Korean: Past tense 「-았다/-었다」


In this article, we are going to introduce Korean tense grammar: Past Tense. The past tense is be expressed by changing the word ending of Korean verbs and adjectives. There are some basic rules for this changs, which can be used to transfer a sentence from present tense to past tense.

If you are using Chrome or an Android phone, you can listen to the pronunciation by clicking on the Korean in the table or the Korean in the example sentences in the article!

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

In this article, we are going to introduce Korean tense grammar: Past Tense. The past tense is be expressed by changing the word ending of Korean verbs and adjectives.
There are some basic rules for this changs, which can be used to transfer a sentence from present tense to past tense.

Adjectives, Verbs in the Past tTense

Two basic rules for change.

1. If vowel is one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 았다

For example,좋다 -> past tense:좋았다

2. Is vowel is not one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 었다 

For example,먹다 -> past tense:먹었다

Special Note.
Abbreviations, Omitted Changes:In the above two basic rules, if an adjective or verb does not end with a consonant, the 어/아 in the 았/었 will be simplified as ㅆ , so it becomes a stem + ㅆ다.

For example, 사다 -> Past tense: 샀다

요-type(honorific)

The past tense can also be used as a honorific, such as the common usage of 요 in daily life.

If the vowel is one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 았어요

For example, 좋다 -> past tense: 좋았어요

If the vowel is not one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 었어요

For example,먹다 -> past tense: 먹었어요

In the past tense, "요-type" is always followed by 어요.

습니다(formal, honorific)

In the past tense, there was also a more advanced form of honorific expression such as "습니다".

If the vowel is one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 았습니다

For example,좋다 -> past tense: 좋았습니다

If the vowel is not one of "ㅏ,ㅑ,ㅗ,ㅛ", then word's stem + 었습니다

For example, 먹다 -> past tense: 먹었습니다

Particular attention is paid to the past tense of 하다.

하다 -> past tense: 헸다, 요-type: 헸어요, 습니다-type: 헸습니다。

More Examples

Below are some examples of common verbs and adjectives in the past tense.

The Word Ends with Consonant

  • eat

먹다 -> past tense: 먹었다, 요-type: 먹었어요, 습니다-type: 먹었습니다

  • play

놀다 -> past tense: 놀았다, 요-type: 놀았요, 습니다-type: 놀았습니다

  • see

만나다 -> past tense: 만났다, 요-type: 만났어요, 습니다-type: 만났습니다

  • good

좋다 -> past tense: 좋았다, 요-type: 좋았어요, 습니다-type: 좋았습니다

The Word Ends with Vowel

  • buy

사다 -> past tense: 샀다, 요-type: 샀어요, 습니다-type: 샀습니다

  • cheap

싸다 -> past tense: 쌌다, 요-type: 쌌어요, 습니다-type: 쌌습니다

Englishpresent tensepast tensepast tense 요-type
come오다왔다왔어요
go가다갔다갔어요
write쓰다썼다썼어요
know알다알았다알았어요
small작다작았다작았어요
fast빠르다빨랐다빨랐어요

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