Level 3 Lesson 27 / Politeness Levels / 반말 and 존댓말

Download Available

안녕하세요! In this lesson, we are talking about the differences between the different politeness levels in Korean. The most casual and intimate language is called “반말”. Find out more about when you can and cannot use 반말 and how to use it by listening to this lesson.



You can download a free PDF for this lesson here, or if you want to study with our TalkToMeInKorean textbooks, you can get them here. And after you learn the basics, try writing your own Korean sentences and get corrections from native speakers through HaruKorean, our 1:1 correction service.


  • sabrina

    안녕하세요!
    There’s one point confused me. why the writing of 현우 씨’s name is hyunwoo not hyeonu?
    감사합니다!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fajar-Priyanto/638418578 Fajar Priyanto

      Pls correct me if I’m wrong.
      I think 우 is how Korean write Woo.
      Similar like 이 stands for Lee.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fajar-Priyanto/638418578 Fajar Priyanto

      I think that’s how Korean spell Woo.
      Same as 이 for Lee
      Pls correct me if I’m wrong

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hee-Lee/100002453367433 Hee Lee

    와 이레슨 정말 재미있는데 !
    오 그리고 현우씨 , your voice when you talk in 반말 진짜 좋아해 ㅋㅋㅋ
    lol dont get mad at me please ,i’ve just tried to practice something you just taught
    고마워요 , 경은씨 하고 현우씨하고 석진씨

    this lesson reminds me of super junior’s magnae , cho kyuhyun , lol he’s famous for his improper behavior , on broadcast /radio/ interview, he always ” eunhyuk ssi , donghae ssi bla bla bla ㅂ니다 ” , but offcam , he’d say “야 , 은혁 ,밥 !” to tell his hyung to cook ,even without calling him 형 , his hyungs always complaint and the leader even said our magnae is the rudest one in kpop , lol ,but they still love him for his cuteness and genuineness

    and about honorific/polite word , vietnamese and korean are really similar , but we have more levels of polite :)) , and the personal pronoun you use when you talk to grand parents , parents , older sibling , younger silbling , teacher , much older ppl , slightly older one, younger one , much younger , ppl at the same age , lover , boss … are all different , foreigners find it very confusing

    and the highest level of honorific words you almost only use with grand parent or parents . however sometimes ,children from stricly educated families have to talk to their older sibling in the highest level too , but it sounds really weird,even to me

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hee-Lee/100002453367433 Hee Lee

    와 이레슨 정말 재미있는데 !
    오 그리고 현우씨 , your voice when you talk in 반말 진짜 좋아해 ㅋㅋㅋ
    lol dont get mad at me please ,i’ve just tried to practice something you just taught
    고마워요 , 경은씨 하고 현우씨하고 석진씨

    this lesson reminds me of super junior’s magnae , cho kyuhyun , lol he’s famous for his improper behavior , on broadcast /radio/ interview, he always ” eunhyuk ssi , donghae ssi bla bla bla ㅂ니다 ” , but offcam , he’d say “은혁 야 ,밥 !” to tell his hyung to cook ,even without calling him 형 , his hyungs always complaint and the leader even said our magnae is the rudest one in kpop , lol ,but they still love him for his cuteness and genuineness

    and about honorific/polite word , vietnamese and korean are really similar , but we have more levels of polite :)) , and the personal pronoun you use when you talk to grand parent , parent , older sibling , younger silbling , teacher , much older ppl , slightly older one, younger one , much younger , ppl at the same age , lover , boss … are all different , foreigners find it very confusing

    and the highest level of honorific words you almost only use with grand parents or parent ,but sometimes children from strictly educated families have to use the highest level with their older sibling too , but sounds weird ,even to me

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hee-Lee/100002453367433 Hee Lee

    와 이레슨 정말 재미있는데 !
    오 그리고 현우씨 , your voice when you talk in 반말 진짜 좋아해 ㅋㅋㅋ
    lol dont get mad at me please ,i’ve just tried to practice something you just taught
    고마워요 , 경은씨 하고 현우씨하고 석진씨

    this lesson reminds me of super junior’s magnae , cho kyuhyun , lol he’s famous for his improper behavior , on broadcast /radio/ interview, he always ” eunhyuk ssi , donghae ssi bla bla bla ㅂ니다 ” , but offcam , he’d say “은혁 야 ,밥 !” to tell his hyung to cook ,even without calling him 형 , his hyungs always complaint and the leader even said our magnae is the rudest one in kpop , lol ,but they still love him for his cuteness and genuineness

    and about honorific/polite word , vietnamese and korean are really similar , but we have more levels of polite :)) , and the personal pronoun you use when you talk to grand parent , parent , older sibling , younger silbling , teacher , much older ppl , slightly older one, younger one , much younger , ppl at the same age , lover , boss … are all different , foreigners find it very confusing

    and the highest level of honorific words you almost only use with grand parents or parents

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fajar-Priyanto/638418578 Fajar Priyanto

    When I watch Korean historical drama, they use a lot words with ending 니까.
    Do people still use that form of politeness nowadays?
    Is it also part of 존댓말?

