Korean Lesson 17: Simple sentences / The verb ‘to be’

In this lesson we are going to be learning about how to form sentences using the verb ‘to be’ which is conjugated in English as ‘am/are/is’.  


In English we need to decide which word to use out of ‘am/are/is’ depending on who we are talking about.  In Korean there is no such issue and there is only one choice.  This depends on what sound the word ends in.  In Korean the verb ‘to be’ merely sticks the end of the word it describes and comes at the end of the sentence.  See if you can work out the rule:

1) sønsaengnim-ieyo = I am a teacher

2) ke-yeyo = it is a dog


Did you figure it out?

1) Words ending in a consonant need to add: ieyo

2) Words ending in a vowel need to add: yeyo


Further examples:

koyangi-yeyo – it’s a cat

k’omp’yut’o-yeyo – it’s a computer


ch’aeg-ieyo – it’s a book (the ‘k’ or ch’aek changes to ‘g’ here between 2 vowels)

yangmar-ieyo – it’s a sock / they are socks (there is no plural as such in Korean) (the ‘l’ in yangmal changes to ‘r’ in between 2 vowels)

If you aren’t sure of why the letters k/t/p/ch/l change between two vowels just visit the module on Pronunciation


Obviously, some ambiguity may occur as ‘sop’a-yeyo’ can mean many things:

I am a sofa / you are a sofa / it is a sofa / we are sofas / they are sofas

But I’m sure you’ll agree that it is usually obvious which one is intended!


There are 2 things to include now.  Sorry.  It was never going to that easy was it?


1) Although we don’t need to change the verb for person (I/you/he, etc.) we do need to change it for politeness.

We have already met -mnida/-imnida and this is the formal style.

Gareth-imnida – I am (called) Gareth

Yogi Kim sønsaengnim-imnida – Here is Mr (Teacher) Kim

Lucy-mnida = She is (called) Lucy


NB that -imnida is used for words ending in a consonant 

-mnida is used for words ending in a vowel

The basic rule here is that you don’t really talk about yourself in this form APART FROM saying your name when you meet someone for the first time.  You also would never really use it to refer to a book as the book doesn’t need to be spoken politely to?!  I doubt that it would take offense.  This form is used mostly with people to be extra polite.


2) Issøyo / øpsøyo

When we use the phrase ‘there is…’ or ‘there isn’t’ the ‘is’ in this sentence shouldn’t be translated as ‘ieyo’ but as either ‘issøyo’ or ‘øpsøyo’

e.g. køri-e ke-ga issøyo = there is a dog on the street 거리에 개가 있어요

køri-e ke-ga øpsøyo = there isn’t a dog on the street 거리에 개가 없어요

munje issøyo – there is a problem 문제 있어요

munje øpsøyo – there isn’t any problem (This is how Koreans say ‘No problem / No worries’ in response to “Thank You”)

문제 없어요


But apart from that there are no issues really.  Try out these sentences for yourself:

1) There is a cat on the street (cat = koyangi 고양이)

2) There isn’t a bird on the street (bird = se 새)

3) It is a problem

4) It is a door (door = mun 문)

5) It is a airplane (airplane = pihaengi 비행기)


1) There is a cat on the street = køri-e koyangi issøyo / 거리에 고양기 있어요

2) There isn’t a bird on the street = køri-e se-ga øpsøyo / 거리에 새가 없어요

3) It is a problem = munje-yeyo (remember!  Just use ‘issøyo’ for ‘there is’ NEVER ‘it is’) / 문제에요

4) It is a door = mun-ieyo / 문이에요

5) It is a airplane = pihaengi-yeyo / 비행기에요


How did you do?  Need more exercises to practise?  Just ask!


Annyonghi kaseyo!







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