Level 1 Lesson 17 / Past Tense / -았/었/였어요 (했어요)

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In this TTMIK lesson, we are looking at the past tense of the Korean language. By knowing how to change your verbs into the past tense, you will be able to talk about what you did yesterday, who you met last week, and etc. If you already understand how to change verbs into the present tense, using the past tense will be a breeze. And if you are still not sure how to use the present tense, don’t worry! We are going to review that in this lesson too. Be sure to ask us any questions you have in the comment box! Thank you!

And after listening to the lesson, practice making your own sample sentences!

Sample question: 어제 뭐 했어요? [eo-je mwo hae-sseo-yo?] “What did you do yesterday?”

You can download a free PDF for this lesson here, or if you want to study with our TalkToMeInKorean textbooks, you can get them here.

  • Nina

    바 레 했 어 요!

  • Paweł

    안녕하세요 ^^

    Yesterday I drank green tea. Today I drink black tea.
    어제 저 녹차 마시 었어요. 오늘 저 홍차 마시 어요.
    Yesterday I ate chicken. Today I want to eat a hamburger.
    어제 저 치긴 먹 었어요. 오늘 저 함버거 먹 고싶어요.
    Yesterday I read a newspaper. Today I want to watch TV.
    어제 저 긴문지 읽 었어요. 어 늘 저 델 레 비 전 보 고 싶어요.
    If I was wrong please correct me. 감사합니다.

    • alisu

      I believe the right conjugation for 마시다 is 마셔요 —> 마셨어요.
      and Newspaper=신문 🙂

    • 네. 맞아요. 아주 감사합니다 ^^

  • day

    Hello. I have a question.

    How do you say ‘It was fun’ in Korean?
    I know ‘fun’ is 재미, but 재몄어요 doesn’t sound right to me?

    • D.Zoey

      재미있었어요 =was fun

    • day

      Yeah but i saw someone said 재밌었어요. Is it the same?

    • D.Zoey

      This is present tense. 재미있어요.

      The one i put is equivalent to “was” and is past tense. 재미있었어요

      So the one you mentioned above is incorrect

    • day

      Okay thanks! 😀

  • Sam Wainwright

    어제 아보카도 샀어요. 맛있었어요! ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    In general, I’m having a lot of trouble with spelling. I almost always have to look it up. It’s not enough to just sound things out, you have to remember what the rules are for valid syllables, etc…

  • Krin Canseco

    Hello 🙂 I am quite confused.what do you mean by verb stems with vowels Other than ㅏ or ㅗ are followed by 었어요? And on the present tense lesson,i read that verb stems that do not end with ㅏ or ㅗ are followed by 어요.please help me clarify..감사합니다

    • JooyeonPark

      -아/어요 is present tense, and -았/었/였어요 is for the past tense. 🙂

  • Zion Mercurio

    어제,나는 한교 갔어요 그리고 밥에 친구랑 밥을 먹었어요. 정말 맛있었어요!

  • Connie

    In one of your examples you’ve made 잡다 into 자아요 for present tense and 잡았어요 for past tense why is that? Shouldn’t it be 잡어요? And 잡었어요? Because the verb stem is other than 아 or 오.

    • The verb stem vowel is ㅏ. Its about the last vowel in the verb stem, not the last character. Just like how 웃다 is 웃어요 because the last vowel is ㅜ, not because of the ㅅ, which is a consonant.

      So, because the last VOWEL in the verb stem is ㅏ, we get 잡아요 and 잡았어요.

      edit: also ayyyyy our names rhyme.

  • tim

    How come Jeok-da is to write and Sseu da is to write? Can someone clarify for me.

    • David

      적다 means more of to write down something. (Eg. Take down notes) while 쓰다 means to write (an essay or whatever).

      But do remember that all languages have synonyms. Korean likewise also has synonyms. So there will be words that mean the same thing although they are different.

  • Jake


  • Klaudia Klonowska

    어제 대학에 갔어요그리고 한국말 배웄어요. 친구랑 메운밥 먹었어요. 우리는 피곤했어요. 가정에 왔어요 그리고 잤어요.

  • Eugenia Lucchelli

    어제 나는 공부하였어요

    • Izzy

      Hada is special so its not 하였어요 it becomes 했어요 aka you studied lol

  • oreo

    Hello! I have two questions and I really hope you can help me!

    쓰다 – 써요 – 썼어요

    The first question is why does 쓰다 change in to 써요/섰어요 and not carry the “ㅡ”. Where does the “ㅡ” go? From 쓰다 – 써요 the “ㅡ” disappears and is replaced with ㅓ요. Why does it disappear and is there a rule as to why is disappears with that word and any other words?

    My second question is why does 기다리다 change to 기다려요 (리 to 려) BUT in 멋있다 it changes to 멋었어요 (있 to 었) I thought if it was ㅣ it changed to 어 and if it was 어 it changed to ㅕ. But in the example I sharded they are both ㅣ and one changed to ㅕ but the other changed to 어. Is there another rule I’m missing? Please help me, this is really bothering me because I can’t figure it out 🙁

    • I know this is kinda late but just in case anyone would past by this and wondering, yes, there is a different rule for verb stems ending in ㅡ.