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      I guess you hear that “니까” pattern in question form, right?

      Yeah, it is still formal expression if you use it in question form.

      식사 하셨습니까?

      가방 가져 오셨습니까?

      여권 가져 오셨습니까?

      :)

    • Katherine Traylor

      Haha, I just watched “궁” and the grandmother used the “니까” form in every single question. : )

  • Lorainne

    If I want to ask somebody who is close to me to go, can I just say 가 to that person?
    :)

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      Yeah, I often say “가” to my close friends. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gabriela-Rodrguez/1260441886 Gabriela Rodríguez

    정말 감사합니다~ This lesson was really helpful, because I didn’t know (until now) that people should ask for permission to talk in 반말.

  • Ahuav

    Hi, I would like to ask about adding “이” to a name.
    In the PDF it says that “… Korean people add the letter “이” after the names that end with a consonant when they are talking about the person using their name.”
    for example “석진이”.
    what about names that ends in a vowel? like 현우 ?

    Thank you

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      Hi Ahuav,

      We don’t add “이” after the name without a last consonant.

      현우이 (X)

    • Ahuva

      Oh, sorry, I just heard the audio again and it was explained that names that end with a vowel don’t need the “이” . Thank you

  • Ahuva

    Talking about names, it says in the PDF to add the letter “이” after the names that end with a consonant, when talking about the person using their name. What about names that end with a vowel?
    Thank you

    • Edward

      For names that end with a consonant, you don’t need to add the “이”.

  • Yasmine

    안녕하세요 ^^
    i didn’t know that i have to ask for the person’s permission to speak in 반말 , and i just dropped it with someone who’s older than me ㅜㅜ
    저는 이제 어떻게 해야 되요? ㅋㅋ
    선생님들 .. 너무 도와 주셔서 정말 감사합니다 ^^

  • Paul White

    The use of panmal and chondaenmal in Korean tends to confuse learners, especially English speakers. It is often erroneously explained in the grammar books as “rude talk” and “polite talk.” But in fact, as you point out, neither is “rude” or “polite” in the appropriate context. In an inappropriate context, however, even chondaenmal can be extremely rude.
    For example, if an older person suddenly addresses a person to whom he owes warmth and affection — maybe a father to his son — in chondeanmal, he is starting to address that person as a stranger. This is an insult to the son — You are now a stranger to me!
    We can find examples of this in old-fashioned English. In 18th and 19th century novels we can find an angry father addressing his son as “Sir!” Normally, he should say something like, “John, my dear boy, you should marry soon… etc.” But if the father is displeased with his son, he says something like, “You, sir, are a scoundrel, sir! Leave this house at once, sir! You are no longer a son of mine, sir!”
    A displeased master would also dismiss a servant, addressing him with a contemptuous “Sir.” In other words, using (English) chondaenmal to make it clear to the other that all ties of friendship and affection have been severed. “You are now a stranger to me!” Of course, to address a real stranger as “Sir” was — and still is — polite, especially if the stranger is older.

  • EzNasz BTM

    Now I know the reason why 소녀시대 티파니 always call 소녀시대 태연 as 태연이 when she is talking bout her ..wahhh ..this is so cool it sound much more natural … 정말 감사합니다 선생님 ! 저는 소녀시대 노래 진짜 좋아해요 .. I know that this sentence is unrelated with this lesson but I really really want to say this in korean and now I can ..haha 선생님 때문에 저는 정말 열심히 공부 할거에요 ! 안영하세요 !

  • Jake

    Hi

    I have just a small question. Is it incorrect to use 나 or 우리 with 존댓말?

  • Jake

    Hi

    I have just a small question. Is it incorrect to use 나 or 우리 with 존댓말?

    Thanks.

  • Marc

    These politeness levels are culturally very strange to me. I really like Korea and Korean, but to me it is as if one is obliged to value to one human being as better compared to the other. The Netherlands is a very flat society and I address my CEO by his first name, and with the ‘casual’ politeness form. It just goes against my ‘moral equality-principle’ to use these levels.

