17. Past Progressive Tense

In this lesson, you will learn the most basic uses of Korean past progressive tense.

Past Progressive Tense img

Past Progressive Tense

Korean past progressive tense describes a thing that was happening in the past. In previous lesson, you’ve learn Korean present progressive and the way how it’s built is pretty similar to English. Korean past progressive tense is also similar. Maybe more than present progressive tense. It uses past form of ‘be’ and a modified form of ‘verb’.


하다 + 있었다
= 하고 있었다
= was/were + (verb)ing

No Different

Korean past progressive tense is not so different than English tense. You can just use it like you speak English.

With 하다 verb

You just need to add a past tense modifier between ‘be’ and an ending. It’s same to the basic past tense. It seems very difficult but imagine that they are like lego pieces and you should build a house in specific forms. Each words are pieces that have a separate function and meaning but they can be combined all together to make new one.


하다 style 해요 colloquial style
After a noun After a root
다 + 다 → 하고 있었다 다 + + + + 어요
= 하고 있었어요
root + + + + 어요
= 하고 있었어요
Basic form : 하다

Basic form : 있다

verb + and + be + Past + ending root + and + be + Past + ending
Was/were v+ing
Was/Were being + Adjective
Was/were v+ing
Was/Were being + Adjective
Was/were v+ing
Was/Were being + Adjective


저는 친구랑 이야기하고 있었어요
I was talking to my friend
= After a noun


준은 요리하고 있었어요
Jun was cooking
= After a noun


저는 쉬고 있었어요
I was taking a break (rest)
= After a root


저는 영화 보고 있었어요
I was watching a movie
= After a root

With 하다 / 다 adjective

Just like Korean present progressive, you can’t make 고 있다 progressive tense with an adjective. You have to understand how to make Korean adverbs first before making ‘be being + adjective’.


나는 이쁘고 있었어요 (WRONG)
I was being pretty (WRONG)


나는 이쁘 하고 있었어요
I was doing pretty / I was being pretty
= It sounds a bit different than ‘I was being pretty’ a bit though.

With 이다

이다 past progressive tense is same to 이다 present progressive tense. It’s not natural when you use it as ‘be + noun’, ‘be + adjective’, ‘be + location’. Only 이다 verb is natural with the Korean 이다 past progressive tense.


하다 style 해요 colloquial style
After a noun / root
다 + 다 → 이고 있었다 + + + + 어요
= 이고 있어요
Basic form : 이다

Basic form : 있다

verb + and + be + past + ending
Be v+ing
Be being + Noun
Be being + Adjective
Be being + Location
Be v+ing
Be being + Noun
Be being + Adjective
Be being + Location


저는 한국인이고 있었어요 (SUPER WRONG)
I was being Korean (WRONG)


저는 윤리적이고 있었어요 (SERIOUSLY WRONG)
I was being ethical (WRONG)


저는 닭에게 모이를 먹이고 있었어요
I was feeding chickens
= After a root (verb : 먹이다)


나는 윤리적으로 하고 있었어요
I was doing ethically
= Using verb ‘하다’ for 이다 adjective. 하고 있었다 is a conjugation but it also can be used as a meaning ‘was doing (it)’.

With 있다

Also same to present progressive 있다. In a previous lesson, I taught you that you can make ‘I’m being at a location’ with another tense conjugation. However, You can’t make any 있다(be + location) sentence with ANY past progressive tense.


나는 카페에 있고 있었어요 (YET, WRONG)
I’m being at a cafe (WRONG)


저는 카페에 있는 중이었어요 (Wrong)
I’m being at a cafe (Wrong)

Adjectives in Progressive Tenses

Is it possible to make a progressive tense with adjective in Korean grammar? Yes, It’s possible. But Korean grammar uses another phrases or conjugations or even verbs for it. Not many Korean teachers or textbooks teach you that verbs have an important role in Korean grammar so students often make mistakes. It takes some time to learn how to describe things in Korean naturally but it won’t be so hard if you focus on natural Korean with Korean Jun.



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