Style of Speech

You have seen that Korean has different styles of speech depending on the relationship between the speakers. The four most commonly used are listed below. These sentences have the same meaning; “Do you like coffee?” but written in a different style of speech, depends on the situation :

1)  커피 좋아하십니까?                       (Honorific, formal)
      Keo-pi jo-a-ha-shim-ni-kka?
2)  커피 좋아하세요?                           (Honorific)
      Keo-pi jo-a-ha-se-yo?
3)  커피 좋아해요?                               (Polite)
      Keo-pi jo-a-hae-yo?
4)  커피 좋아해?                                   (Casual)
      Keo-pi jo-a-hae?

Styles (1) and (2) are honorific and are used when you need to be polite. Style (1) is also formal. Style (4) is used among close friends or when you speak to younger family members. Style (3) is polite and informal. This is used when you talk informally to people you don’t know well who are of similar status to you. It is also used when you speak to people you feel close to, if they are a bit older than you and their social status is higher than yours.

Korean verbs consist of a stem which carries the basic meaning ‘좋아하-’ (jo-a-ha = like), and an ending such as +십니까 (shim-ni-kka) as in (1), +세요 (se-yo) as in (2), and so on, which carries a grammatical function (past, present, or future, statement, question, or request, politeness, etc.).

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