Hada: Light Verbs, Heavy Lifting

Hada: Light verbs, heavy lifting

Today’s word: 하다

Meaning: to do

But it can also be used in a lot of other ways, and I kind of think of it as the verb that does everything


Native Korean word, from middle korean h(backward c)da https://www.ipachart.com/

Linguistic element: Korean verb basics and light verbs

The basics on Korean verbs

SOV word order (generally) – the verb MUST come last.

Hada – infinitive, like “to do” in English. Some debate over whether the ha- or the hada- version is the “basic” version of a verb in Korean, it seems.

More common forms:

Haeyo, hamnida, haesseoyo, heaesseumnida

Light verbs:

This verb is also what’s called a light verb, a verb that has little meaning of its own and works with another word, usually an adjective, as a sort of complete lexical unit. “The term light verb was coined by Jesperson (1965) to signify a group of verbs that are distinguished from lexical verbsverbs6 or auxiliaries in English e.g., take in take a walk , give in give a groan , and make in make an offer )).” (Bak Jaehee 2011)

Examples in English:

Have, as in “have a party”

Take, as in “take a break”

And “do” as in “do your homework”

In Korean, 하다 is also like this and in fact you can use it to in some of the same constructions, for example, 학생이 숙제를 했어요 , The student did homework.

But it’s a lot more useful in Korean than in English and can be used in a lot more ways, that might seem even less related to “doing” something to an English speaker at least.

For example, you can also use it to make the vast majority of nouns into verbs or even an adjective – compared with English, there’s sort of a thin line between verbs and adjectives in Korean, and in many cases they work the same way.

In particularly, Sino-Korean words, which make up 60-65% of the lexicon, can become verbs (or adjectives) this way:

Adjectives: 소중하다, to be precious or dear; 대단하다, to be amazing or awesome

Verbs: 수용하다, to swim; 결혼하다, to marry/get married

But also words from English or other languages that make up that “5%” that’s not Sino-Korean:

샤워하다, to take a shower; 헌팅하다, to go out and try to pick up

And finally even though a lot of verbs without hada are Native Korean verbs – possibly all of them – you can use it with Native Korean nouns to make other verbs:

밥하다 – to eat rice

You can’t just put any type of verb, has to be generally activity or state (feature: eventuality)

“The LVs are limited to primitive predicates such as do, become, etc.” Bak

Sociocultural contexts/related words:

Another light verb in Korean is 되다, which means to become.


Lee, E., Madigan, S., & Park, M.-J. (2015). An Introduction to Korean Linguistics (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315678016.

Bak Jaehee (2011). The Light Verb Construction in Korean. PhD Dissertation, University of Toronto. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/31684/1/Bak_Jaehee_201111_PhD_thesis.pdf

(now at chungnam dae)


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