Korean Language Blog

A Review of Honorific Korean (Part 2) Posted by on Aug 17, 2020 in Grammar, Korean Language, Vocabulary

In general, I think the quality of customer service in Korea is excellent. Most of the sales clerks that I have ever encountered at shops were polite. Even government official clerks were well-mannered to their customers. 

I strongly believe using 존댓말 (jon-dat-mahl :the honorific) is one of the many reasons that most of my experiences in customer service were pleasant. Although I sometimes noticed that some of them were using incorrect 존댓말.  존댓말 should be used to show respect to a subject, particularly a person, within a sentence, but not a 사물 (sah-mul: a thing).  Let me give you a couple of examples of the correct 존댓말.


  •       커피 나왔습니다. (kuh-pee-nah-wat-sum-ni-dah: coffee is here.)

This is correct form of 존댓말. 커피 is a subject in this sentence, but it is not a person.


  •      커피 나오셨습니다. (kuh-pee-nah-oh-shut-sum-ni-dah: coffee is here.)

This is incorrect form of  존댓말. 커피 is a thing. Therefore, you don’t need to use 존댓말 for 커피.



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  • 찾으시는 물건이 없습니다. (chah-jue-si-nun-mool-gun-ee-up-sum-ni-dah: we don’t have the product you are looking for.)

This is correct form of 존댓말. 물건 is a subject in this sentence, but it is not a person.


  • 찾으시는 물건이 없으십니다. (chah-jue-si-nun-mool-gun-ee-up-sum-sim-ni-dah: we don’t have the product you are looking for.)

This is an incorrect use of 존댓말. 물건 is a thing. Therefore, you don’t need to use 존댓말 for 물건.



Let’s review most commonly used 존댓말. 


  1. 어머님께서 이쪽으로 오십니다. (Mother is coming this way.)

오다 (oh-dah: come) – 오시다  (oh-si-dah : honorific form of 오다)    


     2. 이모님이 저쪽으로 가십니다. (Aunt is going that way.)

가다 (gah-dah: go) – 가시다 (gah-si-dah: honorific form of 가다)  


     3. 진지는 잡수셨습니까? (Did you eat?)

밥 (bop: meal, rice)- 진지  (jin-ji: honorific form of 밥) 

먹다 (muk-dah: eat) -잡수시다 (jahp-soo-si-dah: honorific form of 먹다)


     4. 어르신, 연세가 어떻게 되세요? (Sir, how old are you?)

어른 (uh-reun: an adult) – 어르신 (uh-reu-sin: sir, Mr.)

나이 (nah-ee: age) – 연세  (yeon-sei: honorific form of 연세)     

되다 (deo-dah: to become)– 되시다 ( deo-si-dah: honorific form of 되다)


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     5. 어르신이 말씀을 하십니다. (An older person is speaking.)

말 (mahl: speech, talking) – 말씀 (mahl-sseum: honorific of 말)   

어른 (uh-reun: an adult) – 어르신 (uh-reu-sin: sir, Mr.)

하다 (hah-dah: do) – 하시다 (hah-si-dah: honorific of 하다)


     6. 제 친구가 선생님께 질문을 여쭤보았다.

내 (nae: my) – 제 (jae: honorific of 내)

묻다 (mut-dah: ask) – 여쭤보다  (yeo-jew-boh-dah: honorific form of 묻다)


     7. 오늘 아버님 생신입니다. (Today is father’s birthday.)

생일 (sang-ill: birthday) – 생신 (sang-sin: honorific of 생일)

아버지 (ah-buh-jee:father) – 아버님 (ah-buh-nim: honorific of 아버지)


     8. 또 뵙겠습니다. (See you again!)

 보다 (boh-dah: see)– 뵙다 (beob-dah: honorific of 보다)


     9. 할머님께서 편찮으셔서 제가 할머님을 병원에 모시고 갔습니다. (I took grandmother to a hospital because she is sick.)

이, 가 (ee, gah: to) – 께서 (gghe-suh: honorific of 이, 가)

아프다 (ah-poo-dah: sick) – 편찮다 (pyeon-chan-dah: honorific form of 아프다)

내가 (nae-gah: I) -제가 (jae-gah: honorific form of 내가)

데리고 (dae-ri-goh: bring with/be accompanied by ) – 모시고 (moh-si-goh: honorific form of 데리고)     


     10.  선생님께서 약주를 하십니다. (A man is drinking.)

선생님 has two meanings. 선생님 literally means a teacher, but  it means a master in this case.

술 (sool:drink)  – 약주 (yak-joo:honorific form of 술)

하다 (hah-dah: do) – 하시다 (hah-si-dah: honorific form of 하다)  


     11. 옆집 할머니가 돌아가셨다. ( A neighbor’s grandmother passed away.)

죽다 (jook-dah: die) – 돌아가시다 (dol-ah-gah-si-dah: honorific form of 죽다)


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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.