#1 Best Guide To Intermediate Korean Grammar

If you’ve got the basics of Korean grammar down and are ready to tackle more complex linguistic challenges, intermediate Korean grammar is your next step toward fluency. As someone who recently climbed over that awkward “advanced beginner” stage myself, let me assure you the journey gets more fun and rewarding from here!

Along with beefing up your technical skills, we’ll also work on sounding more native in vocabulary and sentence construction. I’ll share the common grammar mistakes in the Korean language so you can avoid headaches and embarrassment! After all, we could all use less of that in our lives!

An image of a Korean guy studying Korean

Intermediate Korean Grammar: Tenses

Past Tense ~았/었/였다 (~at/eot/yeot da)

I’m sure you’re more than familiar with Korean verb and adjective form by now, but here’s a quick recap. Remember, all verbs and adjectives end with ~다 (da) or ~하다 (hada). If you want to conjugate them to a verb ending, you’ve got to take away the ~다 (da) and attach them to the formal verb ending ~ㅂ/습니다, informal verb ending ~아/어/여요, or casual verb ending ~아/어/여, depending on the person you’re speaking to. 

Now that you’re all caught up, it’s time to explore more! Let’s start with the past tense, ~았/었/였다 (at/eot/yeot da). By the way, if a consonant ends with ㅆ (ss), it’s pronounced as “t”, not “s”! That’s why ~았다 isn’t pronounced as “assda”, but as “atda”. 

To make a verb past tense, simply attach it to ~았/었/였다 (at/eot/yeot da), similar to how you would attach verbs to present tense verb endings. And just like for the present tense, choose to use 았 (at), 었 (eot), or 였 (yeot) based on the vowel used in the word before 다 (da).

Here are some examples to help you understand better:

  • “To sleep” 자다 (jada) becomes 잤다 (jatda), since 자 (ja) has vowel 아 (a)
  • “To eat” 먹다 (meokda) becomes 먹었다 (meokeotda), since 먹 (meok) has vowel 어 (eo)
  • “To drink” 마시다 (masida) becomes 마셨다 (masyeotda), since 시 (si) has vowel 이 (i), which is converted to vowel 여 (yeo) when conjugating 

Once you’ve converted your verb from present to past tense, you can proceed to attach it to whichever verb ending you wish to use. Using our previous examples, here’s how it’d look:

WordFormalInformalCasual
잤다 (Jatda)잤습니다 (Jatseumnida)잤어요 (Jasseoyo)잤어 (Jasseo)
마셨다 (Masyeotda)마셨습니다 (Masyeotseumnida)마셨어요 (Masyeosseoyo)마셨어 (Masyeosseo)
먹었다 (Meokeotda)먹었습니다 (Meogeotseumnida)먹었어요 (Meogeosseoyo)먹었어 (Meogeosseo)

Now let’s put what we’ve learned into sentences. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the formal verb ending.

WordEnglish TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
자다 (Jada)I slept on the bed.저는 침대에서 잤습니다.Jeoneun chimdaeeseo jatseumnida.
마시다 (Masida)I drank milk.저는 우유를 마셨습니다.Jeoneun uyureul masyeotseumnida.
먹다 (Meokda)I ate rice.저는 밥을 먹었습니다.Jeoneun babeul meogeotseumnida.
An image of someone holding a pen

Present Tense ~ㄴ/는다 (n/neunda)

Korean present tense doesn’t stray that far from its original verb form, so I’m sure you’ll grasp this grammar point in no time! If the last syllable of the verb stem ends in a vowel, use ~ㄴ다 (n da). In contrast, if the last syllable of the verb stem ends in a consonant, use ~는다 (neun da).

I’ll use our previous example to demonstrate. Since the last syllable of “to sleep” 자다 (jada) and 마시다 (masida) ends in a vowel, you’d use ~ㄴ다 (n da). Here’s what it’d look like:

  • 자다 (jada) becomes 잔다 (janda) 
  • 마시다 (masida) becomes 마신다 (masinda)

On the other hand, the last syllable of “to eat” 먹다 (meokda) and “to close” 닫다 (datda) ends in a consonant. In this case, you’d use ~는다 (neun da). Here’s what you’d get:

  • 먹다 (meokda) becomes 먹는다 (meokneunda)
  • 닫다 (datda) becomes 닫는다 (datneunda)

Now, let’s put our present tense verbs in sentences and see how they work! Easy, right?

WordEnglish TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
자다 (Jada)I sleep on the bed.저는 침대에서 잔다.Jeoneun chimdaeeseo janda.
마시다 (Masida)I drink milk.저는 우유를 마신다.Jeoneun uyureul masinda.
먹다 (Meokda)I eat rice.저는 밥을 먹는다.Jeoneun babeul meongneunda.

Present Progressive Tense ~하고 있다 (hago issda)

Next up, Korean present progressive tense! You use this when you’re still in the process of doing something. So in a scenario where you’re not done enjoying your delicious kimchi soup, or 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae), instead of saying “I eat”, you would say, “I’m eating”. As such, the Korean grammar ~하고 있다 (hago issda) would be the equivalent of “~ing” in English. 

