[the oddities of korean]

Learning Korean is hard work, but continually fascinating. I’m now on the first chapter of the Beginning 2 textbook, which means I’ve begun my second semester of self-study after taking off a couple of weeks to torment myself with vocabulary drill, and it’s nice to get back to the part I like best, which is weird grammar.

In the Korean language, verb endings do a lot of heavy lifting. As opposed to adding entire phrases or clauses, Koreans can change the whole character of a sentence just by manipulating the verb form.

For example, ka- (-) is the root of the verb to go. The simplest sentence you can make with this verb is Kayo (가요), which literally means Go, with an implied subject. (For simplicity, we’ll assume the implied subject is you.)

Here are some of the variations you can make by changing the verb form:

Kaseyo. (가세요.) = Please go.
Kal keoyeyo? (갈 거예요?) = Do you intend to go?
Kalkkayo? (갈까요?) = Should you go? or Shall you go?
Kajiyo? (가지요?) = You’re going, right?
Kago Shipeoyo. (가고 싶어요.) = You want to go.
Kaneundeyo. (가는데요.) = You’re going. Do you need any further assistance?

Note that all of this is in the present tense, and all at the polite informal level of formality. I find it incredibly interesting that you can pack so much meaning into verb forms. It’s just a very different way to approach communication.