Present Tense

Verbs and adjectives conjugate in Korean.  The present tense conjugation of the polite (common) form:

present tense

This is what Rob Julian of KDA calls the clock theory.

I prefer to think of it as described in “Integrated Korean”.  All vowels are composed of three strokes heaven (-), earth (ㅡ), and human (ㅣ).  Vowels are bright (ㅏㅗ), dark (ㅓㅜ), or neutral (ㅣㅡ).   Traditionally, Korean sought vowel harmony.  I find this beautiful.

 3 fundamental essences define the universe: heaven, earth, and human being.

3 fundamental essences define the universe: heaven, earth, and human being.

So stems with bright vowels (ㅏㅗ) get a bright 아+요 when conjugating.  The rest get the dark 어+요 ending.

present tense

 

Note: exceptions to this pattern.  이다 ‘to be’ 에요 (or 예요),  아니다 ‘to not be’ 에요.

Vowel contraction

In all conjugation patterns, when you have a vowel that connects directly to another vowel, they usually contract to something new.  See “Mastering Conversational Korean – Korean for Beginners” p. 36 for a chart of the vowel contractions with examples.

ㅏ + ㅏ
 ㅓ + ㅓ  ㅓ
 ㅗ + ㅏ  ㅘ
 ㅜ + ㅓ  ㅝ
 ㅡ + ㅓ  ㅓ
 ㅣ + ㅓ  ㅕ
 ㅐ + ㅓ
 ㅔ + ㅓ  ㅔ
 ㅚ + ㅓ  ㅙ
 하 + ㅕ  해

 

For more information, refer to Talk To Me In Korean Level 1 Lesson 16.

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