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:
- When the verb ending begins with 어/아 or 었/았, then you drop the ‘ㅎ’ and add a ‘ㅣ’.
- When the verb ending begins with any other vowel, then you simply drop the ‘ㅎ’. That’s it.
- 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.
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.