Korean signature sound for speaking about the future is . Conjugating a Korean verb in the future tense is a piece of cake.

  1. If the verb stem ends in a vowel, just add -ㄹ 거예요.
  • 저는 곧 포르투갈에 갈 거예요 I will go to Portugal soon. [ 가다 to go => 가-ㄹ = 갈 거예요 will go ]
  1. If the verb stem ends in a consonant other than ㄹ, just add -을 거예요 to it. 
  • 난 이제 점심 먹을 거예요 I am going to have lunch now. [ 먹다 to eat => 먹-을 거예요 will eat ]
  1. If the verb stem ends in ㄹ, simply say 거예요. 
  • 그런 착한 부부는 잘 살 거예요 Such a nice couple will live well. [ 살다 to live => 살 거예요 will/shall live ]

It is so easy, isn’t it?  I mean, the above rules are not even “conjugation” per se. It is not about “unnecessarily flamboyant” changing of the verb endings according to person, number, gender, etc., but about simple, predictable phonetics.  As I said above, the Korean sound of the future is ㄹ.  We add ㄹ to a verb stem when we talk about the future. If the verb stem doesn’t end in a consonant, there is no problem; just add ㄹ.  But what do we do if the verb ends in a consonant? We can’t directly add ㄹ to ㄱ, for example, and say 먹ㄹ 거예요. It’s phonetically and lexically impossible. So what is the option left for us here? Add 을 to 먹 instead and make it sound like [머글]. It is just a natural phonetic phenomenon that makes our tongue sound nice and smooth. And what if the verb stem already ends in ㄹ?  Then there is no need to add another ㄹ since it’s already there! it’s not even possible to write like 살ㄹ in 한글.  And is all of this really a conjugation? No, not really. It is just simple, predictable phonetics, that’s it. As you see, Korean grammar is all about phonetics. 

Please watch how 이민호 speaks about his future with the mermaid 전지현 in one of the most beautiful lines in K-drama history below. Instead of 거예요 in a normal polite register, he uses more informal 거야 which is a more appropriate register between lovers, couples, very close friends, and siblings. Written with amazing craft by the tremendously talented screenwriter 박지은, all 20 episodes of 푸른 바다의 전설 The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016) are brimming with absolutely beautiful Korean words and expressions, witty wordplays and repartees, clever twists of the unusual plots in the backdrops alternating between the present and the past., superbly interpreted by the two leading actors in their prime whose performance sparkles with exploding chemistry throughout. As an extra bonus, today’s real-world collective characteristics of the obscenely materialistic, shamelessly gold-digging, disgustingly superficial, and deplorably irreverent low-class Korean girls and boys obsessed with self-images and cosmetic surgeries are tastefully depicted and hilariously mocked by poignant parody and comical sequences that make viewers with common sense laugh out loud in many scenes. Simply put, this masterpiece is creativity itself in romantic comedy K-drama history. When you learn Korean enough to understand the conversations in Korean without being distracted by any mistranslated subtitles, you will definitely enjoy all the above elements deeply immersed in the traditional Korean psyche and mentality revolving around timeless and borderless love through reincarnation, as the brilliant screenwriter 박지은 already demonstrated to the world audience in her tours de force “별에서 온 그대 My Love from the Star (2013)“ and “사랑의 불시착 Crash Landing on You (2019).” 

Never miss this one if you love the Korean language and drama.  After all, we are all mermaids and mermen in a foreign country. 

P.S.> Some of your Korean textbooks or online materials may say -겠어요 is another form of the future tense. It is a glaringly false statement by some crooks and ignorant teachers out there. -겠어요 simply indicates the speaker’s intention or will to do something, rather than a verb conjugation in the future tense. 

  • 손님, 뭘 드시겠어요? What would you like, Sir?  [in a restaurnant]
  • 난 갈비찜을 먹겠어요. I will have galbi-jjim. 

In the correct Korean, therefore, -겠어요 can not be used with 3rd person subjects. -겠어요 can be sometimes translated as “I will …” in English, since the auxiliary verb of Germanic origin “will” can mean the speaker’s “will” as much as it is used to make a verb in the future tense. Just because the English translation may involve the word “will” doesn’t mean that -겠어요 is a Korean future tense. 

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