An auxiliary verb combines with a main verb to express tense, aspect, mood and/or voice. For instance, English auxiliary verbs include “can”, “have”, “may”, “shall”, and “will”, since they combine with a main verb, as in “I can speak Korean.” This unit first discusses some general structural characteristics of Korean auxiliary verbs. Then, it introduces how the following three verbs, 보다(see), 오다(come), and 가다(go), can serve as auxiliary verbs.
Korean auxiliary verbs
Korean auxiliary verbs are in fact all regular verbs. However, when these verbs are used as auxiliary verbs, they express different meanings, as shown below:
Korean auxiliary verbs always appear after the main verb (or adjectives for limited auxiliary verbs). In addition, the main verb is always conjugated with ~어/아 (or ~고 for limited auxiliary verbs). The compounding process takes the following pattern: [stem of the main verb ~어/아 plus an auxiliary verb]. ~아 is used after the stem that ends in 아 or 오, while ~어 is used after the stem that ends in all other vowels.
When the verb 보다(see) is used as an auxiliary verb, it is used to express “try (doing something)/experience”. It is used when a speaker tries doing some action just once so that he/she can explore the consequences. For instance, consider how the auxiliary verb ~어/아 보다 is used with the main verb 배우다(learn).
Notice in the examples above that ~어/아 보다 completes each expression and carries all grammatical information, such as tense, sentence types, and honorifics. Here are more examples:
~ 어/아 오다(가다)
Korean has two motion verbs 오다(come) and 가다(go). When these motion verbs are used as auxiliary verbs, both indicate that an action of the main verb is carried out continually. Since 오다(come) signifies the motion toward the speaker, ~어/아 오다 is used to express an continuous action that comes toward the present, as shown below:
On the other hand, 가다(go) indicates the motion away from the speaker. Consequently, ~어/아 가다 is used to express a continuous action that goes into the future.
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Grammar for Intermediates
Irregular verbs and adjectives (불규칙동사와 형용사)
Auxiliary verbs I
Auxiliary verbs II
Auxiliary verbs III
Auxiliary verbs IV
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