“Choose a movie to watch!”
“Let’s go for a run.”
“Help me look for my hairbrush.”
Think of how often we use verbs—in almost every sentence we speak!
We’re constantly describing or asking for actions. Verbs form the main part of the predicate of a sentence, making them a seriously important aspect of language, grammar and sentence-forming.
And verbs are just as important in the Korean language as in English.
As a Korean language learner, you don’t need to learn all of the verbs at the beginner or intermediate level. But you should know at least a handful of common verbs and where they typically show up in a sentence.
Ready to jump into some ultra useful verbs? First, let’s look more in-depth at why these particular verbs are so handy to know.
What Makes These Korean Verbs So Important and Why Should I Learn Them?
- These verbs are common enough that you’ll need to know them for traveling and casual business in South Korea. Chances are, you’ll need to have at least a handful of complex conversations in Korea. It’s vital to know common verbs in order to communicate what you need to non-English-speaking Korean natives.
- Learning about Korean verbs and their placement in sentences will improve your grammar skills. It’s all about grammar when it comes to Korean fluency. Learning where verbs typically land in sentences is going to be a vital part of learning more complex grammar in the future.
- Learning verbs can help you learn nouns. In many cases, you can create a Korean verb by ending a certain ending to a noun. (More on this later!) Learning verbs is twofold: you learn nouns alongside your verbs.
Eat, Drink and Sleep Korean Verbs! 16 Verbs for Your Language Repertoire
It’s worth noting that the Korean verbs on this list shouldn’t be the extent of your verb-learning. There are numerous verbs in the Korean language, so you should learn as many as you can to achieve fluency. These 16 verbs are simply ideal for beginner learners as an introduction to Korean verbs.
1. 하다 (hada) — to do
하다 is usually used at the end of a noun or another verb to indicate action. It can also be used by itself for certain situations, though this is rare.
생각 안 하다. (saeng-gag an hada) — I do not think.
하루 분의 일을 하다 (haru bunui ireul hada) — to do a full day of work
2. 고르다 (goleuda) — to choose
한 아이가 사탕을 고르고 있었다. (han aiga satang-eul goleugoiss-eossda) — A kid was choosing some candy.
괜찮은 물건을 고르는 남자를 보았다. (joh-eun mulgeon-eul goleuneun namjaleul boassda) — I saw a guy choosing some cool things.
3. 찾다 (chajda) — to find or to look for
슈퍼마켓 찾으려 하는데요. (syupeomakes chaj-eulyeo haneundeyo) — I’m looking for the supermarket.
나는 안경을 못 찾겠다. (naneun angyeong-eul mos chajgetda) — I can’t find my glasses.
4. 가져가다 (gajyeogada) — to take
This verb can also take on the forms 가져가 (gajyeoga) — to take, 가져갈 (gajyeogal) — take and 가져간 (ga jyuh gan) — taking.
오래된 것은 저장실에 가져가 주세요. (jinjeonghan jeojangsil-e gajyeogajuseyo) — Please take this to the storage room.
나는 이것을 샘 생일 선물로 가져갈거야. (naneun igeos-eul saem saeng-il seonmullo gajyeogalgeoya.) — I’ll take this present to Sam for her birthday.
5. 주다 (juda) — to give
선물을 주다 (seonmureul juda) — to give a present
들어 주다 (deul-eo juda) — to give somebody a listen
6. 관찰하다 (gwanchalhada) — to watch or observe
Remember when we mentioned that 하다 is often used on the tail end of other words to indicate the act of doing? This is our first example of that in action. 관찰 (gwanchal) on its own means “observation,” but add 하다, and it becomes a verb!
동식물의 생태를 관찰하다 (dongsigmul-ui saengtaeleul gwanchalhada) — to observe the ecology of plants and animals.
7. 죄송하다 (joesonghada) — to be sorry
Generally, 죄송하다 is used for more formal apologies or apologies to older people. Usually, this verb is used as a standalone phrase when apologizing to someone.
8. 구하다 (goohada) — to get, save or look for
Some other word forms that stem from 구하다 include 구하 (goo ha), 구해 (goo he) and 구했 (goo het), all of which mean “to request” or “to save” depending on the context of the sentence.