  • ichinii

    Hi there,

    i usually hear that Korean people using a dictionary form
    like when they say ” delicious” they are not using 맛있어요 but 맛있다
    is it part of banmal? and why they are using dictionary form?

    and what is the meaning if 고 in 아이고 and 아니고

    will really appreciate your help

    ichinii

  • Wawa Tonahun

    이 레슨 너무 완전이에요
    사진도 아주 예쁘네요
    하지만 나는 물음 있어요
    If I just say 노민우 is it 반말 ??!
    내 두 번째 질문 “씨”
    I hear some korean people call it ..ssi.. and some of them ..shi..
    I think we call it ..ssi.. double ss but the fast make it sounds like sh , Right??!
    대답해 주세요. 제발
    많이 고맙습니다

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      이 레슨 너무 완전이에요 > 이 레슨은 너무 완벽해요.

      나는 물음 있어요 > 나는 질문있어요.

      Yes, if you just say 노민우, it sounds like 반말.

  • WawaTonahun

    이 레슨 너무 완전이에요
    사진도 아주 예쁘네요
    하지만 나는 물음 있어요
    If I just say 노민우 is it 반말 ??!
    내 두 번째 질문 “씨”
    I hear some korean people call it ..ssi.. and some of them ..shi..
    I think we call it ..ssi.. double ss but the fast make it sounds like ..sh , Right??!
    대답해 주세요. 제발
    많이 고맙습니다 ^_-

  • Jean-Christophe

    Hi there, first of all this is the first time I leave a comment but I have been studying all your lessons since the beginning so far and this is awsome.
    My question is about the usage of 반말 and/or 존댓말 in a couple. I am French and in french we have a basic respect/politness form with the “you” which is different, but basically you use the less formal way with your husband/wife, otherwise it looks very old-fashioned.
    Since I am in a very intimate relationship with my Korean wife, and since I am older that her, I followed the rule of this lesson and I asked her whether she’d agree to speak 반말 with me… and to my surprise, she said that we should speak 존댓말 with each other, pretending that some couple speak 반말 but it’s too rude. But for me it’s looks weird not to speak 반말 with her now that I know the different situation and I do not feel like I am in a business relationship with her! Also after reading the comments, it seems that using 존댓말 can even be more rude because it creates more distance and my wife is the closest person in my life, so I would not like to be distant from her.
    What is your opinion of that?

  • TGivans

    So if I am meeting a much older person for the first time, they would probably speak to me in jeon-de-mal even though I am younger, right? Also, would a much older person ever give permission to a younger person to speak to them in pal-mal? Like an uncle giving permission to his nephew? Or is that just never done?

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      Hi TGivans.
      Well, I permitted my nephew, who is one year younger than me, to speak to me in casual form.
      However if the age difference is big, normally, older people don’t permit younger people to say them in casual form.
      Thanks for your comment.

  • http://danielelawson15.yolasite.com/ microsoft points for free

    Xbox Live comes in two flavors, Silver and Gold, but regardless of
    which you choose, you can integrate it with Windows Live Messenger.

    Heck, you can even use Internet Explorer if you really want to.
    The second type is the almost legitimate programs that are encountered less than the fake
    type and has been created with good intentions and was filled with legal,
    valid codes.

  • 안나

    안녕하세요.

    I have a couple of questions about when 반말 can be used.

    If 반말 is used when talking to someone who is younger or someone who the speaker is close with, and 존댓말 is used when talking to someone older or in a higher rank than the speaker or someone who the speaker doesn’t know very well, then which one would be used when, for example, the speaker meets someone for the first time, but that person is younger?
    Basically, which comes first, whether the person spoken to is younger or older, or how close they are?

    And when speaking to someone younger, does the speaker have to get a permission from the other person to speak to them in 반말 or can that be done automatically just because the person is younger?

    And one more…is it a bad thing if one uses 존댓말 when speaking to someone younger?

    감사 합니다.

