Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Verb of Existence and Location (있다 & 없다)

In English, the words “am”, “are”, and/or “is” can indicate that something is located or existing as in “There are Korean people” or “Seoul is in Korea”. For the verb of existence or location, Korean has the verb 있다 & 없다.

Existence and Location

The Korean verb 있다 means “exist/exists” or “there is/are”. For negation, Korean has a separate verb 없다 “do/does not exist” or “is/are not located”. Since 있다 expresses “something exists” or “something is located”, it is normally called the verb of existence and location.
When referring to a location of an object, you need a location, a locative particle “에”, and the verb of existence and location “있어요”. For instance, consider the following sentences.


Notice that the locations are marked by the particle 에, and they are followed by the verb 있어요.
For a more specific location reference, various Korean location nouns can be used. Korean has the following location nouns:

location nouns
Using one of the location nouns, you can be more explicit in referring to the location and/or position of the noun, as in 책이 책상 위에 있어요 “The book is on the table”.
You may wonder if these location words are like various prepositions in English such as “above”, “below”, “on”, “beside”, and “behind”. These English prepositions are similar to Korean location nouns in the sense that they both function to indicate the specific reference of the location. However, they are different in two aspects. First, while English prepositions always appear before the object of the location as in "above the table", those in Korean always appear after the object as in 책상 위(table-above). Another difference is that these Korean postpostional elements are nouns and they are normally followed by the locative particle 에, whereas English prepositional elements are not nouns.

The Use of 있다 & 없다 to Express “possession”

Another meaning of 있다 & 없다 is to express one’s possession. In the following example, 있다 & 없다 is better translated as “have/has”.


The literal translation of the above sentence may be “As for Peter, there is an Apple Computer” or “As for Peter, an Apple Computer exists”. However, it actually means(or is better translated into English) “As for Peter, (he) has an Apple Computer”. Notice that Apple Computer is marked by the subject particle 이/가. Some learner, whose native language is English, tend to make an error using 을/를 the object particle instead of 이/가. This is because of the native language transfer effect. They intuitively judge the verb “have” should have an object, since its direct English translation may be “Peter has an Apple Computer”.

* Click to read related posts
Grammar for Beginners
Endings of Sentences
Copula (Be & Be Not, 이다 & 아니다)
Particles Part.1 (What are the particles in Korean)
Negation (부정문)

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