If you are looking for the complete list of 이, 히, 리, 기 passive verbs, look up the word "피동사" in Naver Korean-Korean Dictionary, and click on meanings (뜻풀이) or just click here. There are a total of 450 verbs in Standard Korean Dictionary (표준국어대사전).
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.
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).
- 길을 막아요. [Traffic] blocks the road.
- 길이 막혀요. The road is blocked [by traffic]. (막히다 is much more common in this scenario)
Many active voice English expressions should be translated to the passive form in Korean. (Only using the passive form is natural in Korean.)
- It looks fine. ☞ 괜찮아 보여요. [It] is seen to be fine.
- It sounds like English. ☞ 영어처럼 들려요. [It] is heard like English.
- I can't see the blackboard well. ☞ 칠판이 잘 안 보여요. The blackboard is not seen well (by me).
- Can you hear my voice? ☞ 내 목소리 들리냐? Is my voice heard (by you)?
- The game has begun. ☞ 게임이 시작되었다. The game has been begun. (A game can't begin something because it has no ability to decide. There must be a human who had decided to begin the game. The "game" is passive, not active.)
- This book is selling very well. ☞ 이 책은 아주 잘 팔리고 있다. This book is being sold very well. (A book can't sell something because it's not a human. The "book" is passive, not active.)
- The door is opening. ☞ 문이 열리고 있다. The door is being opened. (A door can't open something because it has no ability to decide. If a door is opening, there must be something else affecting the door such as wind, dogs, installed automatic mechanisms, etc. Even if it's a haunted door, it should be opened by a ghost inside it, not by the door itself. The "door" is passive, not active.)
- This door locks automatically. ☞ 이 문은 자동으로 잠긴다. As for this door, (it) is locked automatically. (This door becomes locked automatically.)
- This fruit peels easily. ☞ 이 과일은 껍질이 잘 벗겨진다. As for this fruit, the skin is peeled off easily.
- This hospital is filling up. ☞ 이 병원이 채워지고 있다. This hospital is being filled up. (with new patients)
- This battery is charging. ☞ 이 배터리가 충전되고 있다. This battery is being charged. (by me, or by the battery charger)
- My body is shaking. ☞ 내 몸이 떨린다. My body is (being) shaken. (by my nervous system) (= My nervous system is shaking my body.)
- The law of gravity applies to all objects. ☞ 중력의 법칙은 모든 물체에 적용된다. The law of gravity is applied to all objects. (We apply the law = The law is applied by us)
- It feels like I am your teacher. ☞ 내가 마치 네 선생님인 것처럼 느껴진다. [It] is felt like I am your teacher. ("It" is a dummy subject. A dummy subject can't feel something because it is not a living being. "It" must have been felt by someone. English speakers might be used to these expressions, but this kind of nonsense has no place in Korean. It feels, a book sells, a game begins, a door opens, a door closes, it looks, etc.)
- ※ In most nominative-accusative languages, sentences like "The smoke feels acrid", "The soup is cooking now" don't make sense. (The correct sense is "The smoke is felt acridly = I feel the smoke acridly", "The soup is being cooked now = I am cooking the soup now") If "This book sells well" is correct, "This pizza eats well" should also be correct, because they have exactly the same structure. Do you really think they are equally correct? Some grammarians try to explain it as "middle voice", but English has no verb form for the middle voice, how can you tell it apart from the active voice? If I say "This chicken eats well", is the chicken dead or alive? Think about "This book sells well" again. Is the book dead or alive?
- In many European languages, there are special rules when transitive verbs become intransitive. For example, in German, "This book sells well" doesn't make sense because there is no reflexive pronoun. In German, the sentence should be like "This book sells itself good". Without the reflexive pronoun "itself"("sich" in German), it sounds like the book is a living being that can sell something. That's the normal sense of nominative-accusative languages. In Russian, they conjugate the verb, the sentence should be like "This book well sellsся". (the suffix -ся indicates the verb is intransitive). In English, neither of those rules exists, it's just arbitrary. According to Wikipedia, English also is a nominative-accusative language, but it's an aberrant one because this kind of nonsense is considered acceptable. In other words, English often behaves like an ergative-absolutive language. Korean is a typical nominative-accusative language, but English is a bizarre one randomly behaving like an ergative-absolutive language. Most English speakers have never heard of the terminology "ergative" and aren't even aware that they are arbitrarily switching objects into subjects, so you should be aware of it and learn the typical sense of a nominative-accusative language. This is a problem of the English language itself so you shouldn't blame Korean. See ergative verb for more information.
- ※ Korean also has a small number of ergative verbs. I will explain about these exceptions again.
- ※ Grammar Breakdown
- 내가 네 선생님 : I your teacher
- 내가 네 선생님이다 : I am your teacher.
- 내가 네 선생님인 : (NOUN) that I am your teacher ("-인" is the attributive form of "-이다" meaning "be, am, are, is". "-이다" and "-인" both are present tense.)
- 내가 네 선생님인 것 : the thing that I am your teacher
- 내가 네 선생님인 것처럼 : like the thing that I am your teacher
- 내가 네 선생님인 것처럼 느껴진다 : (It) is felt like the thing that I am your teacher. (느껴진다 (is felt) is present tense)
- 마치 means "as if". You can put 마치 anywhere in the sentence or just omit it. Word order is not that important in Korean in the first place. You can also declare a topic with 나는(난) anywhere in the sentence. English speakers usually place much value on word order and try to focus on word order of Korean, because English is an analytic language in which word order is very important for understanding the meaning. Korean is not an analytic language, so you should change your method of approach. You should focus on how various suffixes are attached at the end of each word to assign their grammatical roles in a sentence, rather than word order. If you are not familiar with word order in Korean, you can practise in any word order you want. You can refine it later when you are more experienced. Even if you change word order as you want, Koreans will have no problem understanding your Korean though it might sound a bit unusual or eccentric. I am demonstrating this to show word order is actually kind of irrelevant in Korean. Destroy your stereotype given by your native language, and don't be afraid of being different about word order.
- 내가 네 선생님 : I your teacher
- 나는 느껴진다 마치 내가 네 선생님인 것처럼. (Note: I feel it = It is felt by me)
- 나는(As for me) 느껴진다(it is felt) 마치(as if) 내가(I) 네(your) 선생님인(teacher am that) 것처럼(the thing like).
- The "-인" in "선생님인" is an attributive form as already explained, which means it has to be followed by a noun (in this case, 것). So, the word order "선생님인 것처럼" is typically fixed and can't be changed (unless you are making an inversion of word order for some kind of literary expression). They are kind of bound by the suffix "-인".
- 나는 느껴진다 마치 내가 네 선생님인 것처럼. (Note: I feel it = It is felt by me)
- This is another possible translation. (Note: I feel myself(me) = I am felt by me)
- 나는(As for me) 내가(I) 느껴진다(am felt) 마치(as if) 네(your) 선생님인(teacher being) 것처럼(the thing like).
Some Korean passive forms should be translated to the active voice in English. (Both the active and the passive forms are natural in Korean, but only the active voice is natural in English.)
- 이 현실이 믿기지가 않았다. This reality was not believed (by me). ☞ ([I] couldn't believe this reality.)
- 이 현실을 믿을 수가 없었다. [I] couldn't believe this reality.
Many passive voice English expressions should be translated to the active form in Korean. (Both the active and the passive voices are natural in English, but only the active form is natural in Korean.)
- I was interviewed. ☞ 나는 면접을 받았다. (I received an interview.) : ("-을 받다" can be considered a passive form itself. "나는 면접을 봤다" is also possible but this is nowhere near a passive voice.)
- I was brought here. 나는 여기에 데려와졌다. (Although it can be literally translated, it sounds unnatural in Korean.) ☞ 그 사람이 나를 여기에 데려왔다. He brought me here.
- I was told that you were my son. (If I have to translate "be told", it would be 말해지다 or 이야기되다 but these expressions are unnatural in Korean) ☞ 네가 내 아들이라고 들었다. ([I] heard that you were my son.)
