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.


  • rochim hidayah

    저는 억양도 어려워서 이상한 얼굴을 받았어요.

  • Pingback: How 반말 Works – Casual/Informal Language in Korean | Talk To Me In Korean()

  • http://travelworldheritage.com/ Maximuz

    I don’t know if anyone has made this comparison yet, but 반말하고 존뎃말 is incredibly similar to Spanish and how you speak in “usted” and “tu.” The parallels between our cultures are fascinating. Furthermore, our a,e,i,o,u accent is the same as Korean.

  • Esat Armağan Kaymaz

    현우 씨 우리의 선생님예요. (I hope I didn’t make any mistake :/ )
    Mr. Hyunwoo is our teacher.

  • samah

    thank you for the lesson but there is something confusing ….

    you said if you are the younger one i can say ..

    (말 놓으셔도 돼요).

    (which mean ” you can speak comfortably with me”) ..

    it is confusing…

    1. if i want to ask him( i’m the younger ) “Can i speak 반말 with you?” what should i say ?? or I can’t ask him because he is older ???

    2. if i say 말 놔도 돼요? to someone older than me is it consider not polite ?

    i don’t know if you understand my point but please answer me ..

    thanks for advance..

    • nadiud

      You can say to your younger friend to speak 반말 to you. You can initiate speaking 반말 to someone younger, same-age friend (You have to understand first that Korean do not speak 반말 so easily even to the same-age friend, unless they feel comfortable to each other). I speak 반말 to one of my friend who is 1 year older than me. We knew each other for 1 year. In the other hand, I still can imagine speaking 반말 to one of my friend whom i knew for 5 years. It feels awkward talking in 반말 to him.

      Complicated right?. Just keep talking in 존댓말 to everyone and never initiate to speak 반말 first to another person until you understand how this 반말-존댓말 thing works. Fighting!!!

    • samah

      Thank you so much .. i will try speak only 존댓말 ,
      -it is difficult i think when someone keep speak 반말 with you .. you just switch with out knowing …
      -i think korean friends if they speak 존댓말 to each other that mean they are not close friends ,so if i want to be close with that friend i must make move and speak 반말 with that friend don’t you think that??
      Are you korean? Where are from ?
      Thank you ..

  • Natasha White

    I can’t seem to find the answer to this question anywhere else. I hear people speaking in 반말 using the unconjugated form of verbs (like 나 밖에 없다 instead of 없어). Are they both correct to use in a sentence? I was under the impression that, in order to use a verb in a sentence, it needs to be conjugated first. Can someone explain this? 감사합니다!

    • Kim Hang

      안녕하세요. Technically speaking, both are 반말. 없다 is just the plain style and can be used like that in speaking. I mainly use it to express something but not always in direct conversation with somebody else but many do. It doesn’t need to be conjugated. 없어 is more informal. By the way 없다 isn’t a verb but I got what you meant. If you wanted to not conjugate a verb and put it in conversation so can say 나 지금 학교에 간다. So in a way you need to conjugated a little with ㄴor 는 after the verb but you still use 다 at the end like it’s dictionary form. Hope it helped you some as I’m also still learning.

  • Matt

    저는 걱장하기 한국에 모두를 우윤히 분노할 거예요… = I worry I will accidentally anger everyone in Korea…
    나는 걱장하기 한국에 모두를 우윤히 분노할 거야… = I worry I will accidentally anger everyone in Korea…

    감사합니다 for the lesson!

  • samah

    thank you for the lesson but there is something confusing ….

    you said if i’m the younger one i can say ..

    (말 놓으셔도 돼요).

    (which mean ” you can speak comfortably with me”) that mean i give him my permission ..

    it is confusing…if i’m the younger he will speak 반말 because he is older than me .

    1. if i want to ask him( i’m the younger ) “Can i speak 반말 with you?” what should i say ?? or I can’t ask him because he is older ???

    2. if i say 말 놔도 돼요? to someone older than me is it consider not polite ?

    i don’t know if you understand my point but please answer me ..

    thanks for advance..

    • 정수민

      Hi, Samah
      1. you just can say “말 편하게 해도 될까요?” if you want to speak 반말 with someone who r older than you. “말 편하게 해도 될까요?”means “Can I speak 반말 with you?”
      2. Well, it depends on the age of someone older than you. If he is too old enough, it will be considered impolite. but If he is of a similar age, it will be okay.

      I hope you will understand what I said. Thank you.

    • samah

      OoOh finaly an answer^_^ ..Thank you so much^^ that really helping. .
      I said to my colleague he older than me 3 years ..말 놔도 돼요? i don’t know if he consider it impolite ㅋㅋ
      Thank you so much

  • Катя Вика

    I’m really confused now..
    So, what exactly can be identified as 존댓말?
    I mean, both “Type 1″ -ㅂ니다 & “Type 2″ -(아/어/여)요?

    Or is it just the first [-nida] one? <– And if not, is it "ok" to use "Type 2" -(아/어/여)요 in an official environment such as conference or with your boss/선배

    Please, help me out!

    • 산티아고

      Both Type 1&2 are called 존댓말 but the Type 1 is the Honorific form (if someone is way older than you or is very high in a social rank), is also use in TV programs, newspapers, big business meetings I guess too. Also men use this -ㅂ니다 ending while in the military service.
      And to your question I am not 100% sure, but I think is relative.
      Hope it’s useful, don’t stick with it at 100% because I am not sure if everything is like that, but that’s what I know.

    • Катя Вика

      Thanks for your answer.