Korean Present Tense Conjugation Part 1 – Korean Tense #2

"I love books."

If you love books, you can use it to everyone. You can use it to talk to your friends, teachers, in your writings, in other situations, too. However, in Korean, you cannot.

In Korean, there are 5 polite levels. However, 2 of them are almost dead. So, we'll learn how to use present tense in 3 levels. We'll start from the lowest to highest. Today, we'll learn how to use 반말 form of present tense.

Basic Rule

In 반말(casual tone) for conversation, remove 다 and add 아/어 next to the verbs.

A: 지금 뭐 해?
B: 책 읽어.
A: What are you doing now?
B: Reading books.

읽어 is from the verb 읽다. As you can see, we removed 다 from the verb 읽다 and added 어.

The rule of choosing between 아 and 어 is decided by the character in front of 다. If it has the vowel ㅏ or ㅗ, it should be 아. Otherwise, it should be ㅓ. So, 놀다(play) becomes 놀아, 갈아(grind, change) becomes 갈아, 먹다(eat) becomes 먹어, 쉬다(take a rest) becomes 쉬어.

Don't Forget Irregular Verbs

The hard thing about this ending is that there are so many irregular verbs. I've covered 9 types of them in the last series. So, check them out. Here are some examples.

A: 지금 뭐 해?
B: 고기 구워. / 상자 날라. / 책 써.
A: What are you doing now?
B: Roasting meats. / Moving boxes. / Writing the book.

Vowel Contractions

In addition to these irregular verbs, there are some vowel contractions. If 아 meets the verbs whose stem ends with ㅏ like 가다, 사다, 자다, 아 is not appended. So, they should be 가, 사, 자. If ㅣ is in front of 어 like 날리다, 먹이다. They become 날려, 먹여. ㅣ + ㅓ becomes ㅕ.

A: 지금 뭐 해?
B: 비행기 날려. / 고양이한테 밥 먹여.
A: What are you doing now?
B: Flying paperplanes. / Feeding kittens.

When you want to ask something with 반말, just conjugate the verb with 아/어 and raise the end of the sentence. Then, it becomes questions.

A: 운동해?
B: 응, 운동해.
A: Are you working out?
B: Yes, working out.


To ask specifically, you should use interrogatives like 뭐(what), 언제(when), 누가(who), 어디서(where), 어떻게(how), 왜(why). Usually, add these interrogatives in front of the verbs like below, then the sentence is completed.

지금 누가 해? / 지금 어디 가? / 지금 어디서 해? / 어떻게 하는 거야? / 지금 왜 해?
Who's doing it now? / Where are you going? / Where do they do it now? / How do I do it? / Why are you doing it now?