- ※ Think about this sentence "He gave me a book." In this sentence, "a book" is the direct object (accusative case, -을/-를), and "me" is the indirect object (dative case, -에게). If you change word order (He gave a book me), it is wrong that's why English is an analytic language. Unlike English, Korean uses specific suffixes (-을/-를 vs. -에게) to distinguish between them, so word order doesn't matter. In English, both of them ("a book" and "me") can be the subject of the passive voice (a book was given to me , I was given a book), but in Korean, only the direct object "a book" can be the subject of the passive verb. In Korean, the indirect object is not even called "object", it's the dative case that is completely different.
- "I was given" has two possible meanings, it's an ambiguous expression. It can be either "someone gave something to me" or "someone gave me to another person (I am like a human slave that can be gifted to others)". In Korean, "I was given (내가 주어졌다)" only means the second translation (I am a slave), because the subject "I" must be the direct object of the active verb "give". This kind of grammatical ambiguity doesn't exist in Korean, and it applies to all other Korean verbs. "I was told" only means "someone told about me (to another person)" so "I was told (a story)" doesn't make sense in Korean. It has to be "a story was told (to me)" in the passive voice (if I have to make a passive voice English sentence that can be literally translated into Korean).
- ※ Grammar Breakdown
- 네가 내 아들 : you my son
- 네가 내 아들이다 : You are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이다라고 : (VERB) that "You are my son"
- 네가 내 아들이라고 : (VERB) that you are my son (If "아들" doesn't have an ending consonant, -이라고 becomes -라고. For example, 친구 + (이)라고 → 친구라고)
- 네가 내 아들이라고 듣다 : to hear that you are my son
- 네가 내 아들이라고 듣는다 : Hear(s) that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라고 듣겠다 : Would hear that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라고 들었다 : Heard that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라고 들었겠다 : Would have heard that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라고 : (VERB) that you are my son
- 네가 내 아들이라고 하다 : to say that you are my son
- 네가 내 아들이라고 한다 : Say(s) that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라고 하는 : (NOUN) that says that you are my son
- 네가 내 아들이라고 하는 이야기 : a story that says that you are my son
- 네가 내 아들이라고 하는 이야기를 들었다 : Heard a story that says that you are my son.
- 네가 내 아들이라는 얘기를 들었다 (Contracted from the previous sentence, same meaning)
- 네가 내 아들이란 얘길 들었다 (The above sentence can be even further contracted, that is similar to the actual colloquial language. See the shrinking process "아들이라고 하는" → "아들이라는" → "아들이란", and "이야기를" → "얘기를" → "얘길". This kind of process happens all the time in Korean, and it is key to understanding the actual spoken language.)
- If you want to clarify the subject who heard the story, declare a topic with 나는(난).
- 난 네가 내 아들이란 얘길 들었다 : As for me, (I) heard a story that says that you are my son. (This final sentence looks simple, but it has quite a complex structure, especially in the "아들이란" part.)
- 네가 내 아들 : you my son
This grammar part should be explained together with causative form but many Korean materials for foreigners skip over it due to its confusing nature. If you are a casual learner and don't want to be stressed out, you can skip over it but if you are trying to learn Korean seriously, you must learn it otherwise you'll never understand this part. This grammar part is hard, even for many native Korean speakers, so don't be afraid of making mistakes. I’ll outline the grammar structure with example verbs, you would be able to briefly understand how it works in Korean.
OK, let's begin with easy forms. When verbs add -어지다, they become passive. When verbs add -게 하다, they become causative.
- 만들다 : to make (something)
- 만들어지다 : to be made : (만들 + 어지다)
- 만들게 하다 : to make/let someone make (something) : (만들 + 게 하다)
- 느끼다 : to feel (something)
- 느껴지다 : to be felt : (느끼 + 어지다. Try to pronounce 느끼어지다 fast then you get 느껴지다)
- 느끼게 하다 : to make/let someone feel (something) : (느끼 + 게 하다)
- 잇다 : to connect (something)
- 이어지다 : to be connected : (이 + 어지다. This verb follows the ㅅ irregular conjugation rule.)
- 잇게 하다 : to make/let someone connect (something) : (잇 + 게 하다)
- ※ The "pronounce fast and get something" rule applies to all verbs except for the irregular 으 dropping verbs. You can see an irregular example of 잠그다 at the end of this page.
굽다 has two meanings and their conjugational forms are different.
- 굽다1 : to bend itself (intransitive verb) - or - to be bent/stooped (adjective)
- 굽어지다 : to (naturally) become bent/stooped : (This "naturally" means "not by someone intentionally")
- ※ Intransitive verbs, such as 굽다1, 죽다, 숨다, 남다, ordinarily can't take the passive ending -어지다, so 굽어지다 is grammatically problematic. (It's the same in English. Intransitive verbs, such as remain, happen, die, cannnot be passive.) To solve this issue, the Korea university Korean dictionary (고려대 한국어대사전) separates 굽다1 into two different words: 굽다1 as a verb (to bend itself) and 굽다1 as an adjective (to be bent/stooped). When 굽다1 is an adjective, 굽어지다 (to become bent/stooped) makes sense. Technically, "adjective + 어지다" is not the passive form but it is practically not distinguished from the "verb + 어지다" passive form. I will explain about adjectives again.
- 굽게 하다1 (?) : to make something be bent/stooped , to bend something : (-게 하다 is always causative. Technically, this is correct but hardly used because there is another causative form 굽히다. It seems the Bible in Korean version uses this 굽게 하다 because it gives a unique unusual nuance.)
- 굽히다 : to make something be bent/stooped , to bend something : (This -히 is causative)
- 굽혀지다 : to become bent by someone : (causative -히 + passive -어지다. Try to pronounce 굽히어지다 fast then you get 굽혀지다.)
- 굽다2 : to bake (something)
- 굽히다2 (X) : (This is a theoretically expected passive or causative form of 굽다2 but according to the standard Korean dictionary, this is wrong.)
- 구워지다 : to be baked : (-어지다 is always passive. In this case, 굽다 follows the ㅂ irregular conjugation rule. Try to pronounce 구우어지다 fast then you get 구워지다.)
- 굽게 하다2 : to make/let someone bake (something) : (-게 하다 is always causative. Since 굽게 하다1 is hardly used, you can assume 굽게 하다 is this thing in most cases)
In the example above, -히 is a causative suffix, but it can be a passive suffix either in many other verbs.
- 먹다 : to eat
- 먹어지다 (?) : to be eaten : (-어지다 is always passive. Technically, this is correct but hardly used because there is another passive form 먹히다. You'll probably never see or use this form.)
- 먹히다 : to be eaten : (This -히 is passive)
- 먹혀지다 (X) : to be eaten : (passive -히 + passive -어지다. This is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 먹이다 (먹게 하다) : to make/let someone eat , to feed : (This -이 is causative)
- 먹여지다 : to be fed : (causative -이 + passive -어지다. This is correct but hardly used.)
- ※ To be precise, the exact meaning of 먹어지다 and 먹히다 is slightly different. It's so subtle, very hard to explain in English. Let's say you are trying to eat a metal spoon now (it looks physically impossible to chew and swallow), then I would say 그게 먹어져요? (Can it be eaten?), but I wouldn't say 그게 먹혀요? (Is it eaten?). -어지다 can imply "(physically) possible" in some verbs.
- ※ In Korean, "I was fed (내가 먹여졌다)" means "I became food for an animal (and I was thrown into the mouth of the animal)", because the subject of the passive verb must be the direct object of the active verb. (I have already explained about it at the beginning of this page.) Hence, "내가 먹여졌다 (I was fed)" doesn't make sense and you'll never see it in Korean. If you have to use 먹여지다, the expression should be like "나에게(to me) 밥이(rice) 먹여졌다(was fed)". The subject has to be some sort of food. After all, Koreans rarely use the verb 먹여지다 in the first place.
For many verbs, the passive and the causative forms are morphologically identical.
- 보다 : to see
- 보아지다 (봐지다) (?) : to be seen : (-아지다 is always passive. Technically, this is correct but hardly used because there is another passive form 보이다1. You'll probably never see or use this form.)
- 보이다1 : to be seen : (This -이 is passive)
- 보여지다1 (X) : to be seen : (passive -이 + passive -어지다. This usage is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 보이다2 (보게 하다) : to make/let someone see , to show : (This -이 is causative. To avoid confusion, 보여주다 (보이다2 + -어주다) is used in most cases)
- 보여지다2 : to be shown : (causative -이 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 마침내 그 끔찍한 진실이 관객들에게 보여졌다: Finally, the horrendous truth was shown to the audience)
- 듣다 : to hear : (This verb follows the ㄷ irregular conjugation rule)
- 들어지다 (?) : to be heard : (-어지다 is always passive. Technically, this is correct but hardly used because there is another passive form 들리다1. You'll probably never see or use this form.)
