The emcee was John McWhorter, and the judges were myself, Ben Zimmer, Michael Erard, W.A. Brenner, and an audience poll. I’m not going to post the winner here, so you can watch and judge your favourite for yourself!
Here’s a post for the beginners! Korean verb conjugation is different than English verb conjugation, and the form you must use varies depending on who you’re talking to and the social formality of the situation, among other factors. While this form isn’t the one that learners can expect to use the most, it is (IMO) the simplest to conjugate. Let’s dive in~
NOTE: I will not cover or use any irregular verbs in this post! I’ll save those for another post since I don’t want to potentially confuse someone seeing this information for the first time. Also, I will focus on the present tense, again to keep things as simple as possible.
하십시오체 is a high-formality low-closeness conjugation that is often used for things like making presentations, news reports, and some working environments. It puts a fair bit of distance between the speaker and the listener, making it suitable for those kinds of situations. If you want to know a bit more about the workings of social formality and closeness in Korean conjugation, you can check out this post and skip down to the “Formality levels” section (and I highly recommend you do so, as it’s very important in Korean society and thus, in the Korean language!). If you use this form outside of the proper context, you can sound cold and terse, so be careful!
Since this is a high formality structure, you should use 저 to refer to yourself and refer to others by their name or title. “나” (informal “I”) and “너” (informal “you”) would sound very out of place!
The conjugation of 하십시오체 changes depending on if your sentence is declarative (statement), interrogative (question), imperative (command), or propositive (suggestion).
If you want to make high-formality questions, this is how you do it! The interrogative endings are similar to the declarative endings. Make sure you use -습니까 for consonant-ending verb roots and -ㅂ니까 if the root ends in a vowel!
The Korean word 편 as a noun means “side”. For example it can be seen used in such instances as 오른편 (the right side) or 왼편 (the left side). It can also be used to describe taking sides in an argument, or debate, as well as for factions in games and the like.
But by combining 편 with -은/는, we are able to use it to describe approximations of different verbs and adjectives. Let’s take a look at an example and the implications of this grammar point.
Without the grammar point:
켄 씨는 테니스를 잘 쳐요. Ken plays tennis well.
With the grammar point:
켄 씨는 테니스를 잘 치는 편이에요. Ken plays tennis pretty well.
Now I know what you’re thinking–Soo, what the heck is the difference here? Based on these translations the sentences mean the same thing!
And this would be where most people get confused!
In Korean, using the -은/는 편이다 grammar point when describing something implies that you think that the fact or observation is close to or on a certain side instead of talking about it as a definite, sure thing. So if we go back to our example sentences:
켄 씨는 테니스를 잘 쳐요. Not using the grammar point, this sentence’s implication is that Ken is a great tennis player. He plays tennis extremely well and it’s a definite, observable thing.
켄 씨는 테니스를 잘 치는 편이에요. If we use the grammar point instead, this sentence implies that the speaker perceives Ken to be on the better side of being able to play tennis, but not that he’s definitely a great player.
Still confused? Have a look at this graphic:
So on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is the worst, completely unable to play tennis and 100 being the best, a great tennis player, Ken who is described as “잘 치는 편이에요” is somewhere between 50% and 100% on the sliding scale of good-at-tennis-ness.
Got it? Good. :)
-은/는 편이다 is used with verbs, adjectives, 있다/없다, and 이다/아니다. -은 is added to adjective stems ending in a consonant. -ㄴ is added to adjective stems ending in a vowel. -는 is added to all verb stems. -는 is also added to 있다/없다. -ㄴ is used with 이다/아니다.
Let’s look at a couple more examples:
비비안: 수키 씨 한국어 실력은 어때요? 수키: 말하기는 좀 힘들지만 읽고 쓰는 것은 잘하는 편이에요. Vivian: Suki, how’s your Korean speaking ability? Suki: Well speaking is a little difficult but reading and writing are really good.
한설: 왜 이렇게 학교에 일찍 왔어요? 신행: 제가 아침에 일찍 일어나는 편이어서 그냥 일찍 왔어요. Hansol: Why did you come to school this early? Shinhaeng: Because I got up pretty early I just came [to school] early.
벤: 비비안 씨 성격은 어때요? 찬미: 비비안 씨 성격이 밝은 편이에요. Ben: What’s Vivian’s personality like? Chanmi: Vivian’s personality is somewhat bright.
레오: 새로 이사 간 집이 어때요? 켄: 깨끗하고 조용해요. 그런데 방값은 좀 비싼 편이에요… Leo: How’s the new house you moved into? Ken: It’s clean and quiet. However the room rental fee is kind of expensive…
벤: 그 영화가 재미있었어요? 비비안: 괜찮았어요. 재미있는 편이었어요. Ben: Was that movie interesting? Vivian: It was okay. Pretty fun.
In the above examples you can see that all the instances where the grammar point is used is when the speaker is expressing their thought or opinion on the topic at hand. This is because you cannot use this grammar point when the situation or fact being discussed is CLEAR and DEFINITE to everyone. In other words, if the fact is either 0% or 100% on the scale in the graphic posted up above, then you cannot use 은/는 편이다. For example, a Korean person born and raised in Korea with Korean as their native language would simply be good at speaking Korean (한국어를 잘해요 - O) as opposed to being just somewhat good/alright (한국어를 잘하는 편이에요 - X).
