Past Tense of Korean Verbs and Adjectives

In English, you may simply add -ed to change a verb to its past tense. In Korean, it is done by modifying the suffix of the verb. Note that Korean adjectives are verb-like in grammatical constructions, and they conjugate just like verbs.

Past Tense of Korean Verbs and Adjectives

In order to conjugate a Korean verb or adjective to its past tense form, identify the alternate stem of its present tense form, and use 어-conjugation to attach 았다 or 었다 to it.

Exception: Use original stems to conjugate ㄹ-irregular verbs and adjectives.*

You then get the plain past tense form, which is always a regular verb.

Examples (more)

Verbs/Adjectives Dictionary Form Meaning Original Stem Alternate Stem Plain Past Tense Form Vowel Contraction
Regular 먹다 eat 먹었다 N
하다 do 했다 Y
ㅂ-Irregular 춥다 cold 추우 추웠다 Y
ㅅ-Irregular 낫다 better 나았다 N
ㄷ-Irregular 듣다 listen 들었다 N
ㅎ-Irregular 그렇다 to be so 그렇 그러 그랬다 Y
ㄹ-Irregular 달다 sweet 달았다* N
으-Irregular 쓰다 write 썼다 Y
르-Irregular 고르다 choose 고르 골르 골랐다 Y

You can now conjugate the plain past tense form to its formal polite form, informal polite form, or informal casual form as described in the each of the rules respectively.

Present Tense Verb / Adjective Plain Past Tense Formal Polite Past Informal Polite Past Informal Casual Past
먹다 V 먹었다 먹었습니다 먹었어요 먹었어
하다 V 했다 했습니다 했어요 했어
춥다 A 추웠다 추웠습니다 추웠어요 추웠어
낫다 A 나았다 나았습니다 나았어요 나았어
듣다 V 들었다 들었습니다 들었어요 들었어
그렇다 A 그랬다 그랬습니다 그랬어요 그랬어
달다 A 달았다 달았습니다 달았어요 달았어
쓰다 V 썼다 썼습니다 썼어요 썼어
고르다 V 골랐다 골랐습니다 골랐어요 골랐어

Compare the sentences of using the formal polite form and informal polite form of saying the same meanings in past tense:


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