Speech Styles & 해요

If you say ‘나는 점심 먹었다’ which means ‘I had lunch’, it can be very rude to some person even though it only means ‘I had lunch’. That is odd. How can this simple sentence cause a problem in the Korean language?


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Guess Time

Before we start, I’m going to give you 2 sentences. Both sentences use the exact same words and the same syntax. However, for Koreans, they are very different. Can you tell what’s different between them?


저녁 먹었어?
Did you have dinner?


저녁 먹었어요?
Did you have dinner?




The Difference

As I said, both sentences used the exact same words and the same syntax. The only difference was a single letter which was 요. How can this single letter make a big difference?


저녁 먹었?
Did you have dinner?


저녁 먹었어?
Did you have dinner?


Yes, because this 요 is an honorific ending which means the ‘speaker’ is showing a polite manner or a respect to the ‘listener’. That’s similar to  ‘sir’ in English except that 요 should be used in all sentences. It makes you sound way more polite, gentle and respectful.


Isn’t it amazing? Simply by adding 요, Your speech sounds much more polite and gentle. And this is what speech style 해요 dose in the Korean language.




Speech Styles in Korean Language

The Korean language uses something special, but also necessary, to show respect, social states, mood,  intimacy, dialects and so many other things in language. It happens when you add endings and this unique grammatical function is called speech styles (말투 or 어체).


What you’ve seen so far is 해요 speech style. By the way, 해요 isn’t the only speech style in Korean language. The Korean language has, at least, 6 basic speech styles. and also, each person can make their own speech styles.


Korean Language Course 04. Speech Styles & 해요 1 img


‘문을 여시오’ sounds formal but it doesn’t sound polite at all. Just like this, speech styles are more than formality. Then, what kind of speech style do we have to use?




해요 in Korean Language

Haeyo (해요) speech style is coloquial (conversational) honorific which means it fits on almost all situations. When you talk to strangers, when you talk to older people than you, when you speak to an audience group, when you talk to not so close people.


저녁 먹었어?
Did you have dinner?


나중에 문자해
Text me later.


한국어 공부했어
I studied Korean.


해요 is polite enough but not too formal, casual enough to have daily conversations but not too rude. Perfect for any place, any time without a single trouble. This is exactly what every beginner needs.




Hada Speech Style

You also need to know 하다 speech style. This speech style is not used very commonly in conversations. However, it’s the most basic form of words so it’s often called ‘dictionary form’.


to eat


Since it’s the most basic form, translators and dictionaries always use it. However, it doesn’t fit in conversations. This is why native Koreans often tell which is a foreigner using a translator.


와 진짜 예쁘다!
Wow, it’s so beautiful!
= Exclamation


그 남자는 문을 향해 걸어갔다
The man walked to the door
= Novel style


It’s also used for writing a book or a report, telling a concise statement, exclamations and some conjugations.




A Good Question

Now, you’ve learned one of the most important parts of the Korean language. You have to remember you can’t say anything without adding speech styles. That’s how the Korean language really works. Then… What is the difference exactly between formality and honorific in Korean language? Let’s check the next tutorial! And if you liked this tutorial, join in us in Patreon, we’re waiting for you there!