-아/어 있다 & -고 있다 | Expressions of continuity
"-아/어 있다" is used to depict that the person or entity being talked about has moved or been put into a certain place, position or state and that this pace, position or state is being maintained. Note how sentences with '가다(to go)' or '오다(to come)' translate into English as 'has come' or 'has gone'.
As can be seen from the various examples above, it can be noted that this pattern '-아/어 있다' is used with the passive form of accomplishment verbs, or intransitive verbs that indicate a change(=achievement verbs).
|Intransitive verbs indicating a change
(= achievement verbs)
|Examples with the pattern|
|가다 (to go)||제 친구는 미국에 가 있어요. = 제 친구는 미국에 있어요.
My friend is in USA.
|오다 (to come)||지금 잠시 친구 집에 와 있는데요.
I'm currently at my friend's house for a moment.
|서다 (to stand up)||서 있어요
I'm standing up.
|눕다 (to lay down)||누워 있어요
I'm laying down.
|죽다 (to die)||그 사람은 이미 죽어 있었어요.
That person was already dead.
|입원하다 (to check into the hospital)||저 지금 병원에 입원해 있어요.
I am in the hospital now.
|accomplishment verbs||passive form of
|Examples with the pattern|
|만들다 (to make)||만들어지다 (to be made)||피자가 이미 만들어져 있네요.
The pizza has been already made.
|열다 (to open)||열리다 (to be opened)||문이 열려 있어요.
The door is open.
|준비하다 (to prepare)||준비되다 (to be prepared)||휴게실에 간식이 준비되어 있습니다.
Snacks are prepared in the lounge.
|포함하다 (to include)||포함되다 (to be included)||청소 서비스가 요금에 포함되어 있습니다.
Cleaning service is included in the fee.
"-고 있다" is used essentially in the same way as "be ~ing" in English to talk about an ongoing, continuous activity. However the present progressive is less commonly used in Korean than it is in English.
There are two possibilities for making negative expression with "-고 있다".
The second pattern has a slightly different nuance to the first. It implies that the subject is getting along or managing to get by without doing the action in question.
Although the form "-고 있다" may seem quite similar to the English progressive tense, there are several important differences between the Korean form and its English counterpart.
Firstly, whereas in English progressive tense is obligatory when talking about an activity that is going on now, the Korean progressive is usually optional. It's used for emphasis from time to time. For example, in most circumstances, if someone asks you on the telephone what you are doing now, both of the following answers are possible(note how, in English, the equivalent of the first sentence would not normally be suitable):
Although both sentences above are possible, the interpretation may be slightly different. Whereas the second sentence emphasizes that I am in the middle of eating my meal, the first sentence could also be interpreted as meaning that I am about to eat my meal(but have not actually started yet).
It should be noted, however, that the use of "-고 있다" is not always optional, particularly in the past tense. With a certain set of verbs that depict an activity with an end point, used of the simple past tense denotes that this end point has been reached (and therefore cannot have a continuous interpretation). If you want to say that the activity was ongoing and incomplete, you will have to use "-고 있다":
Secondly, whereas in English the progressive tense can have a future reading, this is not the case in Korean. In English, if you say "I am going now" this often actually means that you are about to set off but are not actually on your way yet. However, in Korean, the equivalent progressive construction (지금 가고 있어요) can only be interpreted as meaning that you have left your point of departure and are in the process of going.
|Achievement verbs||Examples with the pattern|
|가다 (to go)||가고 있어요.
I am on my way.
|오다 (to come)||지금 오고 있대요.
She/he said that she/he is on the way.
|서다 (to stand up)||서고 있어요.
I am in the middle of standing up.
|눕다 (to lay down)||눕고 있어요.
I am in the middle of laying down.
|죽다 (to die)||죽고 있어요.
Thirdly, the Korean progressive can appear with a set of verbs that rarely take the progressive in English. This leads to the creation of constructions such as 알고 있어요 (I am knowing), 모르고 있어요 (I am not knowing), 사랑하고 있어요(I am loving / I am in love), 믿고 있어요 (I am believing), 원하고 있어요 (I am wanting), 기억하고 있어요 (I am remembering) and 느끼고 있어요 (I am feeling). Although the English equivalents of these sentences generally sound odd or have restricted usage, these expressions are extremely common in Korean. They are used to emphasize that the knowing, believing, feeling, etc. constitutes a progressive or a temporary state of affairs. The phrase 알고 있어요 is particularly common and is often used to mean "I already know(so you didn't need to tell me)".
|Cognition verbs||Examples with the patterns|
|알다 (to know)||알아요. I know that.
알고 있어요. I already know that(more specific things).
|모르다 (not to know)||몰랐어요. I didn't know that.
모르고 있었어요. I wasn't aware of that.
|믿다 (to trust)||나는 너를 믿어. I trust you.
난 식습관을 바꾸면 건강해진다고 믿고 있어. I believe that changing eating habits will make me healthier.
|기억하다 (to remember)||맞아요. 그거 기억하고 있어요. Right, I still remember that.|
Fourthly, unlike in English, the Korean progressive can occur in imperatives (particularly in non-honorific speech styles). In such usages, the English equivalent would generally be expressed with 'keep', or 'stay' rather than the progressive:
Fifthly, with verbs of 'wearing', the progressive results in ambiguity between two possible meanings. The following sentence could mean either that 민수 is 'putting' on the pants or is 'wearing' them:
Sixth and finally, unlike in English this pattern cannot be used when talking about standing, sitting or lying somewhere. "-아/어 있다" is used.
As for '-고 있다', the meaning of the verb phrase varies according to the types of verbs.
- 김윤신(2006), 한국어 동사의 사건구조와 어휘상, 한국어학, 30, 31-61.
- 강현화 외(2016), 한국어교육 문법: 자료편, 한글파크, 488-489, 538-539.
- 김효신 &노지현(2019), 상 보조용언 ‘-고 있-’과 ‘-어 있-’의 교수·학습 방안 연구 - 도입, 제시를 중심으로 -, 외국어로서의 한국어교육, 52(0), 75-105.
- 조민정(2001), 국어의 상에 대한 연구, 연세대학교 박사학위논문.
- Jaehoon Yeon and Lucien Brown(2019), Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar 2nd ed., Routledge, 200-205.
- Laura Kingdon(2015), Essential Korean Grammar: A comprehensive reference for learners at every level, Tuttle, 255-257.
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