Lesson 36 (Beginner 2B Lesson 4): Making Polite Sentences

We continued with the handout for the third grammar point. There were many speaking exercises done in pairs. Since we had 5 students (the person whom I said had the same Korean name as the previous teacher wasn't here today), for some of the activities, one lucky student had to do it with the teacher. (I did it only the first time, the rest I was paired with the youngest girl in class, also someone from my previous group.)

We finished the Chapter 9 handout and most of the things in the textbook. We have a writing assignment as part of the homework this week, which I've yet to do...


4. A/V-(으)-시-

This is used to indicate respect when the subject of the sentences holds higher social status than the speaker.

The third grammar point for Chapter 9 (covered in Lesson 35) was for nouns: N(이)세요.

This one is for verbs and adjectives.

The teacher said that usually you will see it in these forms:

  • A/V-(으)세요 (present tense)
  • A/V-(으)셨어요 (past tense)

(1) Present Tense: A/V-(으)세요

The present tense form looks like this:

  1. 받침 O + 으세요
  2. 받침 X + 세요


  1. 읽다 + 으세요 → 읽으세요
  2. 가다 + 세요 → 가세요
  3. 있다 + 으세요 → 있으세요1

Why does 시 become 세? I do not know. In the textbook, there is a yellow sticky note that says: -으시/시- + -어요 → -으세요/세요.

어요 is just the present tense for the casual-polite2 form.

Why is it that it is 세 and not 셔 as per the "add one stroke" thing which I thought I finally understood? I have no idea.

(The teacher didn't go through this, I only saw it when flipping through the textbook as I was doing the homework. However on Wiktionary, there are 2 forms listed under the Sentence-final forms with honorific table, for polite, indicative, non-past, for example with 가다: 가세요 and 가셔요. So it seems that the expected 셔요 form actually exists, but might not be the one used most frequently for certain reasons.)

But notice these -(으)세요 verbs are the same conjugation as the "please..." sentences. We studied this back in Chapter 6, the first grammar point which was V-(으)세요 (see Lesson 23).

Naturally, I have questions:

  • How does that relate to this rule?
  • Is this a more general one?
  • But aren't they expressing different meanings, with one being a statement and the other being a suggestion?

I don't have a certain answer, but my understanding from what we've been taught so far is this: Just like how the regular casual/polite sentences can be a suggestion, so can this honorific form that indicates respect.

How did I come to this conclusion? I was reminded of the pronunciation topic for Chapter 8 (see Lesson 34) where I mentioned propositive sentences.

Basically, there is a different intonation (specifically, the length of the 요) to indicate whether it's a sentence or a suggestion (in addition to the contextual clues when the statement is uttered).

I think it is the same situation here. The initial rule we learnt back in Chapter 6 introduced the form of the verb, and we just learnt it in the context of using it to make polite requests.

Here it is more "general" in that sense, since we don't apply it just to verbs, but to adjectives. And we also look at the past tense form.

(2) Past Tense: A/V-(으)셨어요

The past tense form looks like this:

  1. 받침 O + 으셨어요
  2. 받침 X + 셨어요


  1. 읽다 + 으셨어요 → 읽으셨어요
  2. 가다 + 셨어요 → 가셨어요
  3. 먹다 + 셨어요 → 드셨어요3

This time, the rule makes a bit more sense, sticking to the ㅣ + ㅓ → ㅕ and with 었어요 as the past tense for the casual-polite form: -으시/시- + -었어요 → -으셨어요/셨어요.4

The Curious Case of 있다

Above, I said that 있다 + 으세요 → 있으세요.

However, back in Lesson 34, we learnt that 있다 is special (along with 먹다/마시다 and 자다), and the special form is 계세요.

What gives?

있다 actually has 2 meanings:

  1. to be located (somewhere): 선생님은 교실에 있어요. (The teacher is in the classroom.)
  2. to have (something): 선생님은 우산이 있어요. (The teacher has an umbrella.)

When the subject is someone you respect and they are located at a particular place, that's when you use 계세요: 선생님은 교실에 계세요.

In the case of the other meaning (to have), you would use 있으세요: 선생님은 우산이 있으세요.

According to the teacher, to use 계세요 for this second sentence sounds like you are respecting the umbrella, which isn't correct.


For 있어요 (있다), use:

  • 있으세요 when it means "to have"
  • 계세요 when it means "to be located"

Culture Note

This is an informal culture note, not in the textbook.

"친구" refers to a friend of the same age.

This came up because the youngest student in our class said for one of our speaking exercises where we were saying what we are going to do tomorrow that she was going to a friend's wedding.

She used 친구, and the teacher was a bit shocked since she was so young. The student clarified that her friend was 9 years older.

Then the teacher said that the word 친구 is actually used only for friends of the same age as you.

Otherwise, you would use the family terms... which explains why you hear all the uses of 오빠 (oppa) and such in the K-dramas.

So usually you would prefix it with from where you know the person, so for example:

  • 학교오빠 (older guy friend I know from school)
  • 교회오빠 (older guy friend I know from church)

Otherwise, if you don't know where you know the person from (or if it's perhaps too hard to say), then you can say 아는오빠, which simply means "this older guy friend I know". (아는 comes from 알다, to know.)


Korean English Notes
투표하다 to vote because the election was on 10 July
은퇴하다 to retire 아버지는 은퇴하셨어요.= My father is retired.
교회 church (Protestant) We learnt this before with the previous teacher back in Chapter 5, but somehow I'd never actually included it in my Anki deck... So it turns out there are 3 of us in the class who are Christians (Protestant) and our answers to what are you doing on Sunday will be going to church. Sino-Korean word from 敎會 (教会)
성당 church (Catholic) One of the students is Catholic. Sino-Korean word from 聖堂 (圣堂).

Fragment URLs

Starting from this post, I'm adding fragment URLs for links to sections within posts since it seems like it's possible to type HTML into this Markdown file.

I'm adding these anchors to old posts as needed, basically when I have a need to link to that section within an old post. What this means is that the any new links from this post on will point to the correct section that it refers to.

I'm not going back to old posts to update the links in them right now, but maybe in future if I think it's worth the effort... but it's quite low on my priority list right now.

  1. We will take another look at 있다 after looking at the past tense. It can also be the irregular 계세요. 

  2. This led me to realise I'd called it "informal-polite" in my Anki cards, and I changed all of them today to "casual-polite". I mused about the differences between "informal" and "casual" ~~and since I've not been disproven, currently believe that the terms are not interchangeable in this context (when talking about Korean).~~ I'm pretty sure now that there isn't a difference; the textbook actually calls it "informal", though the Quizlet cards and the way it's referred to in class is "casual". 

  3. Recall this is an exception, see Lesson 34 

  4. When this post was first published, I had not seen the yellow sticky note in the textbook that shows the combination of -으시/시- + -었어요. I saw it later that same night, while doing the homework. So this was what I said originally based on what was in the handout (I had correctly guessed it was a combination with 어, though more precisely it was 었): Again, how does 시 become 셔? I am inclined to say it's through the addition of 어, because of how 마시다 becomes 마셔요 and all that, but I don't really know if that's the case (where does the 어 come from though?). It's presented this way, so I'm taking this as-is for now, with no idea how it's actually constructed. Maybe in future we will learn a more general rule, maybe not. 

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