Don’t panic, but there are seven types of irregular verbs in Korean. The ‘ㅅ’ irregular verb is one of them. If you’re a beginner who’s only now coming to grips with converting verbs to their -어요 form, then this is probably overwhelming news. You may want to sit down for this. Drink a tall glass of water. And a valium probably wouldn’t hurt at this point either. Just relax. I’m going to get you through this.
The good news is that there really aren’t a whole lot of ‘ㅅ’ irregular verbs. Really. The other bit of good news is that ‘ㅅ’ irregular verbs are really easy to use.
Let’s start off with the rule for irregular ‘ㅅ’ verbs, plain and simple:
- When the verb ending starts with a vowel, you drop the ‘ㅅ’.
- If the verb ending does not start with a vowel, then you don’t have to do anything. (Hooray for laziness!)
Let’s take a look at two example sentences using the verb 낫다, which means “to get better”, “to be cured”, “to get over”, etc.
상처가 아직 낫지 않았어요. (The wound has not healed yet.)
In this example you’re connecting the irregular ‘ㅅ’ verb 낫다 to the negative verb ending -지 않다. Because this ending does not begin with a vowel, you don’t have to do anything special to the verb stem.
그녀의 병은 금방 나을 거예요. (She’ll get better soon.)
In this example, however, you’re connecting the irregular ‘ㅅ’ verb 낫다 to the future verb ending -을 거예요, which indicates future tense. Because this ending begins with a vowel, you have to drop the ‘ㅅ’ at the end of the verb stem.
Here are some other common ‘ㅅ’ verbs:
붓다 (to pour into) (to swell, puff up)
젓다 (to beat, whip, stir vigorously)
짓다 (to build, construct) (to write, compose) (to fabricate, make up, invent) (to name something)
And an example sentence for each of these:
발목이 부었어요. (My ankle swelled up.) The past tense verb ending, -었어요, begins with a vowel so we simply drop the ‘ㅅ’ at the end of the verb 붓다.
오분 후에 오트밀을 넣고 저으세요. (In five minutes, please stir in the oatmeal.) Again, the verb ending -으세요 begins with a vowel so we drop the ‘ㅅ’ at the end of the verb stem.
남자들이 건물을 짓고 있어요. (The men are constructing a building.) Notice that we don’t drop the ‘ㅅ’ here because the verb ending does not begin with a vowel.
Easy, right? Umm…. but now for the bad news. (Hey, it’s Korean! Of course there’s bad news. It’s like they intentionally booby-trapped the entire language to make it more difficult for foreigners like you and I.) The bad news is that there are lots of verbs that end in ‘ㅅ’ that are not irregular ‘ㅅ’ verbs. In other words, just because a verb stem ends with a ‘ㅅ’ does not necessarily mean it’s a ‘ㅅ’ irregular verb.
The verb 벗다 means to take off or remove clothing. But it is not an irregular ‘ㅅ’ verb. Consequently, whether the verb ending begins with a consonant or a vowel doesn’t matter. You will never drop the ‘ㅅ’ at the end of the verb stem.
모자를 벗으세요. (Please take off your hat.)
Likewise, the verb 웃다 (to laugh) is also not an irregular ‘ㅅ’ verb. Again, you don’t drop the ‘ㅅ’ at the end of this verb stem either.
지금은 웃을 때가 아니에요. (This is not the time to be laughing.)
So there you have it. And don’t worry about sucking at Korean. We all suck. It’s cool. Eventually you’ll just forget that you suck at all. And maybe you’ll even grow so arrogant that you start your own website that (ha!) supposedly teaches a little Korean. What a pompous ass you’ll be then.