KDrama Word of the Day: Kada (To Go)

Sign that show a figure walking가다 Kada (to go) is our KDrama Word of the Day today. 가다 is a very common verb. You can hear various forms of it in KDrama all the time. You also hear it constantly in Kpop.

가다 is not only widely used, it is simple and regular, so it’s an excellent verb to start with when you are learning Korean verb conjugations. Which is probably why it’s one of the first verbs taught in every Korean course I’ve ever seen.

Forms of 가다 you may have heard:

가자 Kaja – let’s go (informal)
가요 Kayo – going (present tense, polite)
가! Ka! – Go! (informal)
갈 Kal – verb stem in future tense forms of 가다
갔 Kat (sounds like cot, not cat) – past tense verb stem

Note the transformation on the past tense verb stem. ㅆ has an S sound at the beginning of a syllable, but is pronounced like a T when it comes at the end. Here is a chart of consonants that are pronounced differently depending on whether they are at the beginning or end of the syllable. Most of time, the past tense verb stem will not stand alone, but will be followed by a conjugation beginning with a vowel, which gives ㅆ back its S sound.

You may also notice that the chart gives the sound of ㄱ at the beginning of a syllable as somewhere between G and K. This is why you will sometimes see forms of 가다 Romanized with a G rather than a K, most notably in “gayo” (가요), a term for Korean pop music that includes more diverse styles than “KPop.” I am not certain gayo derives from the verb kada, but it seems a reasonable assumption, since there was an American pop genre known as “go-go” during the formative years of gayo.

Here are all the conjugations of 가자 on dongsa.net (동사), a Korean verb conjugation engine. There are other multilingual verb conjugators (such as Verbix), while dongsa.net is Korean only (dongsa 동사 means verb in Korean). I haven’t tested it, but I would think irregular verb conjugations would be more accurate on a Korean-originated conjugation engine.

Click on any form of kada on the 동사 page to see Romanized pronunciation, and the details of how that particular form was conjugated – very helpful if you are learning conjugations!


One more tip about 가다.
There are two different phrases Koreans say at parting, depending on who is leaving. They sound very similar, because they are very similar – only one syllable is different. The distinction between the two phrases is often explained in a really confusing way, but the trick is to keep in mind that it is not about what you are doing, but what the other person is doing.

Once you know that, all you need to do is remember which phrase you say to someone who is going rather than staying. That’s easy when you know 가다, since the one syllable that is different is 가. If someone is leaving (regardless of what you are doing), always use the form of goodbye with “ka” in it. Easy, right?

If you want to learn more about Korean goodbyes, check out this Talk to Me in Korean lesson. If you are learning Hangeul, I highly recommend looking at the pdf while you listen to the mp3. It’s a real leg up if you associate words with their Hangeul spelling (instead of Romanization) from the first time you hear them.


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