Some of my final preparations before going back to Korea in 14 days, I need to know more about honorifics. Too often I confuse simply using formal language with honorific language. This year I want to avoid this mistake as often as possible! :) I’ll split this blog in parts so it won’t be too long.

So what do I think about when we’re talking honorifics?

  • -(으)시
  • 께서 / 께서는
  • Honorific verbs such as 계시다 / 잡수시다
  • Honorific nouns such as 성함 / 댁

If you google “Korean honorific grammar”, this will likely be your first result. The honorific particle. Attach it to the root of your verb and it will become honorific, simple enough right? So, what is my problem with this? The combination of 반말 and this particle. It’s just so confusing!

An example from “Using Korean: A Guide to Contemporary Usage”. 김 선생님이셔? I read this and I think, am I asking Professor Kim if that’s him? Isn’t that inappropriate? Yep. BUT, what if you asked someone younger, or someone you know well if that person over there is Professor Kim. The honorific is for 김 선생님, the casual ending for the younger person you are asking.

It is used to properly address the subject of your sentences. Now that makes sense. The book states that -(으)시 is usually called for if you or the listener has a personal relation to the subject or if the subject is worthy of honorification. This is sometimes still a mystery to me. The book lists lots of examples and exceptions and I will read through those probably every day for the coming 2 weeks. 😛

께서 / 께서는
These particles are the honorific equivalents of 이/가 and 은/는. These are used after subjects that you are being honorific too. It’s important to look beyond the 이/가 and 은/는 particle though. It’s not a simple find and replace unfortunately. An example would be “남동생이 없어요”. While 남동생 is the subject, “I” will be the understood subject. “I don’t have a younger brother”. Using the honorific particles here would be incorrect.

Part 2 tomorrow (probably! :P)
Alright so, I need to let this sink in some more and I’m looking for some more material. This definitely seems like one of the most complicated grammar patterns so far for me but I really want to get it right before going to Korea! ^^

One comment on “Let’s talk honorifics #1

  1. Namie says:

    Will you add part two for honorific nouns?

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