Causative form

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A causative form, in linguistics, (a) is an expression of an agent causing or forcing a patient to perform an action or to be in a certain condition--salient cause, (b) is an expression of a patient involves in a non-volitional event that registers the changes of its state--salient effect, (c) is an expression of a grammatical modality in perfective (sequential) or subjenctive (hypothetical) or realis (non-hypothetical) state--perceptual salient. In Korean, this form is called 사동.

The Korean passive and causative conjugations pose a lot of confusing aspects and many Korean materials don't even teach this part properly. This grammar part may even be hard for some native Korean speakers. For example, 굽다 has two meanings and their conjugation forms are completely different.

  • 굽다 : bend
  • 굽어지다 : to become (naturally) bent : (-어지다 is always passive. In this case, 굽다 follows the regular conjugation rule)
  • 굽히다 : to make something become bent , to bend something : (this -히 is causative)
  • 굽혀지다 : to become bent by someone : (causative + passive)
  • 굽다 : to bake
  • 구워지다 : to be baked : (-어지다 is always passive. In this case, 굽다 follows the ㅂ irregular conjugation rule)

In the example above, -히 is a causative particle, but it can be either a passive particle in many other verbs.

  • 먹다 : to eat
  • 먹히다 : to be eaten : (this -히 is passive)
  • 먹이다 : to make/let someone eat , to feed : (this -이 is causative)

In some cases, passive and causative forms are identical.

  • 보다 : to see
  • 보이다 : to be seen : (this -이 is passive)
  • 보이다 : to make/let someone see , to show : (this -이 is causative, to avoid confusion, 보여주다 is used in most cases)
  • 보여지다 : to be shown : (causative + passive)
  • 보여지다 : to be seen : (passive + passive, this usage is wrong as it is double passive)

There are some verbs that even most native Koreans fail to conjugate correctly.

  • 잊다 : to forget
  • 잊히다 : to be forgotten : (passive)
  • 잊혀지다 : to be forgotten : (double passive using both -히 and -어지다. This is wrong)
  • 잊게 하다 : to make/let someone forget something : (in this case, -게 하다 is the proper causative form)

Some verbs don't allow the passive particles at all. These exceptional verbs need special passive forms.

  • 죽다 : to die
  • 죽이다 : to make/let someone die , to kill : (causative)
  • 죽임을 당하다 : to be killed : (passive)
  • 살해당하다 : to be killed : (alternative passive in Sino Korean)
  • 살해되다 : to be killed : (alternative passive in Sino Korean)

In short, every verb has their own arbitrary conjugation rules without regular logics. That's why most Korean materials for foreigners skip or overlook this grammar part. Each form of every verb should be memorized.

Forming causatives

Explaining the form with subject marker, object marker, etc.

이 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
먹다 (to eat) 먹이다 (to make/let someone eat , to feed)

Active- 나는 김치를 먹는다.(I eat Kimchi)

Causative- 나는 강아지에게 물을 먹인다.(I make my dog drink water)

죽다 (to die) 죽이다 (to make/let someone die , to kill)

Active- 지진 때문에 많은 사람이 죽었다. (Many people died from the earthquake.)

Causative- 그는 사람을 죽였다. (He killed a person.)

붙다 (to stick to) 붙이다 (to make/let something stick to)

Active- 나는 벽에 붙는다. (I stick to the wall.)

Causative- 나는 사진을 벽에 붙인다. (I make the picture stick to the wall.)

끓다 (to boil) 끓이다 (to make/let something boil)

Active- 물은 100℃ 이상에서 끓는다. (Water boils in the temperature of 100℃ and over.)

Causative- 나는 김치찌개를 끓인다. (I make the Kimchi-jjigae boil. / I boil the Kimchi-jjigae.)

보다 (to see, to look, to watch) 보이다 (to make/let someone see , to show)

Active- 나는 영화를 보았다. (I saw a movie.)

Causative- 학생이 내게 사진을 보였다. (A student showed me a photograph.)

속다 (to be fooled, to be deceived) 속이다 (to make/let someone be fooled)

Active- 또다시 일기예보에게 속았다. (I am fooled by the weather forecast again.)

Causative- 절대로 사람을 속이지 마라. (Never deceive a person.)

히 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
익다 익히다
읽다 (to read) 읽히다
입다 (to wear) 입히다
앉다 (to sit) 앉히다
눕다 눕히다
맞다 맞히다

리 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
알다 알리다
울다 울리다
돌다 돌리다
살다 살리다
놀다 놀리다
걸다 (to hang) 걸리다

기 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
벗다 벗기다
신다 신기다
웃다 웃기다
맡다 맡기다
감다 감기다
씻다 씻기다

우 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
깨다 깨우다
서다 세우다
쓰다 씌우다
자다 재우다
타다 태우다

구 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
돋다 돋구다
일다 일구다
달다 달구다
솟다 솟구다

추 Causative verb
Active verb Causative verb Examples
낮다 낮추다
늦다 늦추다
맞다 맞추다
곧다 곧추다

Creating causative form

The causative form can also be created using: See V + 게 하다

See also