Like all languages, Korean has some irregularities when it comes to verb conjugation. Luckily for us Korean isn’t anything like French. A Korean irregular verb is far easier to get your head around than a French irregular verb. In fact Korean irregular verbs can be divided into 7 Korean irregular verb groups so you just need to learn 7 deviate rules instead of a thousand unique verb forms.
The ㅡ Irregular Verb Group
The first Korean irregular verb group are the ㅡ irregular verbs. You can identify these verbs by the last letter of their verb stems which is unsurprisingly ㅡ. For all verbs in this verb group the ㅡ is omitted when the verb uses a conjugation starting with either 아/어. It is then replaced with either 아/어.
The ㄹ Irregular Verb Group
The next verb group is the ㄹ irregular verb group. These verbs are recognizable due to the final consonant of their verb stem which is aㄹ. This Korean irregular verb group behaves a bit different in two situations:
- When a grammar ending is used beginning with ㅂ, ㄴ or ㅅ, we omit the ㄹ from the verb stem.
- When a verb ending begins with 으, we omit the 으, attaching the remaining verb ending.
This can be a bit more difficult to keep in mind than the previous irregular verbs group. Practice well. Don’t forget the more in-depth article on the ㄹ irregular verbs, it has a short list of common verbs!
The ㅂ Irregular Verb Group
Following is the ㅂ irregular verb group and this a pretty important one. A few common adjective you’ll learn early on are part of this Korean irregular verb group. It is therefore important to get used to the how to of conjugating.
This group does not work well with verb endings that start with vowels. If that happens the ㅂ is replaced by a new syllable 우. However, two ㅂ irregular verbs, 돕다 and 곱다, are even more special as their ㅂ changes into 오. After doing this you simply follow the basic rules you are used to.
The ㄷ Irregular Verb Group
Next is the ㄷ irregular verb group. This group can be confusing when you take the previously mentioned ㄹ irregular verb group into consideration. The rule, however, is pretty straightforward. It goes: Whenever a verb ending starts with a vowel, the ㄷ transforms into a ㄹ. However, for ㄹ irregular verbs that ㄹ is treated as a vowel with verb endings starting with (으)ㄹ. The newly created ㄹ of ㄷ irregular verb are not. Keep this in mind.
The 르 Irregular Verb Group
Another verb group is the 르 irregular verb group. This verb group is unique because it’s the only verb group identified by a syllable rather than a single letter. However, you needn’t worry as it is no more difficult to conjugate than all the others because of it.
The rule goes that when a verb ending starting with either 아 or 어 is used, the ㅡ of 르 is omitted. The ㄹ becomes then part of the syllable prior to the now gone 르 syllable. And, another ㄹ will become part of the first syllable of the verb ending.
The ㅎ Irregular Verb Group
The next irregular verb group, the ㅎ irregular verb group, is perhaps the smallest Korean irregular verb group out there. It does have the most unusual conjugation due to it though. The rules of this verb group is a bit convoluted.
First the ㅎ is omitted or changes when a verb ending with a vowel is used like what happens with verbs of the ㄷ irregular verbs. After that, however, two more rules you will need to keep in mind:
- If the verb ending begins with 으, then we omit both the ㅎ and 으.
- If the verb ending begins with 어 or 아, the ㅎ transforms into a ㅣ. The latter causes pretty unique verb endings to appear.
It is a pretty unique verb group, but as mentioned there aren’t a lot of ㅎ irregular verbs out there. Don’t forget the more in-depth article on the ㅎ irregular verbs, it has a short list of common verbs!
The ㅅ Irregular Verb Group
Lastly, there is the ㅅ irregular verb group. This is another verb group you will need to get used to since it throws away some common Korean spelling rules you have grown used to. Its rule is, however, pretty simple and familiar: When you use a verb ending that starts with a vowel, the ㅅ disappears. However, you still treat it as if it has a consonant at the end of its verb stem and you do not combine vowels. Pretty counterintuitive for sure. Luckily there is a more in-depth article on the ㅎ irregular verbs, it has a short list of common verbs!