Korean future tense

The Korean Future Tense Part 1 : Describing the Probable Future

The future tense in Korean

As you progress in your Korean lessons, you will learn different ways to describe different events in the past, present, and future. Here’s a look at the Korean future tense with Minneapolis, MN teacher Bryce J

Some linguists argue that there actually isn’t a Korean future tense, but that doesn’t mean there is no way to talk about future events. In fact,  there are actually five ways to describe the future in Korean: probable future, definite future, promissory future, intentional future, and presumptive future.

Here is a breakdown of the first method.

Probable Future

Grammatical Rule: Predicate Stem + (으)ᄅ 거에요

The probable future is the most common way to describe future events in Korean. The probable future tense can be used in first, second, and third person with both verbs (example one) and adjectives (example two). This grammar is the primary fuel for linguists who claim that the future tense doesn’t exist in Korean, because these types of expressions convey likelihood rather than certainty.

Here are some examples:

  1. 내일 비가 올 거예요

    It will probably rain tomorrow

  2. 내일 추울 거예요

    It’s going to be cold tomorrow (probably).

  3. 제가 이번 주말에 그 영화를 볼 거예요

    I’m going to watch that movie this weekend (probably).

probable future

In most languages, the weather is rarely predicted with certainty, but that doesn’t influence the grammar in the first two examples. This is simply the way Koreans discuss future events—with a hint of uncertainty.

Example three highlights the nuance of the expression. The speaker is planning on seeing the movie, but by using the grammar  (predicate stem + (으)ᄅ 거에요), she conveys that there is a chance that something might come up, which would cause her to change her plans.

You can also see this type of grammar used in combination with the simple past tense.

지민 씨가 벌써 왔을 거예요

Ji-min probably got here already.

In this case, the speaker is discussing the probability of an event in the past. This exemplifies the primary interpretation of the grammar (predicate stem + (으)ᄅ 거에요) as an expression of probability rather than certainty. In this example, however, the speaker is discussing the probability of a past or completed action rather than a future action.

The probable future is just one of five aspects of the Korean future tense. Remember, if you have questions about any of these concepts, make sure to write them down and go over them with your Korean teacher. With some diligence, practice, and patience, you can learn how to use all of the future tenses in Korean.

Bryce JBryce J. teaches college-level Korean and ESL classes in Minneapolis, MN. He has his MA in teaching from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Learn more about Bryce here!

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