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Episode 8: 존댓말 vs 반말 Politeness Levels

안녕하세요 친구들~! 마가리타입니당!

So this week we're finally done talking about counting in Korean and are moving on to discuss levels of politeness/formality in everyday speech.


When to use 반말 (least formal):

1. When you are way older and you know for a fact that you will not offend whoever you're speaking to by being casual

2. You got permission to speak informally

When to use either one of the two levels of 존댓말:

1. In a work environment and with people you only know through work and not personally

2. When whoever you are talking to is a customer (regardless of their age)

3. Between business partners (even if they are comfortable to speak casually with each other outside of work they can still use 존댓말 to create a professional atmosphere and showcase the fact that everyone is taking their job seriously)

4. When talking to a stranger

5. When you are clearly younger or even the same age as someone (it never hurts to be polite and speak formally because you wouldn't want people to think you are rude)

6. When talking to someone of a higher social status, regardless of their age (in Korean, even though there is a lot of cultural/societal emphasis on age, social status trumps age)

7. In any case where you were not given permission to speak casually to someone

8. When speaking to a group of people, like giving a lesson or a lecture

9. When making a vlog :)

Formal vs. informal sentences

이거 뭐예요? vs. 이거 뭐야?

어제 친구 만났어요 vs. 어제 친구 만났어

When referring to someone by name there is a formal and informal way to do so.

1. If you want to be formal, add ~씨 at the end of their first name and it will be equivalent to the English Mr./Mrs.

Ex: 광수씨 or 수현씨

2. If you got permission to speak casually to someone, instead of adding ~씨 to their name you add ~아/야 to make it casual.

Ex: 광수야 or 수현아

Ways to ask permission to speak comfortably in Korean:

1. When you are older

말 놔도* 돼요? Can I speak casually with you?

*놓다- literally means to lower something/bring something down

말 편하게 해도 돼요? Can I speak comfortably with you?

2. When you are younger (interestingly, you still need to speak in a formal way when accepting someone's request to speak casually)

말 놓으셔도 돼요. You can speak casually with me.

말 편하게 하셔도 돼요. You can speak comfortably with me.

3. When you are the same age

우리 말 놓울까요? Let's "lower our language" aka speak casually to each other.

말 편하게 해도 돼죠? Let's speak comfortably with each other.

Phewww that was a lot to take in for one lesson. Sorry it ended up being quite a long video but I really hope it was helpful!

Let me know if you have any questions :)

Much love,


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