Passive form

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The passive voice is a grammatical voice in which the subject receives the action of a transitive verb. Passive voice emphasizes the process rather than who is performing the action. In Korean this form is called 피동. There are few patterns to help distinguish between active and passive voices in Korean verbs. This makes this more difficult to learn than a regular Korean grammar rule.

Using the passive voice is not common in Korean. Koreans sometimes use it to emphasize what would normally have been the object of the sentence. The following two sentences are grammatically different in Korean but equally correct, notice that the English translation doesn't change:

Passive verbs still work as action verbs but now the object (that usually takes 을 or 를) has become the subject of the sentence (takes the particles: 이 or 가).

  • 막아요. [Traffic] blocks the road.
  • 막혀요. The road is blocked [by traffic]. (막히다 is much more common in this scenario)

Passive verbs are often formed by adding 이/히/리/기 to a regular verb.

이 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category end in ㅎ or a vowel)
Active verb Passive verb Examples
놓다 (to lay, to put, to build) 놓이다 (to be on, to be placed, to be built)
  • Active: 식탁에 그릇들을 놓았다(I put dishes on the table).
  • Passive: 식탁에 그릇들이 놓였다 (Dishes were put on the table).
바꾸다 (to change) 바뀌다 (to be changed)
  • Active: 결정을 바꾸었다 (I changed the decision).
  • Passive: 결정이 바뀌었다 (The decision was changed).
보다 (to see) 보이다 (to be seen)
  • Active:
  • Passive:
쓰다 (to use, to write) 쓰이다 (to be used, to be written)
  • Active:그 책은 내 친구가 썼다 (My friend wrote that book).
  • Passive:그 책은 내 친구에 의해 쓰였다 (That book was written by my friend).
쌓다 (to pile up, to stack) 쌓이다 (to be piled up, to be stacked up)
  • Active: 상자를 쌓았다 (I stacked boxes up).
  • Passive: 상자가 쌓였다 (Boxes were stacked up).
차다 - to dump someone 차이다 - to be dumped
  • Active: 내가 여자친구를 찼다 (I dumped my girlfriend).
  • Passive: 내 여자친구가 나에게 차였다 (My girlfriend was dumped by me).
히 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category end in a ㅂ,ㅈ,ㄷ or ㄱ)
Active verb Passive verb Examples
꽂다 (to put in, to stick in) 꽂히다 (to be stuck in)
  • Active: 꽃을 꽃병에 꽂았다 (I put flowers in a vase).
  • Passive: 꽃이 꽃병에 꽂혔다 (Flowers were put in a vase).
닫다 (to close, to shut) 닫히다 (to be closed, to be shut)
  • Active: 문을 닫았다 (I closed the door).
  • Passive: 문이 닫혔다 (The door was closed).
읽다 (to read) 읽히다 (to be read)
  • Active:책을 읽었다 (I read a book).
  • Passive: 책이 읽혔다 (The book was read by someone).
막다 (to block, to clog) 막히다 (to be blocked, to be conjested, to be clogged up)
  • Active: 입구를 막았다 (I blocked the entrance).
  • Passive: 입구가 막혔다 (The entrance was blocked).
먹다 (to eat) 먹히다 (to be eaten)
  • Active: 빵을 먹는다 (I eat bread).
  • Passive: 빵이 먹혔다 (The bread was eaten).
묻다 (to bury) 묻히다 (to be buried)
  • Active: 땅에 관을 묻었다 (I buried the coffin under the ground).
  • Passive: 땅에 관이 묻혔다 (The coffin was buried under the ground).
뽑다 (to pluck, to pull off) 뽑히다 (to be plucked, to be pulled off)
  • Active: 잡초를 뽑는다 (I pluck the weeds out).
  • Passive: 잡초가 뽑혔다 (The weeds were plucked out).
잡다 (to catch) 잡히다 (to be caught)
  • Active: 경찰이 범죄자를 잡았다 (the police caught the criminal).
  • Passive: 범죄자가 경찰에게 잡혔다 (the criminal was caught by the police).
리 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category are irregular ㄷ verbs or end with ㄹ)
Active verb Passive verb Examples
걸다 (to hang) 걸리다 (to be hung)
  • Active: 그림을 벽에 걸었다 (I hung a picture on the wall).
  • Passive: 그림이 벽에 걸렸다 (The picture was hung on the wall).
듣다 (to hear) 들리다 (to be heard)
  • Active:노래를 들었다 (I heard the song).
  • Passive: 노래가 들렸다 (The song was heard).
물다 (to bite) 물리다 (to be bitten)
  • Active: 개가 나를 물었다 (the dog bit me).
  • Passive: 나는 개한테 물렸다 (I was bitten by the dog).
열다 (to open) 열리다 (to be open)
  • Active:창문을 열었다 (I open the window).
  • Passive: 창문이 열렸다 (The window was open).
팔다 (to sell) 팔리다 (to be sold)
  • Active:나는 장난감을 판다 (I sell the toys).
  • Passive: 장난감이 팔렸다 (The toys were sold).
풀다 (to untie, to solve) 풀리다 (to get untied, to be solved )
  • Active:문제를 풀었다 (I solve the problem).
  • Passive: 문제가 풀렸다 (The problem was solved).
자르다 (to cut) 잘리다 (to be cut)
  • Active:종이를 잘랐다 (I cut the paper).
  • Passive: 종이가 잘렸다 (The paper was cut).
기 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category end with ㄴ (ㄶ), ㅅ and ㅁ)
Active verb Passive verb Examples
끊다 (to cut off, to sever) 끊기다 (to be cut off, to be severed)
  • Active: 줄을 끊었다 (I cut the rope).
  • Passive: 줄이 끊겼다 (The rope was cut).
빼앗다 (to take, to steal) 빼앗기다 (to be taken, to be stolen)
  • Active: 돈을 빼앗았다 (I stole someone's money).
  • Passive: 돈을 빼앗겼다 (My money was stolen by someone).
안다 (to hold, to embrace) 안기다 (to be held, to be embraced)
  • Active: 아기를 품에 안았다 (I held baby in my arms).
  • Passive: 아기가 품에 안겨있다 (The baby is in my arms).
쫓다 (to chase) 쫓기다 (to be chased)
  • Active:경찰이 도둑을 쫓는다 (A policeman chases robbery).
  • Passive: 도둑이 경찰에 쫓겼다(A robbery was chased by policeman).
잠그다 (to lock) 잠기다 (to be locked)
  • Active:문을 잠근다 (I lock the door).
  • Passive: 문이 잠겼다 (The door was locked).

See also