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. And after you learn the basics, try writing your own Korean sentences and get corrections from native speakers through HaruKorean, our 1:1 correction service.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kristinejoy.catan.7 Kristine Joy Catan

    안녕하세요! How should I say “Yesterday, I ate spaghetti.”

    Should I say “어제, 나는 스파게티 먹였어요.” ?

    Is that correct? 감사합니다

    • Aleejandra Avilaa

      almost correct the form in korean is Subject+Object+Verb soo becomes 나는어제스파게티 먹었어요

  • Houyam


    I love conjugating in Korean because it’s easy

    now I’m practicing : I loved you =>사랑해소요 ?

    • Joshua Grootveld

      Almost correct :) 사랑해소요 > 사랑했어요

  • nyzah13

    I get confused with the examples 잡다, 팔다, 놀다 in the PDF file. Their verb stems all ends with consonant not (ㅗ/ㅏ) and I thought it falls on the 2nd rule of changing it to both their present and past tenses. However, the examples given have an answer which falls on the 1st rule which answers with both 아요/ 았어요 instead of 어요/ 었어요. Why?
    I appreciate if you will answer. Thanks :)

    • Isabel Ibáñez Gallardo

      In case the stems end with a consonant, I think you have to look at the vowel that comes right before the consonant

    • Juanis

      you always look JUST AT THE LAST VOWEL never the consonant

    • Colton Hennick

      From what I understand, if the last “block” has an ㅗ or ㅏ in it, then you add the “아” ending.

      In the case of “괜찮다” (to be okay) the stem is “괜찮” and you add “아” because there is ㅏ in the last “block”. Present tense: 괜찮아요.


      It only is contracted if the LAST letter is ㅏ like “가 다”
      Stem : 가 + 아 is shortened to just 가요.

      I hope this helped.

    • Juanis

      it isnt if there is one in the last block, it is if it is the last VOWEL of the last block.

    • hyekyo lee

      This gets me confused also..

    • Juanis

      you look at the last vowel of the verb stem, not the last letter

    • Joshua Grootveld

      You only look at vowels in the words. For example take 좋다 (To like) if you conjugate that to present tense it becomes 좋아요 (I like) you can see the last character of the verb stem “좋” is the character ㅎ. since this is a CONSONANT and not a VOWEL. (like ㅏ or ㅗ) you just ignore it when you conjugate.

      좋다 is the present tense becomes: 좋아요
      좋다 is the past tense becomes: 좋았어요

      I hope this helps and good luck on your studies!

    • Lexter Yap

      this helped me a lot to understand I got confused there too. Gamsahamnida!

    • Joshua Grootveld

      No problem! Glad it helped :)

    • Alk

      I was confused too, but as far as I can figure, conjugation depends on the last vowel, not just the last letter. So japda whose last vowel is “a”(ㅏ) changes to ayo or asseoyo. Same for pal.

    • Juanis

      Actually, they their last vowel IS (ㅗ/ㅏ) it isnt the last letter, it is the last VOWEL

      last vowel for 잡 is ㅏ, for 팔 is ㅏ and for 놀 is ㅗ you do not look at the consonant, you look at the last VOWEL of the verb stem.

  • Julia

    So, if I want to say ” I bought this ” do I have to say “저 샀어요 이거.” or “이거 저 샀어요.” or are both wrong? And if I want to say that I bought an apple? Is it “저 샀어요 사과.” ? And when I want to say ” I bought this apple” is it ” 이거 사과 저 샀어요” ?

    What if I want to say “That person was cool” do I have to say “그사람 멋있었어요.” then?

    And if I ate kimchi then it’s ” 김치 저 먹었어요.” ?

    Btw Greetings from Germany! ^^ We love your website!

    • Aleejandra Avilaa

      hi the basic way to form sentences in korean is Subject+Object+Verb so i bought and apple become 저사과 샀어요

  • Rukia

    okay,so if i want to say. My Friend came.We ate pizza together.It’ll be like.’Chin gu wa-sseo-yo.pi ja meo-geo-sseo-yo’ .is that right??? (:

  • Rica Daguinod

    안녕하세요 선생님! I am confused from your sample verbs in pdf. 잡다, 팔다, & 놀다 were conjugated with 아요/았어요. Should it be conjugated with 어요/었어요 since the verb stem doesn’t end in ㅗ/ㅏ? Please enlighten me. 감사합니다! ^^

  • Svea

    어제 가방 샀어요.
    어제 읽었어요.

  • amelia

    if you want to say “i watch a lot of korean dramas” would you use present or past tense?

  • Paradise

    쉬었어요. I was very tired :(

  • 애슐리

    lol, I love you both!

  • Guest

    So we learnt that -고 싶어요 means ‘I want to…’.
    But what is ‘I wanted to…’ in Korean?

    What’s ‘to want’ and what’s the verb stem ? :3

    (Please no questions why the upper part is written in blue. I have no clue haha)

    • Seokjin Jin

      You can change the patten to -고 싶었어요. It is quite simple. :)

  • http://www.instagram.com/jankipark Jankipark

    So we learnt that -고 싶어요 means ‘I want to…’.
    But what is ‘I wanted to…’ in Korean?

    What’s ‘to want’ and what’s the verb stem ? :3

    • Kaylan Marie

      I can only answer part of your question, but “to want,” I believe, is 원하다.

    • Seokjin Jin

      ‘I wanted to…’ – -고 싶었어요
      It is not hard, right? The dictionary form is 싶다 and the verb stem is 싶.

