly, but a vast majority of them are – most of them are colours and the verbs that describe HOW something is done; that is, 어떻다 (to be how), 그렇다 (to be that way), 이렇다 (to be this way), 저렇다 (to be that way), and colours, such as, 파랗다 (to be blue), 노랗다 (to be yellow), 하얗다 (to be white).
For these irregular verbs we simply drop the “ㅎ” and add “어요/아요” BUT, the added “어요/아요” gets contracted to “애” for each verb.
Therefore, if we conjugated these verbs they would like this:
어떻다 → 어때요
그렇다 → 그래요
이렇다 → 이래요
저렇다 → 저래요
파랗다 → 파래요
노랗다 → 노래요
하얗다 → 하얘요.
A similar rule applies when adding the noun modifier to these verbs – that is to say we still drop the “ㅎ” in those cases. HOWEVER, the “ㅎ” is NOT DROPPED when adding the adverbalizer “게”.
So that they would look something like this:
파란, 노란, 하얀
어떤, 그런, 저런, 이런
어떻게, 그렇게, 저렇게, 이렇게
An example of an exception to this rule is “좋다” to be good – which is conjugated regularly as 좋아요 and 좋은.
Hope this helps all of you Korean learners! See you next month 😉