    • http://twitter.com/jinseokjin jinseokjin

      Hi 안나,
      First of all, it is not rude to use 존댓말 when you speak to someone younger.
      When you meet someone for the first time, even though the person is younger than you, it is polite to use 존댓말, and it will be better to get the person’s permission if you want to use 반말.
      Unless the person whom you speak to is a kid, it is good to use 존댓말 for the first time.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Dan

      안나, it’s a tough call. I was in Korea in the Peace Corps many years ago when I was in my 20s. I used 존댓말 (actually 합쇼체 because I was living in a rural area in 전라남도 and the men thought 해요체 sounded wussy) to everyone except kids and that was fine.
      I married a Peace Corps language teacher at the end of my tour, and so we visit Korea often. Last time, we went with my wife’s favorite 어니, so my 누님 to visit one of her sons at their house for dinner. I do not know this nephew well, he’s a physician around age 40, and the whole family is very traditional aristocrats (민 family). So I was talking to my nephew using 해요체, although I’m 67 years old. My 누님 corrected me. She said, “Dan, you’re making him feel awkward – he’s a generation lower then you and much younger. Use 반말!”
      So I did, and thinking about it, I felt complimented that she didn’t give me the foreigner free pass – she thought enough of me to think I should know better.
      Another example – I overheard her on the phone talking with a tenant at her building. She is in her early 70s, don’t know the tenant’s age, but 누님 was really pissed over something. She was not only using 합쇼체, she was using a high honorific for “you”, “택”.

  • http://marketingillusionist.com/ internet marketing tips

    s point of view before you decide what exactly the website content is going to revolve around

  • http://www.staudesign.com Suzanne Staud

    I’m watching Korean melodramas on Netflix. I’m learning a lot about their culture this way. I don’t understand why the order in which people exit is important. As in, “I’m going to leave first.” (comment in movie)

  • chaima

    l like it sssoooooooooo much th

  • Maria Train

    안녕하세요!

    I have a question about using 존댓말 and 반말.
    For example I have a close Korean friend, but I’m used to talk in 존댓말(from what I’ve learned until now on TTMIK), can I use the polite level but being in the same time casual with that person? Will the politeness level affect our relationship, will the language be a barrier between our feelings? (we talk informal in English, but now I want to start using Korean, and for me it’s easier to use 존댓말)
    A more simple question: can we still be very very close friends, even using 존댓말?
    감사합니다!

  • Anna Le

    저는 존댓말 반말보다 좋아해요 :-)

    • Seokjin Jin

      많은 경우에 존댓말을 쓰는 게 더 좋죠. :)

  • Pingback: Small Talk: Weather | Hanguk Babble

  • http://ask.fm/HoneyCrunch321 Jham

    Daebak!!! Thank you for really explaining it so so well!!! Thank you TTMIK!!! :D

  • Katherine Traylor

    I didn’t realize you had to ask permission. -_- Fortunately I’m almost always too scared to use 반말 unless I’m talking to a kindergarten student. (That actually reminds me: A (Canadian) coworker of mine told me small children often talk in 반말 to parents and teachers; is that true?)

    One of my closest friends is Korean, and we’ve known each other for about 7 years. Obviously, we almost always speak in English. A long time ago (we’d already known each other about three years, I think) we were in a crowded store and I was trying to get her attention, but it was noisy and she didn’t hear me when I called her by her English name. I didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to use 반말 without permission, and I actually didn’t realize that saying -아/-야 was 반말, so I finally called “윤지아!” (She’s a year younger than me.) She was very surprised, but laughed and seemed happy, so I guess I gave myself permission to use 반말? Anyway, now I’m sort of getting to the point where I can sometimes talk in Korean during our conversations, and I was wondering after hearing your podcast: should I still ask her permission to use 반말, or would that be weird?

    Thanks as always for the helpful lesson. : )

  • Katherine Traylor

    I have another question! I work in a 학원, and some of my coworkers address each other casually as 쌤. It’s a contraction of 선생님, isn’t it? Is it all right for me to address my partner teacher this way (we have a good relationship and have met outside of work), or is it too informal since she’s a few years older? Thanks again!

  • Francesco Colléter

    감사압니다 !

  • 아직안갔네요집에 깜빡했네

    “야 이봐요” 이 단어를 좋아하는데요

  • http://twitter.com/jetz531 jetz

    [Talking about names
    For the same reason as above, when Korean people add the letter “이” after the names that end with a consonant, when they are talking about the person using their name. So names like 경은 and 석진 are followed by 이 in sentences.
    If 현우 wants to talk about 석진 in a sentence, he says 석진’s name as “석진이”.]

    I read somewhere that you only use 이 with people you’re close with, but there is no mention of that rule here. Does this mean that you can/should add 이 to a person’s name if it ends in a consonant regardless of your familiarity with each other?

  • http://ask.fm/HoneyCrunch321 Jham

    I have a question… in the pdf file… the first one should be “younger” and the second is “older” right?