그는 그의 목숨을 걸고 그녀를 구했습니다. (geu neun geu eui mok soom eul gul go geu nyuh reul goo het seup ni da) — He risked his life to save her.
어댑터 플러그는 어디에서 구할 수 있나요? (uh dep tuh peul luh geu neun uh di e suh goo hal soo it na yo) — Where can I go to get an adapter plug?
저는 일자리를 구하고 있습니다. (juh neun il ja ri reul goo ha go it seup ni da) — I’m looking for work.
9. 좋아하다 (joh-ahada) — to like or to favor
Very common word forms for this verb include 좋아하 (joaha) and 좋아한 (joahan).
데이지 좋아하세요, 아니면 장미 좋아하세요? (deiji joaha seyo, animyeon jangmi joaha seyo) — Do you like daisies or do you like roses?
제일 좋아하는 배우가 누구예요? (jeil joaha neun baeuga nuguyeyo) — Who is your favorite actor? (Literally: Which actor do you favor?)
10. 가다 (gada) — to go or to get to
A couple of common word forms for 가다 include 갑 (gap) and 가 (ga.)
지하철역에 어떻게 갑니까? (ji ha chul yuk e uh du ke gap ni ka) — How can I get to the subway station?
어디에 가세요? (uh di e ga se yo) — Where are you going?
11. 요리하다 (yolihada) — to cook
요리하는 (yolihaneun) is another way to say 요리하다.
우리는 잭프룻을 요리하는 방법을 모른다. (ulineun jaegpeulus eul yolihaneun bangbeob-eul moleunda) — We do not know how to cook jackfruit.
전 버터로 요리하는 것을 좋아해요. (jeon beoteolo yolihaneun geos-eul joh-ahaeyo) — I enjoy cooking with butter.
12. 가지다 (gajida) — to have or to own
A couple of word forms for 가지다 include 가지 (gaji) and 가질 (gajil.)
나는 큰 꿈을 가지고 있어. (naneun keun kkum-eul gaji go iss-eo) — I have big dreams.
누구나 자신의 의견을 가질 권리가 있습니다. (noo goo na ja sin eui ui gyun eul gajil gyun ri ga it seup ni da) — Everyone has their own opinion. (Literally: Everyone has the right to have their opinions.)
13. 오다 (oda) — to come or to arrive
오 (o) and 옵 (op) are alternative ways of using 오다.
저를 따라 오세요. (juh reul ta ra o se yo) — Please come with me.
다음 기차는 언제 옵니까? (da-eum gichaneun eonje opnikka) — When will the next train arrive?
14. 알다 (alda) — to know
Word forms for this verb include 알 (al) and 아 (a).
연어가 시력에 좋다는 사실은 누구나 알고 있습니다. (yeon-eoga silyeog-e johdaneun sasil-eun nuguna algo issseubnida) — Everybody knows that salmon is good for your eyes.
중국말을 할 줄 아십니까? (jung-gugmal-eul hal jul a sibnikka) — Do you know any Chinese?
15. 기대하다 (gidaehada) — to expect or to look forward to
Word forms for 기대하다 include 기대합 (gidehap) and 기대하 (gideha).
우리는 생활이 더 나아지기를 기대합니다. (ulineun saenghwal-i deo naajigileul gidehapnida) — We look forward to a better life.
기대하는 것이 크면 실망도 크다. (gideha neun geos-i keumyeon silmangdo keuda) — The greater your expectations, the bigger your disappointment. (Literally: If you expect great things, you may find great disappointment.)
16. 놓다 (nohda) — to put or to lay
놓 (noh) and 놓았 (nohass) are some common word forms for 놓다.
제 방 테이블에 병을 놓았어요. (jeoneun bang-eseo tagja-e byeong-eul nohass eoyo) — I put the bottle on the table in my room.
친척들이 그 무덤에 화환을 놓았다. (chincheogdeul-i geu mudeom-e hwahwan-eul noh-assda) — Relatives laid wreaths on the grave.
Sure, you’ll need to really master grammar concepts in order to speak Korean fluently one day. But knowing a handful of Korean verbs can help you fill in the blanks in conversations in the meantime.
Good luck and 공부 열심히 하세요! (gongbu yeolshimi haseyo) — study well!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.