Another important thing to note is when using -는 편이다 with a verb, an adverb like 자주, 많이, 잘, 안/못, etc must be paired with the verb.
저는 매운 음식을 잘 먹는 편이에요. I eat spicy food pretty well.
Also be careful when using this grammar point in the past tense. Both -은/는 편이었다 and -은 편이다 can be used when expressing something in the past, but -은/는 편이었다 is used when explaining a general situation in the past, and -은 편이다 is used when explaining some event or action completed at a point in the past. (-은 편이다 being the past tense form of -는 편이다 for verbs)
어렸을 때 저는 키가 작은 편이었어요. When I was a kid, I wason the short side.
A: 어제 시험 잘 봤어? B: 잘 본 편이야. 별로 어럽지 않았어. A: You do well on the test yesterday? B: I did pretty good. It wasn’t even hard.
As far as irregular verbs/adjectives go with this grammar point, the standard rules apply, notably:
If the word stem ends in ㄹ, the ㄹ is dropped. eg: 멀다 becomes 먼 not 멀은
If the word stem ends in ㅂ, the ㅂ is dropped, 우 is added and then the word is conjugated. eg: 춥다 becomes 추운 using this grammar point.
More info about irregular verbs and adjective rules can be found by clicking here!
I’m predicting tomorrow’s French class is going to be The Most Awkward. It’s all about love, relationships and other stuff. I have to write a Tinder bio. I also completed my teacher’s weekly language challenge and recorded myself talking in French. Save me, friends.
not that I’m qualified to criticize popular writing tips or anything, but I’m sick of ppl hating on adverbs
stop reducing adverbs to just “a word that probably ends with -ly”. an adverb is a word or phrase that describes adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. adverbs answer the questions how, when, where, and why.
it doesn’t just describe “how”!!
AND DESCRIBING HOW ISN’T BAD
“Tomorrow,” she beamed proudly, twirling in her new dress. “I’ll be travelling there to see the circus!”
look at all those adverbs!!!!
“tomorrow” - adv, when is she travelling?
“proudly”, “twirling in her new dress” - adv and adv phrase, how is she beaming?
“there” - adv, where is she travelling?
“to see the circus” - adv phrase, why is she travelling?
I cannot stand ppl who say “don’t use adverbs all the time!!” and then list eight examples which all have adverb phrases. I understand not a lot of ppl bother, or even know how to diagram a sentence, but I promise you…. those are adverbs. you’re still using adverbs!!!
Hello. I wanted to say that your blog is really good and i really like how you give good answers to everyone. I wanted to ask you, how do i start learning korean? Like.. I know the hangul, verbs/nouns but now should I learn vocabulary and then practice? I'm really lost and i don't know how to start.. Have a wonderful day!
Hi! In the lesson about -어/아 and -게됐어요 can you explain a little further about the last part mentioned? About adding -고 instead of -어/아? I didn't really understand that part. Could you also explain more about -져서? thanks! I love your blog by the way!
There’s really not too much more I can say about that part, if I am honest. The rule for that grammar point is pretty straight forward. Simply, when using the -게 되다 pattern after 듣다, 보다, and 읽다, you should substitute -고 for -아/어서 in the preceding clause of the sentence.
게시판에 있는 광고를 보고 그 동아리에 대해 알게 됐어요. I learned about that club because I saw an advertisement on the bulletin board.
This sentence uses the verb 보다 in the first clause, so -고 is used instead of -아/어서. That’s just the way the rule is. :) Make sure to take note of it for those three verbs!
The -져서 used in some examples in that particular lesson is a beginner level grammar point (아/어지다, used only with adjectives and means “to become” or “to get”) that I’ve not gotten around to making a beginner post for yet. But grammar not yet introduced on this blog is used in higher level posts because intermediate and up learners would know them already, and it’s kind of impossible to make higher level grammar posts without using grammar lower level learners haven’t seen yet. And it isn’t feasible for me to explain grammar points like that within the posts they appear in, because 1) the people the lesson is geared for already know it and 2) it would derail the post.
u owe other people greater clarity (read: unambiguity) than u owe urself. people generally want to hear decisive statements, true or false, yes or no… u cant give voice to all the contradictions within u. our language isn’t so well equipped for that. i used to resent so much the way my mother would trail off in the middle of sentences… if u start a sentence, complete it. subject, verb, object. so i owe people explanations, and somehow i provide them. while i am in complete confusion, and my mind is lost in fragments of ideas, i manage to speak some sentence, and u take it as the contents of me. anyhow just some stuff i was thinking about as i sit alone in the cafeteria getting oatmeal on my pants leg
shoutout post for all u dms and gms out there (especially you newbie ones), y’all have such a difficult medium of storytelling to work with and it must feel like you’re herding cats 99.8% of the time but you guys have the absolutely amazing ability to engage your players in such a rich world where their words and actions matter and you turn absolute chaos into such a beautiful story that your players are so proud and happy to have had a hand in shaping and just….you’re all fantastic and i love you