- 들리다1 : to be heard : (This -리 is passive)
- 들려지다1 (X) : to be heard : (passive -리 + passive -어지다. This usage is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 들리다2 (듣게 하다) : to make/let someone hear, to tell(when talking) : (This -리 is causative. To avoid confusion, 들려주다 (들리다2 + -어주다) is used in most cases) : (e.g. 내 노래를 들려줄게 (듣게 해줄게): I'll let you hear my song)
- 들려지다2 : passive form of 들리다2 : (causative -리 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 너의 노래가 나에게 들려졌다: Your song was told(heard) to me)
- ※ 들리다1 is simply "to be heard" whereas 들려지다2 is like someone is deliberately moving the source of the sound to your ears because he wants you to hear it. Likewise, 보이다1 is simply "to be seen" whereas 보여지다2(to be shown) is like someone is deliberately moving something in front of your eyes because he wants you to see it. If you can notice the difference between "진실이 보였다 (the truth was seen)" and "진실이 보여졌다 (the truth was shown)", you can also know the difference between "너의 노래가 들렸다 (your song was heard)" and "너의 노래가 들려졌다 (your song was VERB)". I think there is no adequate verb for 들려지다2 in English, so you should imagine it. The closest approximation is "your song was told to me (you caused me to hear it)".
- ※ In the Gyeongsang and Hamgyŏng dialects, 듣기다 is used instead of 들리다1. In these dialects, 듣기다(passive) and 들리다(causative) are different. Any dialect is the correct Korean language.
- ※ The passive ending -어지다 changed to -아지다 in 보아지다. If you don't know why it changes, see Vowel harmony.
Many verbs have two possible passive forms but only one of them is preferred in most cases. (The less preferred one might even sound unnatural) For some verbs, however, the two passive forms are equally preferred, either one is fine.
- 믿다 : to believe
- 믿기다 : to be believed : (This -기 is passive)
- 믿어지다 : to be believed : (-어지다 is passive)
- 믿겨지다 (X) : to be believed : (passive -기 + passive -어지다. This is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 믿게 하다 : to make/let someone believe something : (For this verb, only the -게 하다 causative is possible and there is no alternative causative form.)
- 끊다 : to cut
- 끊기다 : to be cut : (This -기 is passive)
- 끊어지다 : to be cut : (-어지다 is passive)
- 끊겨지다 (X) : to be cut : (passive -기 + passive -어지다. This is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 끊게 하다 : to make/let someone cut something : (For this verb, only the -게 하다 causative is possible and there is no alternative causative form)
- ※ 끊다 has another passive-alike form 끊이다. This word is almost only used in negative forms "끊이지 않다 (never be cut/stopped, constantly continuous)" , "끊임(이) 없다 (there is no cutting/stopping, constantly continuous)".
- ※ If you are trying to cut a rope with your bare hands (it looks physically impossible), I would say 그게 끊어져요? (Can it be cut?) but I wouldn't say 그게 끊겨요? (Is it cut?). It's the same thing in 먹어지다 and 먹히다 mentioned above. There is a subtle difference between them.
- ※ To be precise, there are many more ways to express causative, like -게 만들다, -게끔 하다, -게끔 만들다, -도록 하다, -도록 만들다 (they may have different nuances), but the basic syntactic causative form is -게 하다.
There are some verbs that even most native Koreans fail to conjugate correctly.
- 잊다 : to forget
- 잊히다 : to be forgotten : (passive -히)
- 잊어지다 : to be forgotten : (passive -어지다. This form is correct but hardly used)
- 잊혀지다 (X) : to be forgotten : (A double passive using both -히 and -어지다. This is wrong.)
- 잊게 하다 : to make/let someone forget something : (For this verb, only the -게 하다 causative is possible and there is no alternative causative form.)
Not to be confused with the normal causative+passive forms. (They look like the double passive forms, but they are different.)
- 남다 : to remain : (intransitive)
- 남기다 (남게 하다) : to make/let something remain, to leave something : (causative -기. Not to be confused with 떠나다 meaning "to depart, to leave")
- 남겨지다 : to be left : (causative -기 + passive -어지다)
- 숨다 : to hide : (intransitive)
- 숨기다 (숨게 하다) : to make/let something hide, to hide something : (causative -기)
- 숨겨지다 : to become hidden by someone : (causative -기 + passive -어지다)
- ※ 숨어라(숨다 + 어라) and 숨겨라(숨기다 + 어라) are both imperative sentences without an object but they have different meanings. 숨어라 means "Hide (yourself)", whereas 숨겨라 means "Hide it". Even if there is no object, 숨겨라 indicates there must be an object (but it's just omitted), whereas 숨어라 indicates there can't be an object because 숨다 is an intransitive verb. In English, these two verbs are not distinguished so you can't omit the object in "Hide it". In Korean, you don't have to say 그것을 숨겨라(Hide it). Just 숨겨라 is totally fine because we already know there must be an omitted object. If I say "Die!" you can know it means "Die (yourself)" because "die" is an intransitive verb and there can't be an object, but if I say "Kill!", you can know there must be an object but it's just omitted. It's the same thing.
- 알다 : to know (something) : (this verb follows the ㄹ irregular conjugation rule)
- 알리다 (알게 하다) : to make/let someone know (something), to inform, to notify : (causative -리)
- 알려지다 : to be informed, to become known : (causative -리 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 닐 암스트롱의 이름이 세상에 알려졌다: Neil Armstrong's name was informed (became known) throughout the world)
- ※ In English, "Neil Armstrong was informed" sounds like "something was informed (to Neil Armstrong)", so I used "Neil Armstrong's name" as the subject in order to eliminate the ambiguity. In Korean, "닐 암스트롱이 알려졌다 (Neil Armstrong was informed)" only means "someone informed (us) about Neil Armstrong". The subject "Neil Armstrong" must be the direct object of the active verb "inform".
- ※ I translated "알려졌다" to "was informed (became known)" as the simple past tense. Then how to make it into the present perfect aspect "has been informed (has become known)" in Korean? In many cases, Korean doesn't particularly distinguish the present perfect from the simple past tense, but there are several ways to express it if you want to. The simplest way is using the -어/-아 있다 form.
- 알려져 있다 : (it) currently exists in a state of informed
- 알려진 상태로 있다 : (when we want to emphasize the current state)
- 알려진 채로 있다 : (this is known to be the closest approximation to the literal meaning of the present perfect in English. I don't recommend using this in actual Korean because it sounds a bit unnatural.)
- 알려져 있다 : (it) currently exists in a state of informed
- From Korean's perspective, the simple past tense is just fine, because simple past is kind of present perfect as well. The past tense ending -었다/-았다 is derived from -어/-아 있다 in the first place. For example, 죽었다(died) was originally 죽어 있다(have died). They were originally the same thing but in modern Korean, they are considered different. 죽었다 is technically "present tense + perfect aspect". That's why some Korean linguists still argue that Korean doesn't have a true past tense. If we compare 남았다(remained) with 남아 있다(remaining), the difference between them is so vague, they are almost the same meaning. This example clearly shows that -었다/-았다 is not a genuine past tense. "I am handsome" is "나는 잘생겼다" in Korean. In this sentence, 잘생겼다(잘생기었다) has a past tense ending -었다, it doesn't make any sense. But if you know 잘생겼다 is originally 잘생겨 있다 (exist in a state of being handsome), now it does make sense. It's actually a present tense, not the past tense.
- In Middle Korean around 600 years ago, the past tense suffix -었/-았 didn't even exist. -더 was the original past tense suffix. -더 is the real past tense suffix. -더 is still used in -던, -던데, -더라, -더라도, -더니, -더라니, -더라고, etc. The present perfect -어/-아 있다 existed first and then the simple past -었다/-았다 branched out from it and replaced the original past tense -더. In modern Korean, -었다/-았다 is considered the simple past (in a loose sense), but it is still like the present perfect because of its origin.
