Low-formality conjugation (해체)

This is my last post in my conjugation series covering three of the most common forms you can expect to see, 하십시오체, 해요체, and now finally 해체, which is often referred to as 반말! There are other forms to be covered later, but if you at least know these three, you’ll be set for pretty much any social interaction in Korean. While the previous two posts were a bit heavy, this one will be a lot more short and sweet because… we more or less learned it all in the 해요체 post!

Once more, I will leave irregular verbs out of this post for the sake of simplification (irregulars are for another post!).

Function

해체 is a low-formality high-closeness conjugation that is used when you speak with close family members* and friends, and when you speak to people who are below you in the social hierarchy (below you in rank, age, etc.). In addition, this is used in more relaxed social settings, where you do not need to worry about strict decorum. As such, you run the risk of coming off rude if you use this with someone older or higher in rank than you, or someone that you are not very close with. 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!).

When using 해체, you can use the informal words for “I” and “you,” which are “나” and “너” respectively. However, one caveat to using “너” is that you should not use it toward someone who is older than you. In that case, you would refer to the person by their name or title.

*NOTE: Using 해체 with your siblings is very normal, and many people use it with their parents as well (though some do switch to speaking to their parents with 해요체 as they get older). There are also those that use 해체 with their grandparents, though this is fairly unusual.

Usage

The conjugation of 해체 is very similar to that of 해요체. In fact, you can often just remove the -요 from 해요체 to make 해체 sentences! There are a few exceptions to this, and a few special endings that you can use with 해체, and of course I’ll cover those a bit later in this post. Anyway, if you are not familiar with the formation of 해요체, please read that post first and then come back!

…okay, done reading up on 해요체? So, in the 해요체 post, we saw that regular conjugation involves adding -아요 to verb roots where the final vowel is 아 or 오 and -어요 to verb roots with a final vowel of anything that is not 아 or 오. Regular conjugation of 해체 is the same—just add -아 or -어 depending on the final vowel of the root:

먹다 – 다 -> 먹 + -어 = 먹어

  • 남친은 채소를 안 먹어. (My boyfriend doesn’t eat vegetables.)

좁다 – 다 -> 좁 + -아 = 좁아

  • 우리 집은 좀 좁아. (My house is a bit narrow. <–NOTE: Korean uses “우리” instead of  “나의[내]/저의[제]” to mean “my” when talking about things like family members, homes, schools, etc.)

Let’s check the little exceptions that we saw in the 해요체 post and see how they turn out in 해체 (hint: pretty much the same!).

First, if the verb root ends with either 아 or 어, you don’t double up and add -아 or -어. The vowels simply overlap.

가다 – 다 -> 가 + -아 =  (NOT 가아)

  • 난 학교에 . (I go/am going to school.)

서다 – 다 -> 서 + -어 =  (NOT 서어)

  • 거기 . (Stand there.)

하다 is a bit of a special case. We saw last time that in 해요체, it becomes “해요” instead of the expected “하요”. Again, we do the same thing but just leave off the -요.

심심해. (I’m bored.)

코끼리는 강해. (Elephants are strong.)

수미는 매일 수영해. (Sumi swims every day.)

되다 is also special. Going by the regular rule, it would be 되어. However, it is far more natural to contract it to 돼. Let’s check it out:

되다 – 다 -> 되 + -어 =

  • 난 좀 걱정이 돼. (I’m a little worried.)

And yet another special case, 이다. When following a noun that ends with a consonant, it will be -이야. When following a noun that ends with a vowel, it will just be -야.

가방이야. (It’s a bag.)

학교. (It’s a school.)

Other special cases occur with roots ending in the vowels 이, 우, and 오. In these cases, the final vowel merges with -어  (or -아  in the case of roots ending with 오) to make a compound vowel sound.

시다 – 다 -> 시 + -어요 =

  • 맛이 너무 . (The taste is too sour.)

춤을 추다 – 다 = 춤을 추 + -어요 = 춤을

  • 미나 씨는 춤을 . (Mina dances/Mina is dancing.)

