Understanding Korean Grammar: -아/어야 하다

Introduction: Korean Grammar -아/어야 하다, 해야 해요.

Learning Korean grammar can be challenging, but breaking it down into manageable lessons can make it easier. Today, we will explore the grammar pattern ‘-아/어야 하다,’ which is used to express necessity or obligation in Korean. This lesson will help you understand and use this form effectively.

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jaem grammar lesson 3 해야 해요, 아/어야 하다

Grammar Explanation: -아/어야 하다, 해야 해요.

The grammar pattern ‘-아/어야 하다’ is used to express necessity or obligation, similar to “must” or “have to” in English. The ending depends on the vowel in the verb stem.


  • If the stem has a bright vowel (ㅏ or ㅗ), add ‘-아야 하다.’
  • If the stem has a dark vowel (any other vowel), add ‘-어야 하다.’
  • If the verb stem ends in 하, it changes to 해야 하다.
VerbStemFormExample Sentence
가다 (to go)가야 하다학교에 가야 해요 (I have to go to school)
먹다 (to eat)먹어야 하다약을 먹어야 해요 (I have to take the medicine)
하다 (to do)해야 하다숙제를 해야 해요 (I have to do my homework)


Verb Examples:

  • 공부하다 (to study)
    • 공부해야 해요 = I have to study.
  • 일어나다 (to wake up)
    • 일어나야 해요 = I have to wake up.
  • 마시다 (to drink)
    • 마셔야 해요 = I have to drink.
  • 운동하다 (to exercise)
    • 운동해야 해요 = I have to exercise.

Adjective Examples:

  • 크다 (to be big)
    • 커야 해요 = It has to be big.
  • 좋다 (to be good)
    • 좋아야 해요 = It has to be good.
  • 빠르다 (to be fast)
    • 빨라야 해요 = It has to be fast.
  • 건강하다 (to be healthy)
    • 건강해야 해요 = You have to be healthy.

Noun + 이다 Examples:

  • 학생이다 (to be a student)
    • 학생이어야 해요 = You have to be a student.
  • 의사이다 (to be a doctor)
    • 의사여야 해요 = You have to be a doctor.
  • 친구이다 (to be a friend)
    • 친구여야 해요 = You have to be a friend.

Usage in Context

When using ‘-아/어야 하다’ in different contexts, it emphasizes the necessity or obligation of an action or state.

Everyday Contexts:

  • 내일 일찍 일어나야 해요 = I have to wake up early tomorrow.
  • 오늘 숙제를 끝내야 해요 = I have to finish my homework today.
  • 운동을 매일 해야 해요 = I have to exercise every day.

Cultural Insight: In Korean culture, expressing obligations or duties is common in both formal and informal settings. It shows a sense of responsibility and commitment.

Common Mistakes

Common Mistakes:

  • Incorrect: 가야 해요 (Correct, but check if the context is appropriate)
    • Correct: 집에 가야 해요 = I have to go home.

Mistake Explanation: Ensure that the context and the verb stem match the intended meaning and usage of ‘-아/어야 하다.’

Explore these related grammar points to deepen your understanding:

  • -아/어도 되다: To express permission (“may” or “can”).
  • -지 않으면 안 되다: To express prohibition (“must not”).
  • -아/어서: To indicate reason or cause (“because”).
  • -기로 하다: To express decisions or plans (“decided to”).

Practice Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect!

  • Exercise 1: Conjugate the following verbs with ‘-아/어야 하다.’
    • 가다 (to go)
    • 먹다 (to eat)
    • 하다 (to do)
    • 읽다 (to read)

Answer Key:

  1. 가야 해요
  2. 먹어야 해요
  3. 해야 해요
  4. 읽어야 해요
  • Exercise 2: Create sentences using ‘-아/어야 하다’ for the following situations:
    • I have to finish my project.
    • You have to take your medicine.
    • We have to leave early.
    • She has to prepare for the exam.

Answer Key:

  1. 프로젝트를 끝내야 해요.
  2. 약을 먹어야 해요.
  3. 일찍 떠나야 해요.
  4. 시험을 준비해야 해요.

Download the workbook for more exercises and practice.

Summary and Conclusion

Today, we covered the grammar point ‘-아/어야 하다’ and how to use it to express necessity or obligation in Korean. This pattern is essential for conveying what must be done or achieved. Continue practicing with our workbook and check out related lessons for more in-depth learning.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below. Happy learning!

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