L1-G: Polite form and honorific form

Structure:  ~ (으)세요 ;    ~아/어/여 요

Corresponding to the cultural tip of the lesson, we will study how to say in polite form and honorific form.

If you ever seen a k-drama, k-movie or even hear a k-song, you’ll hear like 95% of their sentences ends with 요. Probably you’ll go like what’s all the 요 s about, do they just like 요? I know I was one of them who thought so, my first k-experience. Well, actually there’s a reason that they put a 요 ending in the sentence, and here we will look at when to use it.

So if you have read the cultural tip for Lesson 1, you’ll note that koreans put lots of effort to show their respect and one of them is through speech.

How it works:

Basically its like a triangle of relations:

                                                        Topic of sentence

                                                         /                       \

                                                  you   <———–>  listener 

You <=> listener 

To show respect to the listener (generally to someone whom you’re not so close to including superior, people older than you etc) you use the polite form with ending  ~아/어요

Eg.  I am a student.  (you’re saying to the listener so in order to show politeness, you add ~요 to the end of the sentence)

      The sentence: 저는 학생이에.

How this works:

  • For dictionary form word which containsㅏ/ㅗ  vowels  : add ~아요
  • For dictionary form last word containing other vowels: add ~어요.
  • For dictionary form ending with 하다: add ~여요  which will make it 해요.

Contraction may arise in this occasion.

Eg.  Eat kimchi.

       kimchi = 김치       dictionary form of “to eat” = 먹다

       In using the dictionary form of “to eat” we disregard the “다”.

       먹 has vowel ㅓ thus we add polite ending ~어요.

      The result is : 김치를 먹어요.

I noticed something along the way, just some tips. For words with ending vowel is ‘ㅡ’  the polite form that’s attached to it depends on the vowel before it.

Eg. I’m busy.

      dictionary form of “busy” = 바쁘다

      Because 바쁘 has last vowel of ‘ㅡ’ so we look at the word before it ‘바’ which has ㅏ as the vowel.

      Thus: 바쁘 + ~아요 => 바빠요.  (contraction arise).


You <=> topic of sentence

 If the topic of your sentence is someone older (like your elder sibling, parents, teachers) or someone who’s superior to you, you will add the polite honorific ending ~(으)세요.

  • add ~으세요 if ends with consonant
  • add ~세요  if ends with a vowel or y+vowel or double vowel

Eg:  My parents are staying in Korea.

        parents = 부모님   our = 우리

       The sentence: 우리 부모님은 한국에 계세요.

Note: certain words, there are specific honorific form to use like in the above sentence, 계세요 is the honorific form which is used instead of 있어요 (to exist). So when there’s a honorific form of the word, then we’ll replace it when using the honorific form.

Sometimes, the topic of the sentence could be the listener, and you want to use the polite form. So to show politeness to the listener, you use the ending ~요, and to show respect to the topic of the sentence (which is your listener) you use the form ~ (으)세요.

Eg. Where are you going? (the subject is the listener because asking about where the listener is going)

       Where = 어디    to go = 가다

      The sentence: 어디 가세요?

Above all, never never NEVER put yourself in the honorific form. You always be humble and lower yourself. This is what I mean:

Eg.  I go to school.

WRONG to say 저는 학교에 가세요.  which means that “I” which is the topic is being honoured because I have added ~(으)세요 when the topic is about ME.

Instead, the correct way to say is : 저는 학교에 가.  Notice that I’m not lifting myself and politeness is shown to the listener with the ending 요.

Well, generally this is accepted. However, there is more formal way than this too, which is used for really really formal conversation [~ㅂ니다/습니다; 십시오 ….etc.] which we will not look at.



13 Responses

  1. […] discuss the form of polite speech and honorific form later in the […]

  2. […]     Polite ending: 마시다 + 어요  = 마시어요 = 마셔요. (contraction occured) […]

  3. […] form, the honorific form for 있다 for things (as oppose to person) is 있으세요. [remember the polite form in Lesson 1?  있다 ends with a consonant so 으세요 is […]

  4. […] form, the honorific form for 있다 for things (as oppose to person) is 있으세요. [remember the polite form in Lesson 1?  있다 ends with a consonant so 으세요 is […]

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