It’s hard to explain but I will try to make it simplest. If you used past tense, the verb would change like from ‘learn’ to ‘learned’. That ‘ed’ is a conjugation. Then… What’s so different with Korean grammar?
Korean Verb Conjugations
Korean conjugations in Korean grammar decide the tense, tone, mood and literally everything about what a sentence can possibly have. Actually that’s all you need to know right now.
Every verbs and adjectives and adverbs, so technically almost words in Korean grammar, has a conjugation. Even the basic form is a conjugation form that Koreans use to write a book or report.
I can say Korean conjugation system is the beauty of Korean grammar. I’m very sure you will love Korean and Korean culture more because of them even though it’s hard to understand at first.
Why Do I Have To Know This?
Many students only think Korean language has many phrases (because a lot of books teach them only phrases) and they learn them without knowing those are conjugations or how it really works. Learning all conjugations one by one doesn’t make any problem at first but later, a lot of them have troubles because of the amount of conjugations that Korean grammar has.
It has a system. You can learn Korean faster and speak it more natural and make less mistakes, understanding Korean grammar better if you know how it works. Sadly, many textbooks for Korean language and grammar don’t really care about teaching how they works… :/ Sad. Really sad…
What Do They Do Exactly?
Korean conjugations are not only about tenses. It decides the tone, honorific, modal verbs such as can, may; or if you ask or order or anything. So, here are examples!
배우(root) + 다(conjugation)
: to define a vocabulary in dictionaries. It’s the most basic form of all conjugations. 다 is dropped when the word is conjugated because 다 is also a conjugation although it’s the basic form.
I’m going to learn
배우다 + ㄹ거예요
: Future tense in informal honorific
배울 수 있어요
I can learn it / You can learn it
배우다 + ㄹ 수 있어요
: Modal verb ‘can’ in informal honorific
배우다 + 세요
: to order someone to do something especially in a conversation. Informal honorific.
Shall we learn? / Should I learn?
배우다 + ㄹ까요?
: to ask someone to do something together or ask an advice. It has a same meaning without a question mark because the conjugation decided the sentence already. Also informal honorific
배우다 + 었대요
He told me that he learned
: lol… yeah… 대요 is a conjugation for delivering an information to 2nd person that you heard from 3rd person when you are speaking to 2nd person in a conversation. It means ‘I heard that he does -’ or ‘He told me that he does -’. Yeah… It’s possible in Korean! Oh and it’s also informal honorific, of course.
The Sad Thing
You might saw Korean teachers and textbooks focus on conjugations very much. Yes, Korean conjugations are literally everything and the core of Korean grammar. But, focus only on each conjugation can be not good. Because it’s not a good way to learn how the Korean conjugation system works.
For example, conjugations can be combined to each other. However, it’s hard to learn how to combine them by learning each phrase.
할 수 있었어요
할 수 있다 (can) + 있었다 (did) = Could
If you learn every conjugations then it would always be a trouble to memorize them all. But it can be so easy only if you learn how it really works. That’s what I want to really teach you guys with my lessons.
Before I Finish
It’s for non-English speakers!
Many European languages also have a conjugation grammar but theirs all follow subject in sentence. Korean grammar doesn’t let conjugation change.
준씨가 도넛을 먹었어요
Jun ate donuts
= 3rd person subject
저는 도넛을 먹었어요
I ate donuts
= 1st person subject
Both use a same conjugation. It’s a big difference between Korean and your language.