- Conclusion: In a loose sense, -었다/-았다 is generally considered the simple past tense, but to be more precise, it's often more like the present perfect in English (present tense perfect aspect). In other words, -었다/-았다 has two possible meanings and it depends on the context, it's kind of ambiguous. If you want to clarify it, you should use 알려져 있다 (has become known: his name is still famous) or 알려졌었다 (≈ 알려져 있었다, had become known: his name was once famous but not anymore).
- ※ Note that only intransitive verbs can be the -어/-아 있다 form. For example, 먹다(to eat something) is a transitive verb (it can have a direct object), so 먹어 있다 and 먹어 있었다 are wrong. Only 먹었다 and 먹었었다 are correct. 남다 is an intransitive verb (it can't have a direct object), so 남아 있다 and 남아 있었다 are possible. 남기다 is a transitive verb (all causative verbs can have a direct object, so they are transitive) so 남겨 있다 and 남겨 있었다 are wrong. 남겨지다 is an intransitive verb (all passive verbs can't have a direct object, so they are intransitive) so 남겨져 있다 and 남겨져 있었다 are correct. (There are some exceptions. Some verbs, such as 찔리다, 빼앗기다, 잡히다1, can have a direct object even though they are passive verbs.)
Some verbs seldom take the -어/아지다 ending. These exceptional verbs need some special passive forms.
- 죽다 : to die
- 죽이다 : to make/let someone die , to kill : (causative -이)
- 죽여지다 (?) : to be killed (?) : (This is the expected passive form of 죽이다. It might still be used but sounds very unnatural.)
- 죽임을 당하다 : to be killed (by a murderer) : (causative -이 + nominalizer -ㅁ + passive -을 당하다)
- 죽음을 당하다 : to be killed : (If someone is accidentally killed, you should use this form. Notice the causative suffix -이 has been removed. It means either he was murdered or accidentally killed. Maybe it's hard to tell if someone caused the death on purpose and is responsible for it. For example, he may have been killed by a wild animal, or killed by a natural disaster, or killed by an unavoidable car accident. Or he may have incurred his own death, for example, he may have been legally executed for his crime, or got cancer because of his bad habit.)
- 사망(死亡)하다 : to die : (Sino-Korean equivalent)
- 살해(殺害)하다 : to kill : (Sino-Korean equivalent)
- 살해(殺害)되다 : to be killed : (Sino-Korean equivalent)
- 살해(殺害)당하다 (살해당하다 or 살해를 당하다) : to be killed : (Sino-Korean equivalent)
- 피살(被殺)되다 : to be killed : (Sino-Korean equivalent)
- 놀리다 : to tease : (This 놀리다 looks like it's suffixed with -리, but it already is a word. 놀다 has a causative form 놀리다2 but it is a different word.)
- 놀려지다 (?) : to be teased (?) : (This is the expected passive form of 놀리다. It might still be used but sounds very unnatural.)
- 놀림을 받다 (놀림받다) : to be teased : (nominalizer -ㅁ + passive -을 받다)
- 놀림을 당하다 (놀림당하다) : to be teased : (nominalizer -ㅁ + passive -을 당하다)
- 가르치다 : to teach
- 가르쳐지다 : (for something) to be taught : (The subject is the direct object of the active verb. For example, "영어가 가르쳐져야 한다: The English language should be taught")
- 가르침을 받다 : (for someone) to be taught : (The subject is the indirect object of the active verb. For example, "학생들이 가르침을 받았다: The students were taught")
- ※ Although 가르쳐지다 is correct, Koreans hardly use it. The active voice sentence "영어를 가르쳐야 한다(Should teach English)" is much more common.
- ※ An indirect object of a verb generally cannot be the subject of the passive verb, but the verb 가르치다 is an exceptional case. When the direct object 영어를 is omitted, 학생들에게(indirect object) can become 학생들을(direct object), so that it can be the subject of the passive verb.
묻다 has three meanings and each of them has different conjugational forms.
- 묻다1 : to bury
- 묻히다1 : to be buried : (This -히 is passive)
- 묻어지다 : to be buried : (passive -어지다. This form is correct but hardly used)
- 묻혀지다1 (X) : to be buried : (passive -히 + passive -어지다, this usage is wrong as it is a double passive)
- 묻게 하다 : to make/let someone bury something : (For this verb, only the -게 하다 causative is possible and there is no alternative causative form.)
- 묻다2 : to be smeared with : (intransitive) : (e.g. 내 손에 피가 묻었다 : My hands were smeared with blood)
- 묻게 하다 (?) : to make/let something be smeared with, to smear with : (causative -게 하다. Technically, this is correct but hardly used because there is another causative form 묻히다2.)
- 묻히다2 : to make/let something be smeared with, to smear with : (This -히 is causative. Note that the previous 묻히다1 is passive) : (e.g. 내 손에 피를 묻혔다 : Smeared my hands with blood)
- 묻혀지다2 : passive form of 묻히다2 : (causative -히 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 내 손에 피가 묻혀졌다 : My hands were smeared with blood (by someone intentionally))
- 묻다3 : to question : (This verb follows the ㄷ irregular conjugation rule.)
- 물어지다 (?) : to be questioned (?) : (This is the expected passive form of 묻다3, but this is not used. It sounds very unnatural.)
- 물음을 받다 : to be questioned : (nominalizer -ㅁ + passive -을 받다) : (This is the correct passive form of 묻다3)
- 질문(質問)을 받다 : to be questioned : (This Sino-Korean alternative is more frequently used than 물음을 받다)
- 물어보게 하다 : to make/let someone question something : (causative form in -게 하다. Theoretically, it should be 묻게 하다 but this can be misunderstood as the 묻다1 verb.)
- ※ In English, the word "question" could be either a noun or a verb without changing its form, but this kind of flexibility doesn't exist in Korean. It is called "zero derivation" and it inevitably causes grammatical ambiguities, and makes the language resort to word order to figure out whether it is a verb or a noun, that's an analytic language. A noun and a verb can't have the same form in Korean. There is no exception. For example, 사랑 is a noun and its verb form is 사랑하다. 물음 is a noun and its verb form is 묻다.
Adjectives can also become passive and causative verbs.
- 낮다 : be(is) low : (adjective)
- 낮아지다 : to become low : (-아지다, verb)
- 낮추다 : to make something be low , to lower something : (낮다 + causative -추)
- 낮춰지다 : to become lowered by someone : (causative -추 + passive -어지다)
- 높다 : be(is) high : (adjective)
- 높아지다 : to become high : (-아지다, verb)
- 높이다 : to make something be high , to raise something : (높다 + causative -이)
- 높여지다 : to become raised by someone : (causative -이 + passive -어지다)
- ※ To be precise, -어/-아지다 means "to become" when it is attached to adjectives, so 낮아지다 and 높아지다 shouldn't be called "passive form" but they look exactly like the -어/-아지다 passive form.
Some causative forms suffixed with -우 are inflected with the vowel ㅣ.
- 자다 : to sleep
- 재우다 (자게 하다) : to make/let someone sleep : (자 + ㅣ + 우 + 다)
- 재워지다 : passive form of 재우다 : (causative -우 + passive -어지다)
- 차다1 : to fill (intransitive. 차다 has many meanings and their conjugational forms are different by each meaning, as in 묻다 explained above.)
- 채우다1 (차게 하다1) : to make something filled, to fill something : (차 + ㅣ + 우 + 다)
- 채워지다1 : to be filled : (causative -우 + passive -어지다)
- 서다 : to stand
- 세우다 (서게 하다) : to make/let something stand, to erect something : (서 + ㅣ + 우 + 다)
- 세워지다 : to be erected : (causative -우 + passive -어지다)
Some verbs have multiple causative forms.
- 눕다 : to lie (down) : (intransitive)
- 눕게 하다 : to make someone lie (down), to lay someone (down) : (causative -게 하다)
- 눕히다 : to make someone lie (down), to lay someone (down) : (causative -히)
- 눕혀지다 : to be laid (down) : (causative -히 + passive -어지다)
- 누이다 (뉘다) : to make someone lie (down), to lay someone (down) : (눕다 + 이 → 눕이다 → 누우이다 → 누이다 → 뉘다)
- 누여지다 : to be laid (down) : (causative -이 + passive -어지다)
Double causative forms are possible and correct.