To use ~하고 있다 (hago issda), simply remove the 다 (da) and attach the verb you wish to express you’re still in the process of doing to it! Using our previous examples, this is what you’d get:

  • “To sleep” 자다 (jada) becomes 자고 있다 (jago issda)
  • “To eat” 먹다 (meokda) becomes 먹고 있다 (meokgo issda)
  • “To drink” 마시다 (masida) becomes 마시고 있다 (masigo issda)

Likewise, you can proceed to attach these to whichever verb ending you want to use. Here’s what you’d get:

WordFormalInformalCasual
자고 있다 (Jago issda)자고 있습니다 (Jago itseumnida)자고 있어요 (Jago isseoyo)자고 있어 (Jago isseo)
마시고 있다 (Masigo issda)마시고 있습니다 (Masigo itseumnida)마시고 있어요 (Masigo isseoyo)마시고 있어 (Masigo isseo)
먹고 있다 (Meokgo issda)먹고 있습니다 (Meokgo itseumnida)먹고 있어요 (Meokgo isseoyo)먹고 있어 (Meokgo isseo)

Let’s put what we’ve learnt into sentences again. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the formal verb ending.

WordEnglish TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
자다 (Jada)I am sleeping on the bed.저는 침대에서 자고 있습니다.Jeoneun chimdaeeseo jago itseumnida.
마시다 (Masida)I am drinking milk.저는 우유를 마시고 있습니다.Jeoneun uyureul masigo itseumnida.
먹다 (Meokda)I am eating rice.저는 밥을 먹고 있습니다.Jeoneun babeul meokgo itseumnida.
An image of a Korean girl learning Korean

Future Tense ~겠다 (get da)

Last but not least, we have the Korean future tense! If you’re completely certain that you’ll be doing something, use ~겠다 (get da), the equivalent of “will~” in English, by attaching it to the back of your verb stem. 

  • “To sleep” 자다 (jada) becomes 자겠다 (jagetda)
  • “To eat” 먹다 (meokda) becomes 먹겠다 (meokgetda)
  • “To drink” 마시다 (masida) becomes 마시겠다 (masigetda)

You can then proceed to attach these to whichever verb ending you want to use. 

WordFormalInformalCasual
자겠다 (Jagetda)자겠습니다 (Jagetseumnida)자겠어요 (Jagesseoyo)자겠어 (Jagesseo)
마시겠다 (Masigetda)마시겠습니다 (Masigetseumnida)마시겠어요 (Masigesseoyo)마시겠어 (Masigesseo)
먹겠다 (Meokgetda)먹겠습니다 (Meokgetseumnida)먹겠어요 (Meokgesseoyo)먹겠어 (Meokgesseo)

Now, let’s put what we’ve learned into sentences. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the formal verb ending.

  • 자다 (jada): “I will sleep on the bed.” 저는 침대에서 자겠습니다.
  • 마시다 (masida): “I will drink milk.” 저는 우유를 마시겠습니다.
  • 먹다 (meokda): “I will eat rice.” 저는 밥을 먹겠습니다.

WordEnglish TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
자다 (Jada)I will sleep on the bed.저는 침대에서 자겠습니다.Jeoneun chimdaeeseo jagetseumnida.
마시다 (Masida)I will drink milk.저는 우유를 마시겠습니다.Jeoneun uyureul masigetseumnida.
먹다 (Meokda)I will eat rice.저는 밥을 먹겠습니다.Jeoneun babeul meokgetseumnida.

Probable Future Tense ~ㄹ/을 거에요 (r/eul geoeyo)

But what if you’re still not quite sure whether you’ll do something? In that case, you’d use ~ㄹ/을 거에요 (r/eul geoeyo). It’s the equivalent of “I’ll probably~” in English. 

And just like before, if the last syllable of the verb stem ends in a vowel, use “~ㄹ 거에요” (r geoeyo) and if it ends in a consonant, use “~을 거에요”. (eul geoeyo). By this logic, here’s what you’d get:

  • 자다 (jada) becomes 잘 거에요 (jal geoeyo)
  • 마시다 (masida) becomes 마실 거에요 (masil geoeyo)
  • 먹다 (meokda) becomes 먹을 거에요 (meokeul geoeyo)
  • 닫다 (datda) becomes 닫을 거에요 (dateul geoeyo)

Now, let’s put what we’ve learned into sentences.

WordEnglish TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
자다 (Jada)I will probably sleep on the bed.저는 침대에서 잘 거에요.Jeoneun chimdaeeseo jal geoeyo.
마시다 (Masida)I will probably drink milk.저는 우유를 마실 거에요.Jeoneun uyureul jal masli geoeyo.
먹다 (Meokda)I will probably eat rice.저는 밥을 먹을 거에요.Jeoneun babeul meokeul geoeyo.

Learn Korean With Ling

I know, I just unloaded a ton of intermediate grammar about Korean tenses, and there’s still so much more—negation, connectives, and other tricky concepts. No one expects you to master it all right away!

But having the right supplemental tools makes getting to fluency much more doable. That’s why I recommend the Ling app for continuing to build on what we covered today.

Ling breaks down intermediate lessons into bite-sized daily pieces that stick better than cramming. You get useful example sentences to see the grammar applied correctly. Quizzes reinforce what you learn. And you can join a community of fellow intermediate students to swap tips and motivation!

Even when you mess up (which, trust me, still happens to me, too), Ling keeps lessons feeling productive versus frustrating. It meets you wherever you’re at while providing the right challenges to keep leveling up bit by bit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

People also read