In English, we use the progressive tense very commonly, and it’s just as useful in Korean. The progressive tense is used any time you want to indicate that an action or state is ongoing. For example:
I’m going to the store.
He is eating an apple.
Of course, it can be used in more than just the present tense. We also have past progressive:
I was doing my homework.
He was reading a book.
And we have future progressive as well:
I will be cooking dinner.
They will be taking a test.
So how do we make these kinds of sentences in Korean? There are a few simple ways.
Simple present tense
Unlike in English, simple present tense in Korean can sometimes be read with a progressive meaning. Simply conjugate your verb in whatever formality level you see fit in the present tense, and you’re done! For example:
A: 뭐 해? (What are you doing?)
B: 난 학교에 가. (I’m going to school.)
In this short dialogue, we have two verbs conjugated in low-formality 해체/반말 in the simple present tense, but we can read them as progressive.
A: 뭘 먹어요? (What are you eating?)
B: 사과를 먹어요. (I’m eating an apple.)
Again, we have simple present tense, but in mid-formality 해요체.
Simple present tense as progressive is commonly used when, as seen above, someone asks what someone else is doing.
-고 있다 is the most commonly used way to form progressive sentences to indicate that an action is ongoing. Simply add -고 있다 to the root of the verb and conjugate 있다 as normal.
그림을 그리고 있었어요. (I was drawing a picture.)
수빈이는 뭘 읽고 있었어요? (What was Subin reading?)
아기는 울고 있어요. (The baby is crying.)
세원 씨는 일하고 있어요? (Is Sewon working?)
다음 주 이 때쯤 전 부산으로 운전하고 있을 거예요. (This time next week, I will be driving to Busan.)
수원 씨는 2년 후에 선생님으로 일하고 있을 거예요. (In two years, Suwon will be working as a teacher.)
-아/어 있다 is used to indicate that a state is ongoing. Rather than someone or something actively doing something, that person or thing is continuously existing in a particular state.
맨 뒷자리에 앉아 있었어요. (I was sitting in the far back seat.)
한 시간 안에 소주 5병을 다 마셔버린 수훈 씨는 밤 내내 엄청 취해 있었어요. (Suhun, who had drunk five bottles of soju within an hour, was extremely drunk all night.
친구는 거기서 서 있어요. (My friend is standing there.)
이웃사람이 이사가서 저 집은 비어 있어요. (My neighbors moved, so that house is empty.)
성수기니까 호텔들이 다 가득 차 있을 거예요. (Because it’s peak season, all the hotels will be packed full.)
10월말까지 저 산촌은 눈으로 덮여 있을 거예요. (That mountain village will be covered by snow by the end of October.)
This grammatical form literally means “to be in the middle of” something. Simply attach it to the root of your action verb of choice!
어머니께서 전화하셨을 때 저는 청소하는 중이었어요. (When mother called, I was in the middle of cleaning.)
승진 씨가 저한테 숙제 좀 도와달라고 부탁했는데 저는 이미 다른 친구 만나러 가는 중이었어요. (Seungjin asked me for help with homework, but I was already on my way to meet another friend.)
저는 집에 가는 중이에요. (I am going home [I am in the middle of going home].)
수빈 씨는 숙제를 하는 중이에요. (Subin is in the middle of doing her homework.)
11시니 찬웅이는 오는 중일 거야. (It’s 11, so Chanwoong will be [in the middle of] coming.)
그때쯤 그 사람은 점심을 먹는 중일 거예요. (About that time, that person will be eating lunch.)
As always, thanks for reading, and happy studying~