The Korean Verbs 있다 and 없다


Two of the most important verbs in Korean that can be used in variety of ways are 있다 and 없다. They mean "to have" and "to not have" respectively. They can be used in English sentences like "there is" and "there are" too. See how a word in one language can have several translations in another language. In fact, Korean also has a lot of equivalents for one English word. You'll encounter them along the way.

To express what you have and what you don't have, you can use 있다 and 없다. But first, let's conjugate them into different tenses and speech level.

Present Tense:

formal
있습니다/없습니다

polite
있어요/없어요

casual
있어/없어

Past Tense:  
      
formal
있었습니다/없었습니다

polite
있었어요/없었어요

casual
있었어/없었어

They follow the second type of conjugation because their verbs stems are neither (a) nor (o). One more thing, they are not attached to the noun before them. Instead, the noun takes some particles like //, and  depending on the context. For now, let's use the subject markers and the polite speech level in our sample sentences.

HAS/HAVE (NO)

In English, the form of the verb used depends on the subject. We use "has" for a singular subject and "have" for a plural subject. In Korean, there's no such thing so 있다 and 없다 remain the same whatever the subject is. Cool, isn't it?

My sister has a dream.
누나가 꿈이 있어요.

I have a friend.
나는 친구가 있어요.

See? The English verb has changed but the Korean verb hasn't.

THERE IS/THERE ARE (NO)


One more thing, the subject can come after the verb in English and even so, subject-verb agreement is still observed. In this pattern, use "is" before a singular subject, and "are" after a plural subject.

There is money.
돈이 있어요.

There are apples.
사과가 있어요.