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Verb To Be 이다 in Korean

Unlike English, Korean makes no distinction for the choice of verb to be (am, are, is) between first-person, second-person and third-person subjects. Only a single verb to be 이다 is used.

We only attach 이다 (or its modified forms) to nouns and noun phrases. Korean adjectives are verb-like and do not require 이다 for sentence construction.

Summary for Korean Verb To Be 이다 (Present, Past, Present Negative)

Speech Level Plain Form Formal Polite Informal Polite Formal Casual Informal Casual
is, am, are 이다 입니다 이에요/예요 인다 이야/야
was, were 이었다 이었습니다 이었어요 이었다 이었어
is not, am not, are not 아니다 아닙니다 아니에요 아닌다 아니야

Recall that the subject of a sentence can be omitted (if it is understood by the context), and verb is always at the end of a Korean sentence.


The Korean sentences above with different speech levels convey the same meanings. Notice that (book) is a noun in the sentences.

The choice of 이에요/예요 and 이야/야 is based on Consonant-Vowel Sequences in Spoken Korean.

  • If the noun ends with a vowel, use 예요 or 야.
  • If the noun ends with a consonant, use 이에요 or 이야.

Formal Polite Form of Korean Verbs and Adjectives

Formal polite speech level is also called Hapsyoche(합쇼체). It is usually used by TV broadcasters, or in a business situation talking to customers. It is also used between strangers, but informal polite speech level is now more commonly used.

When you look up a verb or adjective in a dictionary, it is always written with a 다 ending. In order to conjugate a Korean verb or adjective to formal polite form, identify its original stem and do a 고-type contraction.

  • When the stem ends with a consonant (C), attach 습니다 to it.
  • When the stem ends with a vowel (V), attach ㅂ니다 to it.

Exception: Use alternate stems to conjugate ㄹ-irregular verbs and adjectives.*

Examples (more)

Verbs/Adjectives Dictionary Form Meaning Original Stem Alternate Stem Ends With Formal Polite Form
Regular 먹다 eat C 먹습니다
하다 do V 합니다
ㅂ-Irregular 춥다 cold C 춥습니다
ㅅ-Irregular 낫다 better C 낫습니다
ㄷ-Irregular 듣다 listen C 듣습니다
ㅎ-Irregular 그렇다 to be so 그렇 C 그렇습니다
ㄹ-Irregular 달다 sweet V 답니다*
으-Irregular 쓰다 write V 씁니다
르-Irregular 고르다 choose 고르 V 고릅니다

Compare the sentences of using the formal polite form and informal polite form of saying the same meanings:


Informal Polite Form of Korean Verbs and Adjectives

Informal polite speech level is the most common form of speech in daily conversation. It is also called Haeyoche(해요체). It is mainly used between strangers to demonstrate some kind of social distance, or when talking to people more senior to show respect.

When you look up a verb or adjective in a dictionary, it is always written with a 다 ending. In order to conjugate a Korean verb or adjective to its informal polite form, identify its alternate stem and use 어-type conjugation to attach 아요 or 어요 to it.

어-Type Conjugation
  • If the last vowel of the stem is 아 or 오, attach 아요 to the stem.
  • If the last vowel is 으 and its previous vowel is 아 or 오, attach 아요 to the stem.
  • Otherwise, attach 어요 to it.
  • Do vowel contraction if necessary.

Exception: Use original stems to conjugate ㄹ-irregular verbs and adjectives.*

Examples (more)

Verbs/Adjectives Dictionary Form Meaning Original Stem Alternate Stem Informal Polite Form Vowel Contraction
Regular 먹다 eat 먹어요 N
하다 do 해요 Y
ㅂ-Irregular 춥다 cold 추우 추워요 Y
ㅅ-Irregular 낫다 better 나아요 N
ㄷ-Irregular 듣다 listen 들어요 N
ㅎ-Irregular 그렇다 to be so 그렇 그러 그래요 Y
ㄹ-Irregular 달다 sweet 달아요* N
으-Irregular 쓰다 write 써요 Y
르-Irregular 고르다 choose 고르 골르 골라요 Y

Compare the sentences of using the formal polite form and informal polite form of saying the same meanings:


Particle (으)로 for Methods and Ways

To study this grammar point, please make sure you understand the following:

Particle (으)로 indicates methods or ways to accomplish an action, can be translated as by means of in English.

  • Use for words ending with vowel or consonant ㄹ
  • Use 으로 for words ending with consonant
비행기로 왔어요.
I came by plane.
한국말로 말합시다.
Let’s speak in Korean.
국수는 젓가락으로 먹어요.
We eat noodles with chopsticks.

Particle 의 for Possessiveness

To study this grammar point, please make sure you understand the following:

Particle indicates ownership by connecting two nouns together. As a possessive particle, 의 is usually pronounced as /에/, but it could still be pronounced as /의/.


You may use 의 more than once in a phrase.

선생님의 친구의 차
a car of teacher’s friend

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