When… -(으)ㄹ 때

Hello, all! Thank you for your patience with my crazy posting schedule lately. I’m back with another grammar post, this time about -(으)ㄹ 때. This is a very common and very useful grammar construct, so if you learn to use it well you’ll be that much closer to becoming a fluent Korean speaker!


-(으)ㄹ 때’s function is pretty simple! You can use it when you want to talk about something that happens (or happened) at a particular point in time. For example, you could use it in sentences like, “When I eat fried chicken I am happy” or “When I was young, I played soccer often.”


This one’s pretty easy to use 🙂 For present tense, just attach -을 때 to an action or descriptive verb root ending with a consonant (excluding ㄹ), or -ㄹ 때 to a root ending with ㄹ or a vowel. You can also use this grammar to talk about things that happened in the past by attaching -을 때 to a verb root that has been conjugated to the past tense.

Note that this is really just the noun modifier ending -(으)ㄹ used with the noun 때! 때 itself is a noun that indicates a point in time, but together with this noun modifier ending, it is most naturally translated as “when”.


Action verbs:

먹을 때마다 행복해요. (I am happy every time I eat.)

매일 출근할 때마다 카페에 들렀다가 회사에 가요. (Every day when I go to work I drop by a cafe and go to the office.)

친구들하고 놀 때는 시간이 너무 빨리 가는 것 같아요. (It seems that time goes by too quickly when I hang out with my friends.)

Descriptive verbs:

기분이 좋을 때 노래를 부르는 걸 좋아해요. (I like singing when I’m in a good mood.)

미세먼지가 심할 때는 집에 있는 게 나아요. (When the pollution is severe, it’s better to stay at home.)

아플 때는 많이 쉬는 게 좋아요. (It’s good to rest a lot when you are sick.)


Action verbs:

그 사람을 처음 만났을 때는 첫인상이 안 좋았어요. (When I met that person for the first time, my first impression wasn’t good.)

진수 씨가 결혼했을 때 진수 씨의 가족들이 많이 울었어요. (When Jinsu got married, his family members cried a lot.)

경하 씨한테 전화했을 때 경하 씨는 전화를 안 받았어요. (Kyeongha did not answer the phone when I called her.)

Descriptive verbs:

어렸을 때 축구를 자주 했어요. (When I was young I played soccer often.)

살면서 가장 슬펐을 때는 강아지가 죽었을 때였어요. (The saddest time in my life was when my puppy died.)

–We have both a descriptive verb and an action verb here!


Happy studying~