In Korean, the three major tenses are the present tense, the past tense and the future tense. However, there are two more tenses you can utilize. One of those tense, the one used frequently, is the progressive tense, -고 있다. In this article, we will explore the Korean progressive tense. -고 있다, however, also has a use when you want to express what you are wearing with a select few verbs.
The Korean progressive tense, -고 있다, expresses, as its name might suggest, that a certain action is in progress. It is, therefore, the Korean equivalent of the English progressive tenses, sometimes called the “-ing forms”. In Korean, the progressive tense is usually utilized in the present tense. However, it is also possible to use it with the past tense, creating the form -고 있었다. This, though, has a very narrow meaning, unlike the English past progressive tense. In Korean, you use the form -고 있었다 to indicate an action began in the past but is still in progress today.
In Korean, the form 중 or -는 중 is almost identical to this -고 있다. However, you cannot use the former to express natural phenomena being in progress such as rain. You a do that, though, with the latter.
-고 있었다 vs -았/었다.
Even when you express a continuous action that happened in the past, you simply use the past tense in Korean. -고 있었다 can only be used when the action began in the past but is still ongoing today.
어제 집에서 쉬고 있었어요. (Incorrect, because it is safe to assume that today you are not still relaxing at this very moment)
어제 집에서 쉬었어요. (Correct)
가: 왕리 씨, 시장을 같이 갈래.
나: 미안해. 지금 숙제를 하고 있어서 시간이 없어요.
A: Wangli, let’s go to the market together.
B: I’m sorry. I’m doing my homework now so I don’t have time.
However, the form -고 있다 also as another use. You can use this form to indicate what you are wearing right now. The clever people will have noted that this is not surprising since it is quite like the progressive tense. However, as you can imagine, this can only be done with verbs that express the wearing of clothes and accessories like 쓰다, 입다, 매다, 끼다, 하다, 차다, 들다, 메다 and 신다. When you use this form with those verbs, it indicates that after performing the action (putting the clothes on), the result is continuing (still wearing the clothes.). Although, you can also use the past tense, -았/었다, to the same effect with little difference in meaning.
가: 민수 씨는 결혼했어요?
나: 네, 결혼반지를 끼고 있어요.
A: Is Minsu married?
B: Yes, he’s wearing a wedding ring.
How To Use
Using the form -고 있다 is very easy since it adheres to the ‘no rule’ Korean grammar rule. This means to use it with a verb you simply need to attach it to the verb stem. You needn’t worry about anything like vowels and consonants. However, keep in mind that you will still need to conjugate the 있다 part of the grammar form and you’ll have to follow the rules of those verb endings.