Tense: The Korean Progressive Tense: -고 있다
Verbs are amazing. They allow you to say so much with just one word and many different grammar. It can be used with so many nuances it can sometimes be difficult to know the exact difference. However, today’s grammar topic is pretty simple to understand. Today we are going to take a look at the Korean progressive tense: -고 있다. It is familiar to anyone who knows English and is so easy to use with any Korean verb.
Works in Progress
As the name “progressive tense” implies, this tense is used to express that you are in process of doing something. This can be anything, ranging from dancing all the way to reading a good book. The progressive tense shouldn’t startle anyone as English has its own progressive tenses known as the continuous. So I don’t think the Korean progressive tense will be an earth shattering topic.
Forming the Korean progressive tense is easy. In fact it is most likely one of the easiest tenses Korean has to offer since no (irregular) verb acts weirdly. To form it you simply need the stem of the verb and you attack the progressive ending -고 있다 to it. After that you just need to use the proper form of 있다 to finish it off.
Example: 지금 할아버지가 텔레비전을 보고 계셔요.
Present and Past
You can use the progressive tense either in the present or the past. When you use a “present progressive tense”, you indicate that while saying it, the action is in progress. Hence the name.
While you can use a past form, this form cannot be used in the same way the English past continuous. When you mention an action, even one that happened over a duration, happened in the past, you don’t use a progressive tense, but a simple past tense. You use the progressive tense in the past when the duration had an impact on another action in the past. In the end you’ll end up using the regular past tense most often.
There is another use for the form -고 있다 that isn’t related to the progressive tense completely. Verbs often use a similar grammar pattern to describe the fact someone is wearing something. It is thus used to describe a certain state. The notable difference with the progressive tense is thus the action is completed, but the result of it persists; the state.
The most notable verbs that happen to be use the -고 있다 grammar pattern as expressing a state and not a progression of an action are: 입다, 쓰다, 매다, 끼다, 하다, 차다, 들다, 메다, 신다
However, the same effect can be achieved by using these verbs in the past tense as that indicates the completion of the action.
바지를 입고 있어요 = 바지를 입었어요.