I used to do - 했었어

었어 is used with verbs and adjectives to mean "used to".

Written Form
Spoken Form
하지 않았었다
안 했었다
하지 않았었어
안 했었어

* The letters in bold are used more commonly in each corresponding form.

Replace 다 in verbs in their past tense with 었다
  • 갔다 → 갔었다 = used to go
  • 안갔다 → 안갔었다 = used to not go
  • 왔다 → 왔었다 = used to come
  • 먹었다 → 먹었었다 = used to eat
  • 마셨다 → 마셨었다 = used to drink
  • 좋아했다 → 좋아했었다 = used to like
  • 싫어했다 → 싫어했었다 = used to hate 
  • 봤다 → 봤었다 = used to watch
  • 들었다 → 들었었다 = used to listen 
  • 읽었다 → 읽었었다 = used to read
  • 썼다 → 썼었다 = used to write / use
  • 살았다 → 살았었다 = used to live
  • 샀다 → 샀었다 = used to buy

Example sentences
  • (예전에) 서울 중학교를 다녔었어 = I used to attend/go to Seoul Middle School (before/in the past).
  • 예전에는 버섯을 좋아했었어 = I used to like mushrooms in the past. *(but not now)
  • 2년전에 영국에서 살았었어 = I used to live in England 2 years ago.
  • 초등학생 때는 소설책을 많이 읽었었어 = I used to read a lot of novels when I was a primary school student.
  • 예전에는 버스를 많이 탔었는데, 지금은 지하철을 더 많이 이용해 = I used to ride a bus a lot but now I use the subway more.

The same apples to adjectives
  • 좋았다 → 좋았었다 = (it) used to be good
  • 안 좋았다 → 안 좋았었다 = used to be not good 
  • 컸다 → 컸었다 = used to be big / large *
  • 작았다 → 작았었다 = used to be small
  • 높았다 → 높았었다 = used to be tall **
  • 많았다 → 많았었다 = (there) used to be a lot / many
  • 적었다 → 적었었다 = used to be few/little (in quantity)

* 크다/컸다/컸었다 can also mean "tall" when used to refer to height of a person or animals.
  • E.g. 키가 컸었다 = used to be tall (키 = height)

** 높다/높았다/높았었다 is used for objects only such as buildings, mountains or sky.
  • E.g. 엠파이어 스테이트 빌딩은 다른 빌딩들이 세워지기 전까지 뉴욕에서 가장 높았었다 = The Empire State Building used to be the tallest building in New York City before other buildings were built.

Example Sentences
  • 오전에는 주차장에 차들이 많았었는데, 지금은 되게 적네 = There used to be a lot of cars in the car park but now there are only a few. (되게 적네 = very few / little)
  • 이 사과나무는 5년전만 해도 내 키보다 작았었는데, 지금은 우리 집보다 더 커 = This apple tree used to smaller than my height but now it's bigger (taller) than our house.

Polite Form

Written Form
Spoken Form
안 했었습니다
하지 않았었습니다
안 했었어요
하지 않았었어요
  • 어렸을 때는 버섯을 싫어했었는데, 지금은 잘 먹어요 = I used to hate mushrooms when I was young but now I eat them well.
  • 겨울에는 나무에 잎이 하나도 없었는데, 지금은 많아요 = There used to be no leaves on trees, but now there are many / a lot of /a plenty of leaves.
  • 작년에는 시골로 여행을 자주 갔었어요 = I used to travel to countrysides often last year.

  • 부산에 가면 떡을 자주 사먹었어요 = When I go to Busan, I used to buy and eat rice cakes quite often.*
  • 예전에는 연필로 많이 썼었는데, 지금은 펜을 더 많이 사용해요 = I used to write with a pencil a lot but now I use a pen more often.
  • 예전에는 팝뮤직만 들었었는데, 지금은 클래식도 듣고, 다른 예전 노래들도 들어요. = I used to only listen to pop music but now I also listen to classics and other songs of the past. 
  • 더운 여름에 시원한 개울가에 자주 놀러갔었어요 = When it was hot in summer, we used to go to a cool stream/brook and play around there. **

* 사먹다 = buy and eat
** 놀러가다 = to go and play


  1. Thanks so much for your blog! It's really well done, and you're explanations are very clear.

  2. Oh my. I have been thinking what this grammar pattern was for so many years now!!! THANK YOU FOR CLEARING IT OUT! *-* forever grateful!


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