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 extremely common in Korean. Koreans often 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:

티비를 본다. I am watching TV. (보다 to see)

티비가 보인다. I am watching TV. (보이다 to be seen)

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 Comment
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)
히 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category end in a ㅂ,ㅈ,ㄷ or ㄱ)
Active verb Passive verb Comment
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 conjested, 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)
리 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category are irregular ㄷ verbs or end with ㄹ)
Active verb Passive verb Comment
걸다 (to hang) 걸리다 (to be hung)
듣다 (to hear) 들리다 (to be heard)
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 )
잘다 (to cut) 잘리다 (to be cut)
기 Passive Verbs (Most verbs in this category end with ㄴ (ㄶ), ㅅ and ㅁ)
Active verb Passive verb Comment
끊다 끊기다
빼앗다 빼앗기다
안다 안기다
쫓다 쫓기다
잠그다 잠기다

See also