It’s hard to find an equivalent grammar phrase of Verb-아/어 있다 in English. Therefore, rather than trying to translate it in English, it’s recommended to focus on when it’s used and what kind of verbs it’s commonly used with.
Verb-아/어 있다 is expresses a continuing state of a completed action. After a certain action is finished, inevitably a certain state continues, right? It’s used to describe that state.
Therefore, it is often used with passive verbs, such as 열리다 (to be opened), 닫히다 (to be closed), 켜지다 (to be turned on), 꺼지다 (to be turned off), 떨어지다 (to be dropped), and 놓이다 (to be put, to be placed), or any other verbs with passive meaning, such as 붙다 (to get attached) and 들다 (to be in sth).
We’ll learn more about the differences between active and passive verbs in Intermediate 1 course, including the ways to change active form of verb to its passive counterpart.
For now, let’s look at the example sentences using the aforementioned passive verbs.
문이 열려 있어요. (열리다 : to be opened + 아/어 있다) The door is open. (As a result of the action of opening, it is staying open.)
창문이 닫혀 있어요. (닫히다 : to be closed + 아/어 있다) The window is closed. (As a result of the action of closing, it is staying closed.)
TV가 켜져 있어요. (켜지다 : to be turned on + 아/어 있다) The TV is on. (As a result of the action of turning on, it is staying on.)
배터리가 없어서 핸드폰이 꺼져 있어요. (꺼지다 : to be turned off + 아/어 있다) There’s no battery, so the phone is off. (As a result of the action of turning off, it is staying off.)
바닥에 누군가의 지갑이 떨어져 있어요. (떨어지다 : to be dropped + 아/어있다) Someone’s wallet is on the floor. (As a result of the action of dropping, it is staying dropped.)
식탁에 숟가락이 놓여 있어요. (놓이다 : to be placed on + 아/어 있다) There’s a spoon on the table. (As a result of placing it on, it is stying placed on.)
지수 머리에 껌이 붙어 있어요. (붙다: to be attached + 아/어 있다) There’s a gum on Jisoo’s hair.
가방에 책이 한 권 들어 있어요. (들다: to be inside sth + 아/어 있다) There’s a book in the bag.
Verb-아/어있다 can also be used with active verbs that cannot be changed to a passive form, like 가다(to go), 오다(to go), 앉다(to sit), 서다(to stand) and 눕다(to lie down), the result of which inevitably involves a continuing state.
먼저 가 있어. 나도 곧 따라갈게. (가다 : to go + 아/어 있다) Go ahead. I’ll catch up soon. (As a result of going, you stay ahead or you stay there.)
저는 이모네 집에 와 있어요. (오다 : to come + 아/어 있다) I’m here at my aunt’s place. (As a result of coming, I am staying.)
친구를 기다리려고 벤치에 앉아 있어요. (앉다: to sit down + 아/어 있다) I’m sitting on a bench to wait for my friend. (As a result of sitting down, you are staying sat down.)
지하철에 빈자리가 없어서 서 있어요. (서다: to stand up + 아/어 있다) There’s no vacant seat in the subway, so I’m standing. (As a result of standing up, I’m staying stood.)
아프면 좀 누워 있어. (눕다 : to lie down + 아/어 있다) If you’re sick, lie down. (As a result of lying down, you stay lain.)
However, for verbs meaning ‘to put on’ or ‘wear’ clothing or accessories, such as 입다, 신다 쓰다, 끼다 and 매다, you should replace -아/어 있다 to –고 있다.
Mom’s wearing boots.
엄마가 부츠를 신어 있어요 (X)
엄마가 부츠를 신고 있어요 (O)
-> This would actually have double meanings.
1) Her boots are on her feet. (As a result of putting it on, the shoes are on.)
2) She is putting them on right now (in this case, -고 있다 would be used as present progressive.)
That man is wearing a hat, so I can’t see his face.
저 남자가 모자를 써 있어서 얼굴이 안 보여요. (X)
저 남자가 모자를 쓰고 있어서 얼굴이 안 보여요. (O)
The woman with a coat on is my sister.
코트를 입어 있는 여자가 우리 누나예요. (X)
코트를 입고 있는 여자가 우리 누나예요. (O)
My mom always has her wedding ring on.
엄마는 항상 결혼 반지를 껴 있어요. (X)
엄마는 항상 결혼 반지를 끼고 있어요. (O)
The man wearing a necktie is handsome.
넥타이를 매어 있는 남자가 잘생겼네요. (X)
넥타이를 매고 있는 남자가 잘생겼네요. (O)