- 죽이다 (죽게 하다) : to make someone die, to kill
- 죽이게 하다 : to make someone kill (causative -이 + causative -게 하다) : (e.g. "Hey John, kill Lisa" → I made John make Lisa die)
- 재우다 (자게 하다) : to make someone sleep
- 재우게 하다 : to make someone1 make someone2 sleep : (e.g. "Hey Lisa, put me to sleep" → I made Lisa make me sleep)
- ※ I made John make Lisa die = 나는 John이 Lisa를 죽이게 했다
The 르 irregular verbs follow a special pattern.
- 구르다 : to roll (itself)
- 굴리다 : to make something roll, to roll something : (causative -리)
- 굴려지다 : passive form of 굴리다
- 누르다 : to press
- 눌리다 : to be pressed : (passive -리)
- 눌러지다 : to be pressed : (passive -어지다)
- 눌려지다 (X) : to be pressed : (double passive, this is wrong)
- ※ 굴리다 and 눌리다 have the same pattern, seemingly they are easy. However, 굴리다 is causative, 눌리다 is passive. When the four suffixes -이, -히, -리, -기 are attached, there is no specific way to know which one is passive and which one is causative. You have to just memorize them whenever you encounter new words. You have to look up in a dictionary to know if they are passive or causative. If you find this grammar part very confusing, it is normal. I guess you are doing well. Welcome to the most illogical and absurd part of Korean. This part will be the final hurdle on the road to master Korean grammar. I will explain in detail again.
Some passive verbs don't have their active forms. For example, 고이다 works like a passive verb (passive -이), but its expected active form 고다 or 고으다 is not used. 고다2 that you can find in the Korean dictionary is a homonym, a different word. What's more, the passive form of 고다2 is 고아지다 (고다 + -아지다), not 고이다2. In short,
- 고다1 (X) : (This word doesn't exist)
- 고이다1 : to be gathered and form a puddle : (passive -이) : (e.g. 눈물이 고였다 : Tears were gathered and formed a puddle)
- 고여지다 (X) : (passive -이 + passive -어지다. This is wrong as it is a double passive.)
- 고다2 : to boil meat or bone for a long time and extract juice from it
- 고이다2 (X) : (This is a theoretically expected passive or causative form of 고다2 but according to the standard Korean dictionary, this is wrong.)
- 고아지다 : to be boiled : (고다2 + passive -아지다)
- ※ form and gather are both ergative verbs. (There are a ton of ergative verbs in English.) Remember, in Korean, you must use passive and forget about ergative.
- Tears formed in my eyes : (ergative)
- Tears were formed in my eyes (by my lacrimal glands) : (passive)
- My lacrimal glands formed tears in my eyes : (active)
- People gathered : (ergative)
- People were gathered : (passive)
- Something gathered people : (active)
멈추다 and 움직이다 are exceptional verbs that can be either transitive or intransitive(ergative) without changing their forms. They are pretty much like the ergative verbs in English.
- 멈다 (X) : (This word doesn't exist)
- 멈추다1 : to make something stop, to stop something : (This -추 works like a causative suffix although 멈다 doesn't exist.) : (e.g. 내가 차를 멈췄다(멈추었다) : I stopped the car)
- 멈추다2 : to stop (itself) : (This is the weird point. It can also be an intransitive verb without changing its spelling) : (e.g. 차가 멈췄다(멈추었다) : The car stopped)
- 멈춰지다 (멈추어지다) : to be stopped : (causative -추 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 차가 멈춰졌다(멈추어지었다) : The car was stopped)
- 움직다 (X) : (This word doesn't exist)
- 움직이다1 : to make something move, to move something : (This -이 works like a causative suffix although 움직다 doesn't exist.) : (e.g. 내가 차를 움직였다(움직이었다) : I moved the car)
- 움직이다2 : to move (itself) : (This is the weird point. It can also be an intransitive verb without changing its spelling) : (e.g. 차가 움직였다(움직이었다) : The car moved)
- 움직여지다 (움직이어지다) : to be moved : (causative -이 + passive -어지다) : (e.g. 차가 움직여졌다(움직이어지었다) : The car was moved)
- ※ As you can see, 멈추다 and 움직이다 work exactly like the English verbs stop and move which are ergative verbs. 차(the car) can be either a subject or an object but the verbs (멈추- and 움직이-) remain the same. You can also use the passive verbs 멈춰지다(멈추어지다) and 움직여지다(움직이어지다), but they are unnecessary in many cases, just like be stopped and be moved are in English. These two verbs must be very easy to learn for English speakers.
- ※ If 멈추다 and 움직이다 were regular verbs, the intransitive verbs should be 멈다 and 움직다, not 멈추다2 and 움직이다2. That's why they are exceptional cases. (Note: 멈추다2 can be replaced with 멎다, which is the original intransitive verb)
- ※ Korean ergative verbs : 멈추다, 움직이다, 그치다, 마치다, 다치다, 뭉치다, 풍기다, 다하다, 상하다, 반짝이다, 내리다, 울리다, 불다, 휘다, 데다, 시작하다, 작동하다, 정지하다 (In many cases, these verbs don't work ergatively, so you should check their specific usages.)
- ※ In Middle Korean around 600 years ago, Korean had a lot more ergative verbs. For example, in Middle Korean, 문이 열다(a door opens) was correct, but in modern Korean, you must use the passive verb 열리다 (문이 열리다 : a door gets opened). For hundreds of years, Korean has been ditching its ergative constructions and evolving into a true nominative-accusative language. The evolution is still ongoing. For example, I introduced 마치다 as an ergative verb, but its ergative usage is nearly obsolete now. It's safe to assume 마치다 is just a regular verb. (Technically, 일을 마치다 and 일이 마치다 both are correct, but the ergative sentence 일이 마치다 is nearly obsolete and some may even consider it unnatural. In the near future, only 일이 마쳐지다(passive -어지다) will be considered correct.) 시작하다 is also an ergative verb and its ergative usage is nearly obsolete. At the beginning of this page, I explained that only "게임이 시작됐다(시작되었다)" is correct, but technically "게임이 시작했다(시작하였다)" is also correct (no one would speak like that nowadays).
Verbs that end with -나다, such as 끝나다, 빛나다, are often explained as passive verbs, but they're not that easy to explain and can be controversial. You can simply treat them as intransitive verbs. All -나다 verbs are intransitive, and when the causative suffix -이 is attached, they become transitive -내다. [나다 + causative -이 → 나이다 → 내다]
- 끝나다 : to end (intransitive, there is no object) : (e.g. 시험이 끝났다 : The exam ended)
- 끝내다 (끝나게 하다) : to make something end, to end something, to finish something : (e.g. 시험을 끝냈다 : (I) finished the exam)
- 고장 나다 : to break (intransitive, there is no object) : (e.g. 내 컴퓨터가 고장 났다 : My computer broke down)
- 고장 내다 (고장 나게 하다) : to make something break, to break something : (e.g. 내 컴퓨터를 고장 냈다 : (I) broke my computer)
- 빛나다 : to shine (intransitive, there is no object)
- 빛내다 (빛나게 하다) : to make something shine
- 드러나다 : to be revealed : (This is supposed to be an intransitive verb but I translated to a passive verb because the English verb reveal doesn't work as an intransitive verb. There is no object anyway.)
- 드러내다 (드러나게 하다) : to reveal something
- 나타나다 : to show up (intransitive, there is no object)
- 나타내다 (나타나게 하다) : to make something show up, to represent something
- ※ For some reason, 고장나다 and 고장내다 have not become words in the standard Korean dictionary, so technically we are supposed to put a space like 고장(이) 나다 and 고장(을) 내다, but most Koreans are not bothered about it. This is not important so don't mind it.
- ※ Double causative forms like "끝내게 하다, 빛내게 하다" are also possible. I have already explained about the double causative forms.
- ※ Many -나다 verbs, such as 기억나다, 깨어나다, don't have -내다 form. (기억내다, 깨어내다 are wrong. You must use the alternative causative form 기억나게 하다, 깨어나게 하다.)
- ※ Many -내다 verbs, such as 끌어내다, 뜯어내다, don't have -나다 form. (끌어나다, 뜯어나다 are wrong.)
- ※ Exceptions: 떠나다, 만나다, 지나다 are transitive verbs even though they end with -나다. (Unlike other -나다 verbs, they can have a direct object.)