  • hyekyo lee

    Annyeong haseyo! I’m Pearl from the Philippines. I had a confusion regarding verb endings. It says when the verb ending is ‘ ㅏor ㅗ, to form the present or past tense, just drop 다. And add 아요 or 았어요.. and for verb endings that it’s not ㅏ or ㅗ, it’s 어요 or 었 어요 am i right?

    • Alk


  • hyekyo lee

    But i saw some examples, like japda or palda, when da was removed the verb ending will be the letter p and letter L.. i thought you just add 어요 or 었어요 to form their present and past tense. But how come they become jabayo/jabasseoyo and parayo/parasseoyo? Please help me..thanks in advance!☺

    • Alk

      I was confused too, but as far as I can figure, conjugation depends on the last vowel, not just the last letter. So japda whose last vowel is “a”(ㅏ) changes to ayo or asseoyo. Same for pal.

  • Vergil

    컴퓨터 놀았어요

  • Thu Hà

    Hi, I’m have a problem with my homework, can you help me???

    I wrote this sentence: 학교에서 한국어를 공부헀습니다

    my teacher told me that 습니다 is wrong, but I can’t understand what wrong is. so confused now :(

    • Seokjin Jin

      공부헀습니다 > 공부했습니다

      Actually, there is no mistake in “습니다”.

  • Joshua Grootveld

    한국어: 월드컵 봤어요!
    English: I watched the world cup!
    Dutch: Ik heb naar het wereld kampioenschap gekeken.

    Is the conjugation of my Korean correct? :D

    • Alk

      I think so.

    • Juanis

      Yes! to make it completely correct, i would add 저는 which means “i” but it is correct without it too!

    • Joshua Grootveld

      Sweet! Thank you! :D

  • Kaylan Marie

    편지 읽었어요? Does this translate correctly to “Did you read my letter?”

  • Djilian Foster

    what about verb ending with the ‘ㅓ’ ???? plz answer me :(

    • Juanis

      you would use 었어요.

      었어요 is used when it doesnt end in ㅏ or ㅗ so this is the case.

      I know that if you write it, it would have “ㅓ” twice, so for ease of pronunciation, you would combine those. if you didnt understand, it is the same thing when a verb stem ends with ㅏ, you add the 았어요 , so you would have a double ㅏ. you basically just take out one of those ㅏ´s

  • 하낸

    why did they use 이상해요 instead of 이상하여요? so confusing! i will be thankful if you help me thank you!

    • Alk

      Probably because it contains the word 하다. According to lesson 16, 하다 is an exception to the rules and is usually used as 해요 instead of 하여요, although both forms of 하다 are correct.

    • Juanis

      Kind of. 해요 and 하여요 both mean the same thing. it is originally with 하여요 but with time, people started saying 해요 but both are correct. They said this in lesson 16.

    • Juanis

      해요 and 하여요 both mean the same thing. it is originally with 하여요 but with time, people started saying 해요 but both are correct. They said this in lesson 16.

  • noura salah

    오늘 김밥 샀어요 !
    can this sentence mean ” today , i bought kimpap ” ?
    and thank you for this very good website!

    • Juanis

      yes! it is correct!!

  • Juanis

    If i want to say: “I wrote this” would i say: 저는 이것 적었어요. is this correct?

  • Juanis

    If i just want to say “Catch!” Would i conjugate it to present tense? Or how could it be?

  • Zineb

    어제 피자 먹었어요, 너무 맛있었어요(?) is it correct ?

    Thank you in advance for your reply :)

  • loveiz evol

    선생님 결혼 하셨어요?

  • Lexter Yap

    어제 나는 일었어요 is this correct?

  • cheong yana

    어제 저는 한국어를 공부했어요 그리고
    텔레비전 봤어요..ㅋㅋㅋ 감사해요 TTMIK

  • Serenity Maria

    why does ‘o’ change to ‘w’ when conjugating. examples bo + a yo is bwa-yo, o + a sseo yo is wa-sseo-yo, its a bit confusing.

    • Laura

      Try to pronounce o-asseoyo. It kind of automatically contracts to something that sounds like wasseoyo. That’s all there is to it.

  • A

    eo-je means yesterday right ?

    • Bomer

      Yes, or ‘day before’.

  • TN

    how do i know when to drop the 어 ? For example present tense is 써요 [sseo-yo] (NOT 쓰어요) but past tense is 썼어요 ?

  • Thu Thuy

    어제 저는 ‘슈퍼맨이 돌아왔다’ 봤어요. 그 쇼를 저는 너무 좋아해요.
    Is it right?
    I’m really thankful for all these lessons.
    정말 감사합니다. :)

  • Cat

    Why does 잡다 not become 잡어요 in the present tense as it has the ㅂ at the bottom?

    • Bergen

      Because you should not be looking at the last LETTER in the verbstem, you should look at the last VOWEL, as written in the PDF file for lesson number 16. So the last vowel in 잡 is ㅏ therefore it is 잡아요 :)

  • Lena Lang

    just a question, when do i use 이것 or 이거. its the same, but when you write, am i supposed to write 이것 or 이거? i dont understand, please answer :) btw these lessons are really helpful, thanks!

  • Cat

    오늘 아침 나는 학교에 갔어요. 나중에 한국어를 공부했어요. Is this correct to say? Thanks for all the help. It’s really making study much easier ^^

  • Nicole

    나는 음악을 듣았어요. 그리고 나는 너무 스케치를 었어요. I don’t know if this is right. Thank you for these lessons. You guys make it a lot easier to understand the language. 감사합니다, 선생님. :)

    • Seokjin Jin

      It will be helpful if you write your mention in English so that I can correct it. Thanks for your comment. :)

    • Nicole

      Oops. I’m sorry. I was going to write the English translation but I forgot. I’ll write the English translation next time. Thank you for correcting my sentence. :)