Past Tense

One day, you were traveling. You traveled a long way to climb 2 mountains. You spent hours traveling. And, at the moment when you finally arrived at the mountains, You realized the 2 mountains represent the past journey. Probably you are wondering what kind of crap I’m talking about 😂😂😂. But this is important because we are going to use the phrase ‘2 mountains represent the past’ to learn past tense in the Korean language.


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Simple Past in Korean Language

So, how can you make ‘I walk’ into the past form in English? Yes, you simply add ‘-ed’ so ‘I walk’ becomes ‘I walked’. The Korean language isn’t much different for the past tense.


Korean Language Course 18. Past Tense 1 img


This conjugation ㅆ어요 uses the 해요 present tense form as a root. To make the past form in Korean grammar, you can simply add ‘ㅆ어’ between a word stem and an ending. In the Haeyo speech style, 요 becomes ㅆ어요.




With 이다 Word Type

이다 word type uses 었어요 conjugation. Remove the ending ‘다’ and add ‘었어요’ conjugation at the end. If the word is a verb or has a batchim, It becomes 였어요.


Course 18. Past Tense 2 img


If you pronounce 이었어요 fast, then it becomes to sound like 였어요. So, when you pronounce 이었어요, add a stress on 이.




Past Isn’t Really Past in Korean Language

Korean past tense describes what happened in the past just like English past tense does. But you can find a lot of differences between English and Korean language.


준은 제 친한 친구였어요
Jun was my closest friend
= Isn’t Jun my closest friend?


Korean past tense doesn’t always imply that the current state is different. In Korean language, ‘He was my friend’ doesn’t mean he isn’t my friend right now. You can’t be sure 100% about the current state based on the past description. You have to read the context to know that.




The Key Component in Korean Language

The key component is ㅆ which looks like 2 mountains. Whenever you see those under other letters, you can tell the word is in the past form (mostly).


The Korean language has a lot of speech styles and endings and 해요 speech style is only one of them. They have all different past forms. However, if you remember 2 mountains (ㅆ) represents past. No matter what kind of speech style you read, You would be able to understand if sentences are past tense or not.


Korean Language Course 18. Past Tense 3 img


You can see every speech style ending uses ‘ㅆ’ for the past tense. understanding the function of ㅆ gives you an ability to find the past tense in any speech style.





However, there always are exceptions. 겠다 and 있다 have ㅆ batchim but they don’t have the past tense. 겠다 means ‘be going to’ and 있다 means ‘have’ and ‘be + place’




Have been / Have done

In Korean language, the past tense doesn’t describe a one time event only. It can have a long period just like the perfect present / perfect past tense. For example, if a Korean said ‘I played piano before’, then it mostly means ‘I’ve been playing piano’ or’ I’ve played piano’.


저는 피아노를 쳤어요
I played piano
= When?


If you want to mean everything happened before and it’s different now, then you can add some time adverbs like ‘전에는 (before)’ or ‘옛날에는 (in old days)’




Used To

Korean past tense often describes an action that you used to. The Korean language has a similar expression to ‘used to (~하곤 했었다)’ in English but it’s not exactly the same because 하곤 했었다 has a nuance for ‘time to time’. So, the Korean language makes ‘used to’ by using an adverb, such as ‘often’, ‘before’, ’sometimes’ with the past tense.


저는 전에 기타 쳤어요
I played guitar before
= I used to play guitar


작년엔 카페 자주 갔어요
I used to go to cafes last year


In this case, native Koreans tend to make the time period very clear.





Ok, now you know how to make the present tense and the past tense. But, how can we make the future tense? Does it use another conjugation? Why is the future tense title ‘Future Tense & Guess?’. What are we waiting for? Let’s read just one more tutorial! And if you liked this tutorial, please join us in Patreon!

1 thought on “Past Tense”

  1. I really love this tutorial! Those ‘2 mountains’ is super funny and it makes learning Korean Language more easy and fun!
    Well, I think ‘2 mountains’ will stay in my head forever 😂😂

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