Vocabulary (Review)

Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript


Michael: Does Korean have honorifics?
Soyeon: And how do you speak politely in Korean?
Michael: At KoreanClass101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following scenario: Karen Morris goes to get a quick snack from a nearby food stand. She is greeted by the food stand clerk, Sang-hun Han.
"Good morning. How are you?"
Karen Morris: 좋은 아침이에요. 잘 지냈어요? (Joeun achimieyo. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Karen Morris: 좋은 아침이에요. 잘 지냈어요? (Joeun achimieyo. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Sang-hun Han: 네, 잘 지냈어요. 감사합니다. 잘 지냈어요? (Ne, jal jinaesseoyo. Gamsahanmida. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Karen Morris: 좋은 아침이에요. 잘 지냈어요? (Joeun achimieyo. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Michael: "Good morning. How are you?"
Sang-hun Han: 네, 잘 지냈어요. 감사합니다. 잘 지냈어요? (Ne, jal jinaesseoyo. Gamsahanmida. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Michael: "I'm fine, thank you. How about you?"

Lesson focus

Michael: Honorifics, or
Soyeon: 높임말 (nopimmal)
Michael: are titles, expressions, and words that are used to show respect. Depending on the culture, they are used with people who are older or higher in terms of social hierarchy. For example, in English, we use honorifics such as "ma'am" or "mister" to address women and men significantly older than us to show them respect.
In Korean, however, the honorific tone is applied to many aspects of the sentence. This is especially true since age and status play an important role in the everyday life and communication of the Korean people. You've probably noticed that Koreans have several styles or forms of speaking, most of which do not exist in the English language. The most common of these forms is the polite form, or,
Soyeon: 존댓말 (jondaenmal)
Michael: which is commonly done by attaching
Soyeon: "~요" (yo)
Michael: to the end of a sentence.
[Recall 1]
Michael: To understand how this works, let's have a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Karen Lee says "Good morning. How are you?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Soyeon: 좋은 아침이에요. 잘 지냈어요? (Joeun achimieyo. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Michael: As mentioned before, Karen used the
Soyeon: "~요" (yo)
Michael: honorific postpositional particle in both sentences. This particle is used in informal addressee-raising sentences, so attaching this particle at the end of a phrase or sentence makes it sound polite. It is usually used while talking to a person whom you feel somewhat comfortable with but requires a certain degree of politeness in the speech.
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Sang-hun Han answers "I'm fine, thank you. How about you?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Soyeon: 네, 잘 지냈어요. 감사합니다. 잘 지냈어요? (Ne, jal jinaesseoyo. Gamsahanmida. Jal jinaesseoyo?)
Michael: As you can see here, Sang-hun also uses the particle
Soyeon: ~요 (yo)
Michael: to indicate honorification. We can understand from that conversation that Karen and Sang-hun aren't super close friends, and they try to keep some level of politeness with each other.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned that Koreans use honorific terms to refer to others and themselves. It's quite common for Koreans to recognize a hierarchy based on a person's age or social status. When addressing a younger audience, some may choose to use,
Soyeon: 반말 (banmal)
Michael: or "lower your words." However, if you're speaking with someone who's your senior, or
Soyeon: 선배 (seonbae) or 연장자 (yeonjangja)
Michael: particularly in terms of social status, you need to use honorific speech, or, as we've mentioned,
Soyeon: 높임말 (nopimmal)
Honorifics in Korean are closely related to the
Soyeon: 격식체 (gyeoksikche)
Michael: or "formal," and the
Soyeon: 비격식체 (bigyeoksikche)
Michael: or "informal" speech.
Those need to be paired with the right honorifics, in order to express the proper level of formality and politeness required by the context of the situation.
Let's take this time to survey common Korean honorific terms. Let's start with
Soyeon: 저 (jeo)
Michael: This is the honorific pronoun for "I" and should be used when you're talking with someone who is your senior. The plural form for this is
Soyeon: 저희 (jeohui)
Michael: or "we." Korean also has a lot of honorific titles consisting of a noun plus the suffix 님. Here are some examples:
Soyeon: 할아버님 (harabeonim)
Michael: which is a word used to refer to paternal grandfather (and maternal grandfather as well) or to address an old man. Male Koreans use the honorific
Soyeon: 형님 (hyeongnim)
Michael: when referring to their male siblings or cousins, and say
Soyeon: 누님 (nunim)
Michael: when they're referring to an older woman in a family or relatives.
Soyeon: 장모님 (jangmonim)
Michael: is used for their mother-in-law. There's also a word we are familiar with
Soyeon: 선생님 (seonsaengnim)
Michael: which means "teacher," but Koreans also use this word to refer to an aged person, respectfully. In this latter case, this word can be equivalent to sir or madam in English. We can't also miss particles like
Soyeon: "께" (kke) and "께서" (kkeseo). "께" (kke)
Michael: is the honorific form of the particle
Soyeon: "에게" (ege)
Michael: which refers to the ownership or location of an object or to the subject that an act has an influence on. This can be equivalent to "to" in English. So if you want to use "to teacher" in a sentence like "Give this to your teacher," you may say
Soyeon: "선생님에게" (seonsaengnimege)
Michael: but
Soyeon: "선생님께" (seonsaengnimkke)
Michael: would sound better if you are trying to speak in a respectful way. The other particle
Soyeon: "께서 (kkeseo)"
Michael: is the honorific form of subject marking particles
Soyeon: "이/가" (i/ga).
Michael: So, instead of saying,
Soyeon: "할아버지가" (harabeojiga) or "선생님이" (seonsaengnimi),
Michael: you may say
Soyeon: "할아버지께서" (harabeojikkeseo) or "선생님께서" (seonsaengnimkkeseo)
Michael: to sound polite.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: Korea is one of the most consistent cultures in the world. The Korean people have their own language, culture, dress, and cuisine that are distinct from that of other Southeast Asian countries. They value politeness, which is intricately associated with their language. This is the reason they have a system of honorifics that indicate their social relationship with one another. If you're going to visit Korea, you have to be aware of words and actions that are considered to be impolite. For instance, Koreans consider it impolite to address them just by their name,
Soyeon: 그냥 이름만 (geunyang ireumman)
Michael: without any other components like suffix
Soyeon: -님 (-nim)
Michael: or bound noun
Soyeon: 씨 (ssi)
Michael: So, unless you have been invited to call them merely by names, you should address Koreans using appropriate titles, especially if you're conversing with a professional. However, when addressing them with titles, be mindful not to use the professional titles alone. It is impolite to address a Korean as
Soyeon: 사장 (sajang)
Michael: or, "president." People from other cultures may like it because such terms themselves may convey respectfulness, but, in Korea, work titles must always be followed by the honorific suffix mentioned earlier,
Soyeon: -님 (-nim)
Michael: So, if you're going to address someone with a high position, like a director of a company, for instance, you can say something like
Soyeon: 민호 이사님 (minho isanim)
Michael: or, "Director Minho," making sure you've attached the honorific suffix.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Soyeon: 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo)
Michael: See you soon!