- ※ Exceptions: Some verbs for expressing emotions, such as 화나다-화내다, 힘나다-힘내다, 성나다-성내다, 성질나다-성질내다, 짜증 나다-짜증 내다, 신경질 나다-신경질 내다 are all intransitive verbs. In this case, -내다 is not interchangeable with -나게 하다, it works differently.
- 화나다 : to get angry (anger begins to arise in one's mind, but others may not notice it)
- 화나게 하다 : to make someone get angry : (causative -게 하다)
- 화내다 : to openly vent one's anger : (In this case, 화내다 is not a causative form of 화나다.)
- 화내게 하다 : to make someone openly vent his anger : (causative -게 하다. This is not a double causative form.)
When verbs have a -하다 (to do) ending, the conjugations are different from the rules above. Most Hanja words (Chinese loanwords) belong to this part. When 하다 verbs have a monosyllabic stem, they tend to take the -어/-아지다 ending.
Note that the 하다 verb itself is irregular.
[하다 + -어/-아지다 → 하여지다 → 해지다]
- 칠하다 : to paint
- 칠해지다 (칠하여지다) : to be painted
- 정하다 : to decide
- 정해지다 (정하여지다) : to be decided
Note that there are many exceptions, this is not an established principle. For example, 변하다 (to change) is unconditionally an intransitive verb so it can't take the passive ending -어/-아지다. If you use 변해지다 which is wrong, Koreans will instantly notice that you are not a native speaker. The native Korean counterpart to "to change", 바꾸다, has a normal passive form 바뀌다(바꾸이다). In short,
- 변하다 : to change (itself) : (intransitive)
- 바꾸다 : to change (something) : (active)
- 바뀌다 : to be changed : (passive)
바뀌다 and 변하다 are kind of interchangeable. For example,
- 내 마음이 바뀌었다(My mind was changed) ≈ 내 마음이 변했다(My mind changed) : 내 마음(my mind) is the subject of the sentence
바꾸다(active) can't be replaced with 변하다.
- [I] Changed my mind = 내 마음을 바꾸었다(바꿨다) : 내 마음(my mind) is the object of the sentence
- ※ If you want the stem 변 to be transitive, you must use other correct transitive verbs such as 변경하다, 변화시키다.
When 하다 verbs have a polysyllabic stem, they don't add the -어/-아지다 ending. Instead, the 하다 ending changes to 되다 or 받다 or 당하다. (You should memorize which one to use for individual verbs. Some verbs can take two out of the three.)
- 결정하다 : to decide
- 결정되다 : to be decided (Note: 결정하다 is a synonym of 정하다 above, the only difference is the prefix 결, but they follow different rules.)
- 사랑하다 : to love
- 사랑받다 (사랑을 받다) : to be loved (받다 means "to receive")
- 구타하다 : to beat up
- 구타당하다 (구타를 당하다) : to be beaten up (당하다 means "to undergo/suffer")
Note that Korean adjectives can have -하다 ending too, but the 하다 in adjectives is a different thing and doesn't mean "to do". The conjugation are also different. They take the -어/-아지다 and the -게 되다 endings like verbs, but the 시키다 causative form is not used. This poses another difficulty because 하다 verbs and adjectives look the same, so you can't determine if they are verbs or adjectives unless you look up in a dictionary. You should first figure out if they are verbs or adjectives, then you can apply correct conjugation rules.
- 깨끗하다 : be(is) clean : (adjective)
- 깨끗해지다 : to become clean : (verb)
- 깨끗하게 되다 : to become clean : (verb)
- 깨끗하게 하다 : to make/let something be(is) clean : (-게 하다 causative)
- 깨끗해지게 하다 : to make/let something become clean : (-게 하다 causative)
- ※ Note: For 하다 adjectives, whether the stem is monosyllabic or polysyllabic doesn't matter. It is always "하다 → 해지다" and "하다 → 하게 되다". (It only matters to 하다 verbs)
Some "adjective + -어/-아하다" verbs, such as 좋아하다, 싫어하다, don't have any passive form.
- 좋아하다 (좋다 + -아하다) : to like : (There is no passive form for this verb. You can't make a passive voice sentence.)
- 싫어하다 (싫다 + -어하다) : to dislike : (There is no passive form for this verb. You can't make a passive voice sentence.)
- 무서워하다 (무섭다 + -어하다) : to fear : (There is no passive form for this verb. You can't make a passive voice sentence.)
- ※ 무섭다(to be scary) follows the ㅂ irregular conjugation rule.
- ※ You've just been taught that the passive form of 하다 is 해지다(하여지다) or 되다/받다/당하다. You might expect the passive form of 좋아하다 would be 좋아해지다 or 좋아되다/좋아받다/좋아당하다. None of these are correct.
Some "adjective + -어/-아하다" verbs have possible passive forms.
- 귀여워하다 (귀엽다 + -어하다) : to adore
- 귀여움받다 (귀여움을 받다) : to be adored
- 미워하다 (밉다 + -어하다) : to hate
- 미움받다 (미움을 받다) : to be hated
- ※ 귀엽다(to be cute) and 밉다(to be detestable) follow the ㅂ irregular conjugation rule.
The causative form of 하다 is 시키다.
- 실행하다 : to carry out
- 실행시키다 : to make someone carry out something
- 실행하게 하다 : to make someone carry out something
- ※ Note: Only when 하다 verbs have a polysyllabic stem, they can take -시키다. For example, 변하다 is a verb but the stem 변 is monosyllabic, so 변시키다 is wrong, you must use 변하게 하다. 깨끗하다 is an adjective, so 깨끗시키다 is wrong.
- ※ Note: Many 하다 verbs with a polysyllabic stem don't take -시키다. For example, 사랑하다 is a verb and the stem 사랑 is polysyllabic, (it meets all the conditions to take -시키다) but 사랑시키다 is not used. -하게 하다 can be applied universally.
- ※ "I ran Photoshop on my computer" Does this sentence really make sense? From Korean's perspective, I think this sentence is a little bit weird. (I mean it's mostly fine and still fully comprehensible but there is a more decent way to describe it.) You are a human so you can't run the Photoshop program designed for computer machines. The agent that runs Photoshop is your computer, not yourself. All you are doing is just making your computer run Photoshop. (포토샵을 실행시켰다 : (I) made (my computer) run Photoshop - or - (I) made Photoshop run (itself on my computer)) (There are two possible translations. The direct object of 시키다 is kind of ambiguous.)
Note that (하)게 하다 and (하)게 되다 are different. (하)게 하다 is a causative form for verbs and adjectives, (하)게 되다 is like "to become" for adjectives. When verbs take (하)게 되다, the meaning is slightly different. It's like "end up doing / get to do".
- 결정하다 : to decide : (verb)
- 결정되다 : to be decided : (verb)
- 결정하게 하다 : to make/let someone decide something : (-게 하다 causative. The 시키다 causative form is not used for this verb)
- 결정되게 하다 : to make/let something be decided : (-게 하다 causative)
- 결정하게 되다 : to end up deciding something , to get to decide something
- 결정되게 되다 : to end up being decided : (Same with other non-되다 passive verbs. For example, [정해지게 되다 : to end up being decided] , [구타당하게 되다 : to end up being beaten up] , [먹히게 되다 : to end up being eaten])
- 결정해지다 (X) : (If you don't understand why this is wrong, read the explanation again. Hint : 결정하다 is a verb and the stem 결정 is polysyllabic.)
- 익숙하다 : be(is) accustomed : (adjective)
- 익숙하게 되다 : to become accustomed : (verb)
- 익숙해지다 : to become accustomed : (verb)
- 익숙해지게 하다 : to make/let someone become accustomed : (verb, -게 하다 causative)
- 익숙되다, 익숙받다, 익숙당하다 (X) : (If you don't understand why this is wrong, read the explanation again. Hint : 익숙하다 is an adjective.)
In short, the conjugations for the passive and the causative forms vary with individual verbs, but there are some patterns. (Most passive verbs take one of -이, -히, -리, -기 or -어/-아지다 or -되다/-받다/-당하다. Most causative verbs take one of -이, -히, -리, -기, -우 ,-구, -추 or -게 하다 or -시키다). The three suffixes -우, -구, -추 are unconditionally causative, so they are no problem, but the four suffixes -이, -히, -리, -기 are particularly tricky as they could be either passive or causative (or sometimes both). Let's see possible scenarios.
