The Deferential and Polite Speech Levels

Today is 2017 6 13

So today, we’re going to go more in depth with using formal and polite speech. Let’s get straight into it:

The deferential speech level

It is used for public and/or formal situations and has 4 different endings for each sentence type.

  1. 습니다/-ㅂ니다 (declarative)
    • -습니다 is used when the verb stem ends in a consonant and -ㅂ니다 is used for vowels
    • Many mixed/formulaic phrases use deferential speech because they are generally used in formal situations.
      • 처읍 붭 갰습니다 “(I) meet you for the first time” = Nice to meet you
      • 만 나서 반 감습니다 “(I) am glad because I meet you” = Nice to meet you
      • 잘 먹겠습니다 “(I) will eat well” = Thank you for the meal
      • 감사합니다 “(I) do gratitude” = Thank you
  2. -습니까/-ㅂ니까 (interrogative)
    • consonant (-습니까); vowel (-ㅂ니까)
      • 굽다 = roast, 언재 고기습니까? = When (do you) roast the meat?
      • 가르치다 = teach, 아디서 한국어가르칩니까? = Where (do you) teach Korean?
  3. -(으)심시오 (imperative)
    • consonant (-으십시오); vowel (-십시오)
      • 닫다 = close, 창문을 으십시오 = Close the window.
      • 만나다 = meet, 산생님을 만나십시오! = Meet the teacher!
  4. -(으)심다 (propositive/suggestive)
    • consonant (-으십심다); vowel (-십심다)
      • 끊다 = quit, 담배읍시다 = (Let’s) quit smoking.
      • 보대다 = send out, 편지냅시다 = (Let’s) send out the letter.

The polite speech level

It is used by all ages and genders; it is the most commonly used speech level. Polite speech is used in any situation in which being polite is called for

Speech level endings have 2 forms:

  1. -어요 (when the stem ends in 아/오)
  2. -아요 (when the stem ends in any other vowel)
    • 가다 = go, 가 + 아요 contract/combine to become 가요
    • 보다 = see, 보 + 아요 contract/combine to become 봐요
    • 오다 = come, 와요 (contracted)
    • 받다 = receive, 받아다 (no contraction)
    • 배오다 = learn, 배워다 (contracted)
    • 넣다 = put (something) in, 넣어요 (no contraction)
    • 묶다 = tie, 묶어요 (no contraction)
      • A contraction occurs when the same vowel appears twice (가 + 아요, ㅏ appears next to another ㅏ because the ㅇ is silent )and for sound purposes (보 + 아요, the ㅗ and 아 together makes the 와 sound)

The copula 이다 (be), 아니다 (be not), and 하다 (do) don’t follow the same rules as other verbs/adjectives. They become 이에요, 아니에요 and 해요, respectively.

In the polite speech, -어요/-아요 is used for all sentence types. Context and intonation (i.e. rising intonation for questions) help differentiate.

  • 점심을 먹어요 = (I) eat lunch
  • 점심을 먹어요? = Did (you) eat lunch?
  • 점심을 먹어요! = Eat (your) lunch!
  • 점심을 먹어요. = (Let’s) eat lunch.

To close things out, remember that Koreans frequently mix the deferential and polite speech levels, even in formal conversation settings. For example, when you meet for the first time, introductions may be deferential but once everyone is identified, you switch to polite.

 읽어 주셔서 감사합니다안녕!

오늘의 노래:


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