오다 – 다 -> 오 + -아요 =

  • 세빈 씨도 . (Sebin is coming too.)

NOTE: I mentioned in the 해요체 post that the honorific infix -(으)시- is an exception to the above rule. In 해요체, the 시 becomes “세” instead of the expected “셔.” However, in 해체—Yes, you can use honorifics with 해체/반말! Read more about its usage here!—the 시 does become “셔”!

좋아하다 – 다 -> 좋아하 + 시 + -어 = 좋아하

  • 우리 엄마는 꽃을 좋아하셔. (My mom likes flowers.)

앉다 – 다 -> 앉 + 시 + -어요 = 앉으셔

  • 할머니는 거기 앉으셔. (Grandma sits/is sitting there.)

Special endings

We’re done with the conjugation rules! However, there are a few special endings we can use with 해체 that we didn’t have with 해요체.

There are three common ones I want to introduce here, interrogative -니, imperative -아/어라, and propositive -자. Please NOTE that -아/어라 and -자 technically fall under 해라체, another kind of conjugation, but they are commonly used with 해체.

-니

When you are asking a question to someone younger than you, you can end your sentences with “-니?” instead of the normal 해체 conjugations:

어디 가니? (Where are you going?)

케이크를 좋아하니? (Do you like cake?)

넌 학생이니? (Are you a student?)

-아/어라

You can form commands by adding -아/어라 to the root, keeping in mind the rules laid out previously. Don’t use this one toward someone older than you, even if you do speak in 해체/반말 together! You can just use plain 해체 for commands also, of course.

빨리 해라! (Do it quickly!)

가라! (Go!)

앉아라!

-자

When you want to suggest something, you can add -자 directly to the root instead of the normal 해체 conjugation. It’s not necessary to use it—you can just stick with plain 해체— but the option is there:

같이 먹자! (Let’s eat together!)

공부하자. (Let’s study.)

책을 사자. (Let’s buy books.)

More examples

Let’s check out some more examples using a variety of sentences types.

가다

  • Declarative: 오늘 우체국에 . (Today I am going to the post office.)
  • Interrogative: 어디 가/가니? (Where are you going?)
  • Imperative: 시장에 빨리 가/가라. (Go to the market quickly.)
  • Propositive: 학교에 같이 가자. (Let’s go to school together.)

먹다

  • Declarative: 난 채소를 많이 먹어. (I eat a lot of vegetables.)
  • Interrogative: 고기를 먹어/먹니? (Do you eat meat?)
  • Imperative: 이거 먹어/먹어라. (Eat this.)
  • Propositive: 이거 먹자. (Let’s eat this.)

하다

  • Declarative: 그 남자는 축구를 . (That man plays soccer/is playing soccer.)
  • Interrogative: 민지 씨는 공부해/하니? (Is Minji studying?)
  • Imperative: 그만 해/해라! (Stop doing that!)
  • Propositive: 우리 게임을 하자! (Let’s play games!)

되다

  • Declarative: 이 것을 만지면 안 . (It’s not okay if you touch this thing [More natural translation would be “Don’t touch this thing,” but in Korean, it’s a declarative sentence, not imperative].)
  • Interrogative: 시간이 ? (Do you have time?)
  • Imperative: 돼라, 제발! (Please work!)
  • Propositive: 우리 좋은 학생이 되자! (Let’s become good students!)

꿈을 꾸다

  • Declarative: 에린 씨는 매일 밤 꿈을 . (Erin dreams every night.)
  • Interrogative: 어떤 꿈을 꿔/꾸니? (What kinds of dreams do you have/dream?)
  • Imperative: 돼지 꿈을 꿔/꾸라! (Dream of pigs! [In Korean culture, a dream of pigs is said to indicate wealth.])
  • Propositive: 재미있는 꿈을 꾸자! (Let’s have fun dreams!)

 

With this, we’re done learning about the three conjugation types that you will most often use, 하십시오체, 해요체, and 해체! Make sure to practice a lot~

Happy studying~