- ⑴ When adjectives are suffixed with one of -이, -히, -리, -기, they are most likely causative. (넓다(to be wide) is an adjective so you can expect 넓히다(to widen something) is causative.)
- ⑵ When intransitive verbs are suffixed with one of -이, -히, -리, -기, they are most likely causative. (얼다(to freeze) is unconditionally an intransitive verb so you can expect 얼리다(to freeze something) is causative)
- ⑶ When transitive verbs are suffixed with one of -이, -히, -리, -기, you need a Korean dictionary to figure them out.
- ① Case one : -이, -히, -리, -기 are only passive (잊히다, 끊기다, 믿기다, 밀리다, 모이다, 쌓이다, etc)
- ② Case two : -이, -히, -리, -기 are only causative (알리다, 넘기다, 맞히다, 입히다, 맡기다, 신기다, etc)
- ③ Case three : -이, -히, -리, -기 are either passive or causative in the same form (보이다, 들리다, 업히다, 뜯기다, 읽히다, 털리다, etc)
- ④ Case four : -이, -히, -리, -기 are either passive or causative in different forms (먹히다-먹이다)
- ⑤ Case five : -이, -히, -리, -기 are either passive or causative depending on the meaning of the stem (묻히다1 is only passive, but 묻히다2 is only causative. 불리다, 물리다, 들리다, etc can be many different meanings.) (묻다2 is intransitive, by the way)
- ① Case one : -이, -히, -리, -기 are only passive (잊히다, 끊기다, 믿기다, 밀리다, 모이다, 쌓이다, etc)
If you come across those words that you don't know, you can't really determine whether they are passive or causative unless you look up in a Korean dictionary, because the meaning of those four suffixes in individual verbs is arbitrary. (If you come across a "-ed" suffixed English word that you don't know, you can soon figure out that it is a past tense suffix for a verb, but you can't determine the function of the four Korean suffixes without a Korean dictionary) Besides, when they have the -하다 ending, you have to figure out if they are verbs or adjectives, because verbs and adjectives follow different rules despite looking exactly the same things. That's why many Korean materials for foreigners skip over this grammar part. They (those who created Korean materials for foreigners) often say "Passive verbs are not much used in Korean" or "Passive verbs are not as common as the passive voice in English". The first argument is wrong. Passive verbs are very common in Korean in fact. The second argument might be true in many cases, but I'm dubious about whether it's concluded from any valid statistics. As previously shown, many active voice English expressions should be translated to the passive form in Korean, but it is often ignored. It seems like many Koreans aren't even aware that they are actually speaking in the passive form. I have never seen someone explain 믿기지 않다 or 믿어지지 않다 or 믿겨지지 않다 as the passive form. Most people just explain it as "can't believe". That's how you end up thinking the passive form is not common in Korean without understanding the underlying grammar structure. Depending on the situation, the passive form in Korean could be even more common than the passive voice in English.
There is another problem. Currently, all Korean-English dictionaries are designed for Koreans trying to learn English, not for foreigners trying to learn Korean. Even the Korean-English Learners' dictionary operated by the Korean government is not so friendly to English speakers. 맺히다 is a passive form of 맺다, but in any Korean-English dictionary, there is no such information about it being a passive form, and the definition doesn't even look like a passive verb, because English speakers seldom use the passive voice for this verb. If you find 팔리다 in the dictionary, the definition is either "sell" or "be sold" so English speakers may misunderstand 팔리다 has both meanings, but it is in fact the English word "sell" that has both meanings 팔다(to sell) and 팔리다(to be sold). I have already explained about 팔리다 at the beginning of this page. 열다 and 열리다 are even the same meaning "open" according to the dictionary. Therefore, you should find these words in a Korean-Korean dictionary, specifically, the standard Korean dictionary (표준국어대사전). 피동사 means passive verb, 사동사 means causative verb so you can finally be 100% sure about them. If you can understand Japanese or Chinese, you can use Korean-Japanese or Korean-Chinese dictionaries, in which 맺히다 is correctly explained as a passive verb of 맺다. Somehow Korean dictionaries are much more friendly to Japanese and Chinese speakers.
In the standard Korean dictionary, most -어/-아지다 passive verbs are not included. Only some very commonly used -어/-아지다 passive verbs are included. For example, if you look up 세워지다 in the dictionary, it doesn't exist as a headword, but it still appears in definitions for other Korean words. It's because -어/-아지다 is originally an auxiliary verb. Strictly speaking, a -어/-아지다 passive verb is not a single word. 세워지다 is originally 세워 지다 (notice the spacing), which consists of two words, but we just treat it as a word for the sake of convenience. It's like "can believe" is not included as a word in the English dictionary, because it consists of two words (auxiliary verb + verb). I have introduced many -어/-아지다 passive verbs that are not included in the standard Korean dictionary, but they are all correct forms. Likewise, the -게 하다 causative forms are not included in the dictionary. For example, if you look up 서게 하다 in the dictionary, it doesn't exist as a headword but still appears in definitions for other Korean words. We don't put a space in 세워지다 even though it consists of two words, but we must put a space in 서게 하다. As for 이, 히, 리, 기 passive verbs and 이, 히, 리, 기, 우, 구, 추 causative verbs, every single word is included in the standard Korean dictionary. If you can't find a word suffixed with one of those things, that means it is a wrong word and doesn't exist in Korean (as 굽히다2 and 고이다2 explained above). If you are looking for non-standard dialectal forms, you should use other dictionaries such as 고려대 한국어대사전, 우리말샘.
This grammar part is very confusing even for native Korean speakers. Many Koreans are still using double passive words like 잊혀지다, because they are not sure about the function of the -히 suffix. It feels like 잊히다 is not sufficient to represent a passive form, because -히 works as causative suffixes in many other verbs (as in 굽히다 and 묻히다2 above), so they just add the passive ending -어/-아지다 again to make sure that it is a passive form. (Try to imagine a word like "forgottened" which has an extra "-ed" suffix. That's what's called the double passive in Korean. Now think about the word "enlightened". The "-ened" suffix in "enlightened" is working like causative(-en) + passive(-ed), whereas the "-ened" suffix in "forgottened" is just a double passive. Now imagine there are tons of these things in English. It would be very confusing and at some point, you won't be sure if "forgottened" is correct or wrong, because there are many similar looking but correct words like "enlightened". It's exactly what is happening in Korean.) I think they (those who created Korean materials for foreigners) are just avoiding some nettlesome parts. Who would want to freak out their customers? In practice, each form of every verb should be memorized.
※ Further explanation about the passive form and the attributive form.
In English, somehow the past participles are used for the passive voice, so English speakers naturally relate the completely different two concepts. In Korean, however, past tense has nothing to do with the passive form. They are morphologically completely different. Besides, English verbs don't have any attributive conjugational form. The verb conjugations are much simpler in English so it is causing misunderstandings or difficulties of Korean for English speakers. Think about this phrase "a pretty girl". English speakers never say "a pretty-ed girl" or "a pretty-will girl" so it is basically impossible to naturally convey connotations of Korean. I hope the following over specific translations can convey this Korean part.
A passive verb, for example, 먹히다 (to be eaten) is the infinitive form (the basic verb form used in the dictionary), it doesn't even have any tense (it is not present tense. it literally has no tense whatsoever), so you should conjugate it in actual Korean. Let's make it into the attributive form with past tense.
- 먹힌 닭 : a chicken that was eaten , a chicken that has been eaten (an eaten chicken)
먹힌 alone implies three additional connotations along with the basic meaning "to eat". -히 stands for the passive form, -ㄴ/은 stands for past tense and the attributive form combined. If the verb stem has an ending consonant (e.g., 먹 in 먹다), -은 is used instead (먹다→먹은 as opposed to 먹히다→먹힌). Let's change it into present tense.
- 먹히는 닭 : a chicken that is eaten (a chicken that is being eaten. Similar to 먹히고 있는 닭)
-히 stands for the passive form, -는 stands for present tense and the attributive form combined. It looks exactly like 먹히 is a noun and -는 is the topic marker. It may be greatly confusing for beginners. It is what learners have to overcome. Let's change it into future tense.
- 먹힐 닭 : a chicken that will be eaten , a chicken that is going to be eaten (English doesn't have a grammatical future tense but Korean does.)