      When a verb stem ends in ㅡ, first you will have to drop the ㅡ, focus on the vowel left in the verb stem, and then add 았어요 or 었어요.

      Here are some examples so you would understand better:
      a) 쓰다. Drop the ㅡ with the 다 and so you’re only left with ㅆ. Since ㅆ doesn’t have an 오 or 아, it will take the 었어요. Now you conjugate ㅆ + 었어요 so it becomes 썼어요.
      b) 바쁘다. Drop ㅡ다 and now you only have 바ㅃ. Since it has the 아, it will take 았어요. So 바ㅃ + 았어요 = 바빴어요.
      c) 예쁘다. You have 예 as the vowel left on the verb stem after you drop ㅡ and because it’s not 오 or 아, it will take 었어요. 예ㅃ + 었어요 = 예뻤어요.

      This also works for the present tense.
      쓰다 —> 써요
      바쁘다 —> 바빠요
      예쁘다 —> 예뻐요

      I’m not so sure about the second question, though, since I figured out lately that if a verb stem ends with 이 you just change it to 여 (기다리다 = 기다렸어요 / 미치다 = 미쳤어요) so I don’t know and I’m honestly not familiar with the verb 멋있다 so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help with that.

  • azkia miftahul

    I have question, for verb 팔다 which means to sell. That verb is end with ㄹ which should be followed by 어요 in the present tense, but in the text book it is followed 아요 so it becomes 팔아요 .It makes me confused because, you said that verb which end with 오 and 아 is followed by 아요 . Why 팔 is followed by 아요 instead of 어요 ?.

    • JooyeonPark

      Since the last vowel of the verb ‘팔다’ is ‘ㅏ’, it’s followed by ‘아요’. So, it became ‘팔아요’.

    • Andita D.O

      Sorry to interupt you but I’m still confused with it. You said that the last vowel of the verb ‘팔다’ is ㅏ. If I’m not mistaken, 팔다 is the dictionary form of 팔 which means we can see a lot of verbs are using 다 in the end, but they still use the last phonetic on the verb stem. So what’s the different with 팔다 with another verb who have 다 on it?

  • Suga Swag

    A : 어제 뭐 했어요? (What did you do yesterday?)
    B : 친구가 만났어요. (I met a friend.)

    Am I correct? Is it good to add 가?

    • JooyeonPark

      “친구가 만났어요.” –> “친구 만났어요.”
      Other than that, they are good! 🙂

  • MJ O.

    어제 도서관에서 책들을 빌렸어요.

  • Tia

    what’s the difference between 했어요 and 하셨어요?

    • Sam

      I believe that 했어요 is stating that you have done something in the past, whereas 하셨어요 is usually asking have you done it before?

    • Tia

      ahh i see, thanks for answering!

  • ssmith1212

    “드라마 보았어요”- i watched a drama

    “스카프 사았어요”-i bought a scarf

    “오재 오았어요”-i came yesterday

    “집 청소했어요”-i cleaned my house

    “책 읽었어요”-i read a book
    Please correct me if i’m wrong. 감사함니다~

    • taemint

      “드라마 봤어요”
      “스카프 샀어요”
      “어제 왔어요”

      Otherwise, everything is correct!

    • Adaleona

      샀어요,봤어요, and 왔어요 are the same as saying 사었어요, 오았어요, and 보았어요, since saying the four-lettered verbs at an average speaking pace sounds like the three-lettered verbs. So both at correct. ^_^


  • Kaelah

    저것 파티 멋있었어요 – That was a great party
    is this correct? please correct me if not or tell me if i’m doing it correct 😀

    • Kenny Lau

      저것 is a pronoun which means “that thing”, and I don’t think a party is a thing…

      “That party” would be “저 파티”.

      You can just say “파티 멋있었어요”.

  • Hero

    비디오 게임 했어요 – I played a video game.


    • Kenny Lau

      I believe it’s perfect.

  • i was really worried about conjugating verbs, i heard it was difficult but you guys and your lessons explain it in such a simple way it’s nowhere near as hard as i thought it was going to be!

    너무 감사합니다 ^^

  • Raju Shah

    Can someone teach how to make a sentence using ” used to”. For a example : I used to play football.

    • Declan Mayer

      나는 축구를 했었어요

      Look up ”Perfect Past Tense” in Korean.

      Basically adding an additional 었 to give the meaning that you did something, but no longer do it.

    • Raju Shah

      Thank u for helping me out . 도와 주셔서 감사합니다

    • Kenny Lau

      “나는” is informal; you should use “저는” instead, or drop it altogether.

      In Korean, the subject and the object can be dropped if they are understood by context.

      Other than that, it’s good.

  • 어제 저 하교에 갔어요 그리고 많이 공부했어요. 오늘 제 친구가 만났어요. 내일 저 쉬고 싶어요.
    I went to school and studied a lot yesterday. I met with a friend today. I want to rest tomorrow.

