Episode from the podcastTalk To Me In Korean

TTMIK Level 5 Lesson 2 PDF

Released Thursday, 31st March 2011
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TTMIK Level 5 Lesson 2 - -시- (honorific)

Welcome everybody to the 2nd lesson of Level 5. In this lesson we are going to introduce how the honorific suffix -시- [-si-] is used in "politer" and "more formal" situations. Even if this is the first time you have heard about this "honorific suffix", you probably have already seen some expressions before that have this word -시- in them, such as 안녕하세요, 안녕히 가세요 or 주세요.

What is -시-?

- 시- is a "suffix" so it is never used on its own. When combined with other verbs, -시- makes a sentence "honorific", which means that the speaker is showing respect for the person that he or she is talking about. If the speaker wants to show respect for the other person talking with him or herself, he or she can show respect for that person, too, by using this honorific suffix, -시-.

How is it used?

-시- can be used in any tense. You add -시- between the verb stem and other verb endings.

Present tense: verb stem + -아/어/여요
Past tense: verb stem + -았/었/였어요
Future tense: verb stem + -ㄹ 거예요

Present tense: verb stem + -시- + -어요
Past tense: verb stem + -시- + -었어요
Future tense: verb stem + -시- + -ㄹ 거예요

** When the verb stem ends with a consonant, you need to add 으 [eu] in front of 시 to make the pronunciation easier.


1. 보다 [bo-da] = to see

Present tense
[plain] 보 + -아요 = 봐요 [bwa-yo]
[honorific] 보 + -시- + -어요 = 보셔요 [bo-syeo-yo]

Past tense
[plain] 보 + -았- + -어요 = 봤어요 [bwa-sseo-yo]
[honorific] 보 + -시- + -었- + -어요 = 보셨어요 [bo-syeo-sseo-yo]

Future tense
[plain] 보 + -ㄹ 거예요 = 볼 거예요 [bol geo-ye-yo]
[honorific] 보 + -시- + ㄹ 거예요 = 보실 거예요 [bo-sil geo-ye-yo]

2. 웃다 [ut-da] = to laugh, to smile

Present tense
[plain] 웃 + -어요 = 웃어요 [u-seo-yo]
[honorific] 웃 + -으시- + -어요 = 웃으셔요 [u-seo-syeo-yo]

Past tense
[plain] 웃 + -었- + -어요 = 웃었어요 [u-seo-sseo-yo]
[honorific] 웃 + -으시- + -었- + -어요 = 웃으셨어요 [u-seu-syeo-sseo-yo]

Future tense
[plain] 웃 + -을 거예요 = 웃을 거예요 [u-seul geo-ye-yo]
[honorific] 웃 + -으시- + -ㄹ 거예요 = 웃으실 거예요 [u-seu-sil geo-ye-yo]

Honorific subject marker

You already know what subject markers are. They are 이 [i] and 가 [ga] and they show “WHO” did the action or “WHO” is the subject of the verb.

A: 누가 했어요? (Who did it?)
B: 제가 했어요. (I did it.)

In honorific sentences, the subject markers change to 께서 [kke-seo]. You can only use 께서 after subjects that you are being honorific to, showing respect toward and lowering yourself against.

Ex) A가 → A께서

Often times, the word for the subject itself can change accordingly. For example, the word 선생님 is already in the honorific form because it has the word “님" but in casual situations you can use 이 or 가 as subject markers. But other words need to change forms when they are used in honorific sentences.

친구가 → 친구분께서 (adding the word 분 [bun])
사장이 → 사장님께서 (adding the word 님 [nim])
현우 씨가 → 현우 님께서 (changing the word 씨 [ssi] to 님 [nim])

But in everyday conversations, if you are talking with people that you are somewhat close to, you can drop 께서 while still keeping the basic honorific forms using -시-.

1. 현우 씨, 언제 오실 거예요? = Hyunwoo, when are you going to come here?
2. 선생님이 주셨어요. = My teacher gave it to me.
3. 아빠 오셨어요. = My father is here.

Irregular verbs exampls
1. 듣다 [deut-da] = to listen
→ [honorific] 들으시다 [deu-reu-si-da]

2. 팔다 [pal-da] = to sell
→ [honorific] 파시다 [pa-si-da]

3. 먹다 [meok-da] = to eat
→ [honorific] 드시다 [deu-si-da]

4. 마시다 [ma-si-da] = to drink
→ [honorific] 드시다 [deu-si-da] (** the same as 먹다)

Fixed expressions (noun + 하시다)
There are some nouns that are only used in honorific situations. They are used with 하시다 to form utmost honorific and polite expressions.

말 [mal] = talk, speech, story, speaking
→ 말씀 [mal-sseum]
→ 말씀하시다 [mal-sseum-ha-si-da] = to talk

먹다 [meok-da] = to eat
→ 식사 [sik-sa] = meal
→ 식사하시다 [sik-sa-ha-si-da] = to have a meal

-셔요 becoming -세요
Originally, when -시- is combined with -아/어/여요, the present tense ending, it becomes -셔요. But over time, people have started pronouncing it and even writing it as -세요 because it’s easier to pronounce. This is only found in present tense sentences and imperative sentences.

Present tense:
Ex) 어디 가셔요? → 어디 가세요?
(어디 가셔요 is still correct, but people say 어디 가세요 more commonly.)

Ex) 하지 마셔요. → 하지 마세요.
(하지 마세요 is still correct, but people say 하지 마세요 more commonly.)
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