-히 stands for the passive form, -ㄹ/을 stands for future tense and the attributive form combined. Let's change it into past-future tense.
- 먹혔을 닭 : a chicken that would have been eaten (먹 + 히 + 었 + 을 → 먹혔을)
-히 stands for the passive form, -었 stands for past tense, -을 stands for future tense and the attributive form combined. See more variations.
- 먹히던 닭 : a chicken that was being eaten (-던 implies the speaker is thinking about the past retrospectively)
- 먹혔던 닭 : a chicken that was eaten before (Similar to 먹힌 닭, retrospectively)
- 먹혔었던 닭 : a chicken that had been eaten before (Similar to 먹힌 닭 and 먹혔던 닭, retrospectively)
- 먹히고 있는 닭 : a chicken that is being eaten (Similar to 먹히는 닭 but emphasizing the action is being done now)
- 먹히고 있던 닭 : a chicken that was being eaten
- 먹히고 있었던 닭 : a chicken that was being eaten
- 먹히고 있을 닭 : a chicken that will be being eaten
- 먹히고 있었을 닭 : a chicken that would have been being eaten (This one is hard to translate. You should change the "have been" part to "was". Imagine "would" and "was being eaten" are combined)
- 먹히게 되는 닭 : a chicken that ends up being eaten (I've already explained about the -게 되다 grammar)
- 먹히게 될 닭 : a chicken that will end up being eaten
- 먹히게 된 닭 : a chicken that (just) ended up being eaten
- 먹히게 되었던 닭 : a chicken that (had) ended up being eaten
- 먹히게 되었었던 닭 : a chicken that had ended up being eaten
- 먹히게 되었을 닭 : a chicken that would have ended up being eaten
Be careful it is slightly different for adjectives.
- 예쁘다 : to be pretty (adjective)
- 예쁜 닭 : a chicken that is pretty (a pretty chicken) : (Unlike verbs, -ㄴ/은 stands for present tense. It may be confusing)
- 예뻤던 닭 : a chicken that was pretty : (This alternative past tense form is applied to adjectives, which is the same with that of verbs)
- 예쁘던 닭 : a chicken that was pretty : (Implies the chicken used to be pretty, retrospectively)
- 예뻤었던 닭 : a chicken that was pretty before (a chicken that had been pretty before)
- 예쁘는 닭 (X) : (If 예쁘다 was a verb, -는 stands for present tense, but it is an adjective so -는 is completely wrong)
- 예쁠 닭 : a chicken that will be pretty : (The future tense follows the same pattern for verbs. In this case, 예뻐질 닭 (a chicken that will become pretty) would be more natural.)
In short, -ㄴ/은 is past tense for verbs, but present tense for adjectives. -는 is present tense for verbs, but wrong for adjectives.
I have said that Korean verbs must be conjugated in a sentence, but there is a trap. Take a look at this sentence.
- 먹히다 간신히 탈출했다.
In this sentence, 먹히다 looks exactly like the unconjugated infinitive form, but it isn't in fact. That 먹히다 is contracted from 먹히다가 (먹히다 + -다가) meaning "while being eaten"
- 먹히다가 간신히 탈출했다. : (Someone) Barely escaped while being eaten. (He was being eaten alive, but barely escaped.)
If you ever come across a verb in a sentence that looks like an unconjugated form, it is the -다가(while) form. It is just contracted to -다(while).
Korean has two different suffixes for the meaning "while". In fact, "-(으)면서" is more similar to the meaning of the English "while". Google it if you want to know about the difference between -다가 and -(으)면서.
-다가 becomes -다 when contracted, -(으)면서 becomes -(으)며 when contracted.
There is another case. In headlines or titles of some articles, the unconjugated verb form can be used.
- 관광객, 상어에게 잡아먹히다! : Tourist, eaten by shark! (this is supposed to be a headline of news)
In this case, that 먹히다 is the unconjugated form. So, this headline has no tense. (먹힌다 for present tense, 먹혔다 for past tense)
※ -이다 vs. -하다
Let's assume your parents named you as "Lovely" when you were born. How would you introduce yourself when you meet someone?
- Hello, I am Lovely. (sounds so narcissistic)
- Hello, my name is Lovely. (boasting of your name?)
It is a very embarrassing situation, isn't it? If you remember this specific situation, you will never be confused about -이다 and -하다. The fundamental problem is that you can't specify the grammatical role of "lovely". Your name is supposed to be a noun but it sounds like an adjective due to the same pronunciation. Languages around the world have various solutions to avoid this kind of problem. English has solved this kind of problem with extensive use of articles. If you put an article like a/an/the, you can make clear that "Lovely" is a noun. However, In this specific situation, unfortunately you can't put any article. I wanted to show what happens when you can't use articles in English. Now you would understand why English speakers are obsessed with correct use of grammatical articles.
Korean has a different solution without using articles.
- 안녕, 나는 Lovely야. (Hello, I am Lovely.) : (-야 explicitly indicates that "Lovely" is a noun. -야 is conjugated from -이다. -입니다, -예요/-이에요 are also possible)
- 안녕, 나는 lovely해. (Hello, I am lovely.) : (-해 explicitly indicates that "lovely" is an adjective. -해 is conjugated from -하다. -합니다, -해요 are also possible)
As you can see, the grammar has eliminated the ambiguity, so there is no such an embarrassing situation in Korean. Instead, there is another problem in Korean. I've already said that there are two different kinds of 하다s in Korean; 하다 for verbs and 하다 for adjectives. Here they go again. In the example above, -해 could be either a verb or an adjective. In many speech styles, the grammar is simplified and the same spelling is used for both of them. Let's make it more clear by using a different speech style.
- 안녕, 나는 Lovely이다. (Hello, I am Lovely.) : ("Lovely" is a noun. -이다 can be shortened to -다 when the noun doesn't have an ending consonant.)
- 안녕, 나는 lovely하다. (Hello, I am lovely.) : ("lovely" is an adjective)
- 안녕, 나는 Lovely한다. (Hello, I do the thing "Lovely".) : ("Lovely" is a verb. It can be anything you can do. For example, it could be a name of a video game.)
All the examples are present tense. (-이다 the copula for nouns, and adjectives, don't add -ㄴ/는 for present tense in this speech style. Only verbs do.)
|Active verb||Passive verb||Examples|
|놓다 (to lay, to put, to build)||놓이다 (to be on, to be placed, to be built)||
|바꾸다 (to change)||바뀌다 (to be changed)||
|보다 (to see)||보이다 (to be seen)||
|쓰다 (to use, to write)||쓰이다 (to be used, to be written)||
|쌓다 (to pile up, to stack)||쌓이다 (to be piled up, to be stacked up)||
|차다 - to dump someone||차이다 - to be dumped||
|Active verb||Passive verb||Examples|
|꽂다 (to put in, to stick in)||꽂히다 (to be stuck in)||
|닫다 (to close, to shut)||닫히다 (to be closed, to be shut)||
|읽다 (to read)||읽히다 (to be read)||
|막다 (to block, to clog)||막히다 (to be blocked, to be congested, to be clogged up)||
|먹다 (to eat)||먹히다 (to be eaten)||
|묻다 (to bury)||묻히다 (to be buried)||
|뽑다 (to pluck, to pull off)||뽑히다 (to be plucked, to be pulled off)||
|잡다 (to catch)||잡히다 (to be caught)||
|Active verb||Passive verb||Examples|
|걸다 (to hang)||걸리다 (to be hung)||
|듣다 (to hear)||들리다 (to be heard)||
|물다 (to bite)||물리다 (to be bitten)||
|열다 (to open)||열리다 (to be open)||
|팔다 (to sell)||팔리다 (to be sold)||
|풀다 (to untie, to solve)||풀리다 (to get untied, to be solved )||
|자르다 (to cut)||잘리다 (to be cut)||
|Active verb||Passive verb||Examples|
|끊다 (to cut off, to sever)||끊기다 (to be cut off, to be severed)||
|빼앗다 (to take, to steal)||빼앗기다 (to be taken, to be stolen)||
|안다 (to hold, to embrace)||안기다 (to be held, to be embraced)||
|쫓다 (to chase)||쫓기다 (to be chased)||
|잠그다 (to lock)||잠기다 (to be locked)||