Honorific Speech and Speech Levels in Korean
Koreans often speak and act with deference and respect to teachers, superiors, older relatives and elders.
When they are the subject of discussions, Koreans use honorific speech to show their respect by replacing nouns, verbs or adjectives with their honorific forms.
In addition, Koreans show respect to the person they talk to by choosing the appropriate speech level in their speech. There are as many as 7 speech levels in Korean. Each level shows a certain kind of formality and politeness.
The following 4 speech levels are important for non-native learners. Each speech level can be used with honorific speech or non-honorific speech.
|Speech Level||Non-Honorific Examples||Honorific Examples||Usage|
|Formal and Polite||hamnida (합니다)||hasimnida (하십니다)||Used by TV broadcasters, and in business settings|
|Formal and Casual||handa (한다)||hasinda (하신다)||Used in reported speech, and in written materials|
|Informal and Polite||haeyo (해요)||haseyo (하세요)||Used to show politeness as well as social distance|
|Informal and Casual||hada (해)||hasyeo (하셔)||Used between close friends and relatives, and to younger people|
For example, when you are talking to your close friends about your teacher, you would use the verb hasyeo (honorific speech for showing respect to teachers, informal and casual speech level for talking to friends).
The Informal and Casual speech level is called banmal (반말). The other speech levels are called jondaenmal (존댓말).
Never use banmal (반말) to strangers.
Related Grammar Points
- Similarities and Differences Between Korean Verbs and Adjectives
- Consonant-Vowel Sequences in Spoken Korean
- Spacing in Written Korean
- Introduction to Korean Particles
- Verb To Be 이다 in Korean
- Common Korean Verbs
- Past Tense of Korean Verbs and Adjectives
- Informal Polite Form of Korean Verbs and Adjectives