Wednesday, May 12, 2010

있다 없다

Should it be '없는' or '없은'? 없은 seems more right because 없다 is a descriptive verb and so should go with 'ㄴ/은' but 없는 (pronounced '엄는') sounds more correct. I encountered such dilemma several times during test which was, of course, not very helpful ㅠㅠ.

I thought I understand '있다' because it looks simple enough. However, when I was asked to explain why '있다' appears in '~고 있다' and '아/어 있다', I was tongue-tight. Apparently, there are more to simple verbs '있다 없다' than meet the eyes. I think I may have found the answer to my queries now.

Meanings of 있다

- As an action verb, '있다' means 'to stay or remain' in a fixed place.

1. 가만히 있어라 (Stay still!/Don't move!)
2. 그는 집에 있는다고 말했다 (He said he stays at home)

- As a descriptive verb, '있다' means either 'in existence' or 'in possession'

3. 집에 피아노가 있다 (In the house, there is a piano)
4. 나는 돈이 많이 있다 (I have a lot of money)

Note: '있다' in sentence 3 has the meaning of existence while 4 has the meaning of possession.

'있다/없다' absolutely loathes '은'

Basic grammar teaches that when an action verb becomes a noun modifier, it goes with '는' whilst descriptive verb goes with 'ㄴ/은'. However, this rule does not apply to '있다/없다'. As noun modifier, '있다/없다' behaves like an action verb, i.e. they go with '는' only even though they may be descriptive verb.

- 있다 as action verb

5. 가만히 있는 빌리 (Billy who stays motionless...)
6. 집에 있는 민정 (Minjeong who stays at home...)

- 있다 as descriptive verb

7. 집에 있는 피아노 (The piano which is in the house...)
8. 돈이 있는 나 (I who has money...)

- 없다 as descriptive verb

9. 우리나라 없는 음식 (The food which is not found in my country...)

Note: All the above examples are in present tense. To change to past tense, just replace '는' with '던'. Example,

10. 집에 있던 민정 (Minjeong who stayed at home...)


  1. wow thanks for sharing (: It just didn't occur to me that the past tense is 있는 is 있던 >.<

    i learnt sth today ^^

  2. you thought it was 있은?
    me too.

  3. Good learning again.Thanks for the entry.Though i'm still slightly confused.