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.


  • Matt

    수업 즐겼어요. [I enjoyed the lesson].

    감사합니다 for the lesson! TTMIK 멋있어요. [TTMIK is awesome].

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks so much. You are awesome!

  • princekyung

    잘 들었어요! 선생님들 진짜 최고시다. 어제 하루종일 한국어 공부했어요.. 오늘도 열심히할게요 ^^ 고마워요~

    • Seokjin Jin

      정말 감사합니다. 앞으로도 저희랑 한국어 공부 즐겁게 해요! :)

  • Emily

    In the PDF, example #5, 6, and 7, can you explain why it is NOT what is written in the brackets? Why do we push some syllables together? Is there a rule or are those ones just exceptions?

    Thanks for your help.

    • metal_samurai

      the reason is because those verb stems end in vowels, so 쓰 would get merged, whereas 먹 would not

    • Emily

      Thanks for your reply. Ah, so if the verb stem is a vowel and the next syllable starts with a vowel, then you merge them. How do you know what it will become then?

      For example, how do I know that 기다리어요 should be 기다려요 and not 래 since we are merging vowels..?

    • metal_samurai

      when adding 아 or 어 (not just conjugation, there are plenty of other principles where you do this) to a stem ending in a vowel, they’ll merge in such a way that ultimately makes pronunciation easier. how they merge just depends on which two vowels are merging. e.g. 오 + 아 = 와, 이 + 어 = 여. ㅡ is simply replaced with the new vowel.

      i imagine they cover this in a later lesson, so i don’t want to post all the combinations here, but that’s the gist of it.

  • Nicole

    I have a question. When do you know when to use the words “진짜” and “정말” which both ‘really’? I’m a little confused about it.

    • Salma

      Same thing.

    • Nicole

      Hmm, I see. Thank you.

  • nastasia

    Hi I have a question. So in the lesson you said some verbs and when you say it it sounds different so it flows better but how do u know when you have to say it different to make it flow better. Also in the pdf the examples in red a a bit confusing because a couple verbs didnt end in ㅏ or ㅗ and it had the ending 아요.for example 잡다 and it had the ending 잡아요 I thought it would be 잡어요 because it doesnt end in 아 or 오

    • Seokjin Jin

      Verb stems ending with vowels ㅗ [o] or ㅏ [a] are followed by 아요 [a-yo].

      When it comes to 잡다, the verb stem is 잡 and it ends with vowel ㅏ, so 아요 was followed. :)

  • Polly6106

    Hi, can you tell me how to say “I read” in past tense, please? :)

    • Daniel.Lion

      읽었어요.. i think

    • Polly6106

      Thanks :)

  • Blenda Camargo

    I have a little question.
    있다 is the verb to be, and without the 다 we have 있.
    Because 있 ends with the vowel I (not ㅏ nor ㅗ) we would have to add 었어요

    So, 있다 in the past tense would be 있었어요? It sounds weird.

    Does anybody know if this is correct or know the correct way to say 있다 in the past tense?

    • Carlos skHard

      Hey,the verb “to be” is not “있다” but “이다”.So,in present simple(formal way) it would be “입니다”and in standard way “이에요/예요”.But,for your reference,it doesnt mind if there are a last consonant(when making the stantard way).You just look at the last VOWEL,not the last letter.
      The past tense (standard)would be [이]+[었어요].But together:”였어요”.

  • Bethany Danaher

    어제 학교열쇠를 잃어버렸어요.

  • Gaby Bosco

    내가 그리었어요 과 햄버거 먹았어요

    Is that correct if i want to say that i drew and ate a hamburger? I’m still now very sure how to construct sentences in korean.

    Also i wanted to ask, for the verb 일하다, the stem would be 일하 so in the present tense would be 일해요 and in the past tense would be 일했어요?

    • JooyeonPark

      For the sentence building, Here’s a little correction
      내가 그렸어요.
      햄버거 먹었어요.

      and for the verb ‘일하다’, you are right! it’s 일해요 for the present and 일했어요 for the past.