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Lesson 10. Present-Progressive “I am verb-ing” (Verb-고 있다/-는 중이다/ Noun 중이다)


In English, the present progressive is formed by using “am verb-ing”, for example, “I am writing” or “He is singing”.  


In Korean, this can be formed in 2 ways in, either: 


1. I am (currently) doing something  

VERB STEM +  있어요  

e.g., 공부하고 있어요 – I am studying 


2. I am (in the middle of) doing something* 

VERB STEM +  중이에요  

e.g., 공부하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of studying 


*Note: the second construction has the nuance of being “in the middle” of something because the word 중 comes from the Chinese character 中 with the literal meaning of “middle”. For example, in the word 주중 meaning “weekdays”, it literally comes from the meaning of “in the middle of the week”. 


Example Sentences 


저는 영화를 보고 있어요 / 보는 중이에요 – I am watching a movie  

저의 (/제) 방을 청소하고 있어요 / 청소하는 중이에요 – I am cleaning my room  

요리하고 있어요 / 요리하는 중이에요 – I’m cooking  

머리를 말리고 있어요 / 말리는 중이에요 – I’m drying my hair  

아침을 만들고 있어요 – I’m making breakfast** 


**Notethe verbs 하다 (to do) and 준비하다 (to prepare) can both be used instead of 만들다 (to make) to have the same meaning of “I’m making breakfast”. 


아침을 먹고 있어요 / 먹는 중이에요– I’m having breakfast  

밥 먹고 있어요 – I’m having a meal*** 


***Note: Similarly to Chinese, 밥 literally means “cooked rice” but it can also be used to mean “meal”. 



Irregular forms of – 중이에요


Unlike the -고 있어요 construction, the -는 중이에요 can have irregular forms where the verb stem changes for some verbs. 

For example, verbs with ㄹ 받침 have this final ㄹ deleted before the construction is added.  

Base verb  Combination with – 중이에요 Combination with – 있어요 
만들다 (to make) 만드는 중이에요  만들고 있어요  
놀다 (to play, hang out) 노는 중이에요  놀고 있어요  
불다 (to blow) 부는 중이에요  불고 있어요  


Example sentences: 


아침을 만드는 중이에요 – I am making breakfast 

친구들과 노는 중이에요 – I am hanging out with my friends  

풀룻을 부는 중이에요 – I am playing (/blowing) the flute 

휘파람을 부는 중이에요 – I am whistling (literally, I am blowing a whistle sound) 


Using Nouns with 중이에요

This construction can also be formed with nouns using: 

NOUN + 중이에요 


However, this can ONLY be used for nouns that when combined with 하다 become a verb. For example, 공부 meaning “study” can be combined with 하다 to form 공부하다 (to study). However, the noun 커피 meaning “coffee” cannot be combined with 하다 to mean “to drink coffee”. 


This construction would translate to “in the middle of NOUN” and is exactly the same as the equivalent 하는 중이에요verb form. For example, 샤워 중이에요 (I am showering) is exactly the same as 샤워하는 중이에요.  


More examples: 


청소 중이에요 = 청소하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of cleaning 

요리 중이에요 = 요리하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of cooking  

준비 중이에요 = 준비하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of preparing  

수업 중이에요 = 수업하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of taking a class**** 

다이어트 중이에요 = 다이어트하는 중이에요 – I am in the middle of dieting 


****Note수업하다 can either mean “to attend a class” as a student or “to do/teach a class” as a teacher. 


An EXCEPTION to this rule is 일하다 where it is more natural to use the construction with the verb instead of the noun.  

In this way, 일하고 있어요 / 일하는 중이에요 is more natural than 일 중이에요.  


When to use – 있어요 vs. – 중이에요  


In most cases, these 2 forms are interchangeable, however, when talking about natural or emotional phenomena, it is more natural to use -고 있어요 over -는 중이에요. 


For example: 


The wind is blowing – natural – 바람이 불고 있어요 > 바람이 부는 중이에요 

I am crying – emotional – 울고 있어요 > 우는 중이에요 

It is raining – natural – 비가 오고 있어요 > 비가 오는 중이에요 

(Literally, the rain is coming) 


Present progressive vs. Present Tense 


Unlike in English, the present and present progressive are completely interchangeable.  


For example: 

A: 뭐 해요? – What are you doing? 

B: 공부해요 – I’m studying. 




A: 뭐 하고 있어요? / 뭐 하는 중이에요? – What are you doing? 

B: 공부하고 있어요 / 공부하는 중이에요 / 공부 중이에요  – I’m studying.