Irregular Verbs with ‘ㅎ’ (ㅎ 불규칙 동사)

It’s a holiday weekend.  All sun and clear blue skies.  July 4th — that means grilling outdoors, fireworks, and pilsner.  Good times with family and friends.  And you.  You, sitting there at your computer screen.  You, wondering why you’re even wasting your time at a site called YouSuckAtKorean.  You want to know about irregular verbs?  Really?  Is this how I’m supposed to be spending my Sunday night?

Well, fortunately for you, I am completely lame and have no social life.  Consequently, I have more than enough time to teach you a thing or two.  Let’s get to it, then.

There’s lots of good news about learning irregular ‘ㅎ’ verbs.

  • There really aren’t a whole lot of them.  In fact, it’s pretty much just colors and the verbs 이렇다, 그렇다, 저렇다, 어떻다.
  • They are all descriptive verbs (aka adjectives).
  • And inflecting them is really not that difficult.

Here are the rules you need to remember:

  1. When the verb ending begins with 어/아 or 었/았, then you drop the ‘ㅎ’ and add a ‘ㅣ’.
  2. When the verb ending begins with any other vowel, then you simply drop the ‘ㅎ’.  That’s it.
  3. Best of all, when the verb ending begins with a consonant you make no changes whatsoever.  The verb stem will keep its ‘ㅎ’.

Rules are pretty confusing, though.  And I’ve never been very good at following them myself.  For instance, I’m told that as a general rule you should not insult your target audience in the title of your website.  At least not if you want them to come back.  Touché.  So how about some examples instead?

그분의 우산은 노랗습니다.  (That person’s umbrella is yellow.)
Here the verb ending begins with a consonant, -습니다.  Therefore, we don’t need to do anything special or “irregular” to the verb.  Just inflect as usual.

그분의 우산은 노래요.  (That person’s umbrella is yellow.)
In this example, however, we’ve chosen to use the verb ending -어요.   Because it ends in 어, we need to drop the ‘ㅎ’ and add an ‘ㅣ’.  To put it a bit differently, 노랗+어요 = 노래요.

오늘 하늘은 너무나 맑고 파라니까 밖에 나가야 돼요.  (Because the sky is so clear and blue today, we should go outside.)
The verb ending in this example is -(으)니까.  Since it begins with a vowel but is not 어/아,  we simply drop the ‘ㅎ’.  Nothing more.

But there are two tricky aspects to learning irregular ‘ㅎ’ verbs.  The first is that 이렇다, 그렇다, 저렇다, and 어떻다 convert to 이래-, 그래-, 저래-, and 어때-, respectively.  When you add the ‘ㅣ’ to these four verbs they form the ‘ㅐ’ vowel rather than the ‘ㅔ’ you might expect.

The second tricky thing to keep in mind is this.  As is the case with all seven types of irregular verbs, some of them might look irregular but are not irregular.  Bastards!  For instance, the descriptive verbs 많다 (to be a lot, many) and 좋다 (to be good) are not irregular.  So the above rules do not apply.


4 thoughts on “Irregular Verbs with ‘ㅎ’ (ㅎ 불규칙 동사)”

  1. im stuck here trying to figure out all these 7 Irregularities and thank god I found ur blog.. as the korean culture and language is becoming more n more popular, im sure many foreign learners will appreciate your blog. 감사합니다

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