    Corrections to the possible errors will be greatly appreaciated. 고맙습니다!

  • Mary Wu

    어제 영화 봤어요! 🙂

    • Seokjin Jin


  • Akanksha Arya

    Hello, in pdf file you have given example of 잡다, the verb stem is 잡 which does not end as a or o but it is followed by 았어요. It must be followed by 었어요. Please reply. Thanku

    • Epo

      i noticed that too! i wonder why

    • 제시

      I think is because they meant the last vowel of the verb steam and not the last word, so because 잡 last vowel is 아 then you use 았어요

    • Akanksha Arya

      But in other word who ends like this, they did not use 았어요

    • Ali

      I believe they did, from what I see they are going by the last vowel like the above person said.
      먹다—> 먹었어요. Since the last vowel is “ㅓ”
      하다—>했어요. Since the final vowel is “ㅏ”

      Hopefully I helped a bit, I know this is a rather late reply.

    • Kenny Lau

      There are many verbs which do not follow this rule, but those verbs are irregular.

  • Anna Libuit

    keiki mogeosoyo..

    • Kenny Lau

      It should be 케이크 먹었어요/keikeu meogeosseoyo.

  • Semitic akuma

    거피 마시었어요

    • Kim Possible Johnson

      커피 마셨어요.

    • Kenny Lau

      Both 마시었어요 and 마셨어요 are wrong; it should be 맛있어요 for the present tense and 맛있었어요 for the past tense, so it is 커피 맛있어요.

    • lol we are not saying it’s delicious we’re saying drinking 🙂

    • Kenny Lau

      My fault.

  • eporele

    나는 썼어요 수필 = i wrote an essay!

    • Kenny Lau

      “나는” is informal; you should use “저는” instead, or drop it altogether.

      In Korean, the subject and the object can be dropped if they are understood by context.

  • Maya Rijkelijkhuizen

    I have a question regarding both the past tense and the present tense. When using 았어요 or 아요 with a verb stem that ends with ㅏ do you always stick the two ‘a’ sounds together. Like with the example of 사다 the stem is 사 and, but there’s only one ‘a’ in 샀어요. Is it like that for all verb stems ending in ㅏ? And do verb stems ending with 오 always turn into the ‘wa’ sound?

    • Kim Possible Johnson

      The ‘ㅆ’ is the english equivalent of -ed. For the sake of being accurate and to be able to be read, having the ‘ㅇ’ as well as the ‘ㅏ’ with ‘ㅆ’ is necessary to be read. You don’t have to put two ‘ㅏ’ next to one another. I think what they mean is if the last vowel is an ‘ㅏ’ then after adding ‘ㅆ’ it will look like/ should look like ‘,았.’ As far as I know, there is no situation where you put two ‘ㅏ’ next to one another.

      These are the only three rules you will have to worry about. As for specific verbs that form the double vowel sounds, I would recommend continuing to ask korean native speakers if they can think of any.

    • Maya Rijkelijkhuizen

      Thank you very much for replying! It’s a lot clearer now 🙂

    • Kim Possible Johnson

      You’re welcome! It was my pleasure to help 🙂

    • Kenny Lau

      If you follow the regular rule, 사다 would become 사았어요.

      However, it is usually contracted to 샀어요.

  • Thu Thuy

    A: 오늘은 뭐 했어요? (What did you do today?)
    B: 저는 드라마 봤어요. (I watched a drama.)
    A: 어떤 드라마? (Which drama?)
    B: ‘구르미 그린 달빛’. 이 드라마는 너무 재밌어요. (‘Moonlight Drawn By Clouds’. This drama is really good/fun/interesting.)

    Can someone check if this is right?
    감사합니다. 🙂

    • Kenny Lau

      In Korean, the subject and the object can be dropped if they are understood by context.

      So, the second line can just be “드라마 봤어요”.

      Also, the last word 재밌어요 is wrong; it should be 재미있어요.

    • Thu Thuy


    • Kenny Lau

      My pleasure.

  • Kylie

    저는 등산했어요. I went hiking.

    Is this correct? I don’t have a dictionary so I searched an online dictionary for to hike and it gave me 등산하다. Do I need the pronoun 저는?

    • Kenny Lau

      In Korean, the subject and the object can be dropped if they are understood by context. That is why you just drop the “it” when translating from English to Korean.

      Also, many people drop the topic-marking particles 은/는 these days.

      So, the following are all correct:
      – 저는 등산했어요
      – 저 등산했어요
      – 등산했어요

    • Kylie

      Thank you!

    • Kenny Lau

      My pleasure.

    • Kenny Lau

      My pleasure.

  • Erin

    Sorry if you have already answered this but what is the different between 쓰다 and 적다? I see that 쓰다 has the meaning to use but both 쓰다 and 적다 have to write as well. Thank you!

    • Seokjin Jin

      The meanings of the two words are very similar. Both means “to write” and in most of the cases, they are interchangeable.

      However, when in comes to writing on a formal documents like contract, 쓰다 is used.