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  5. When to use 하십시오체 vs 해요체?


When to use 하십시오체 vs 해요체?

I’m confused about when it is better to use either of these politeness levels. For example, should I ask a stranger: “화장실이 어디에 있어요?” or “화장실이 어디에 있습니까?” And should I say “제 이름은 팀이예요” or “재 이름은 팀입니다”?

January 17, 2018



Well, I am a native speaker and in my humble opinion, the key difference is that the former is more formal and used more often in written language.

For example, you are more likely to see a written or more like printed sign in a public toilet saying "Do not spit on the floor" (침을 밷지 마십시오 rather than 침을 밷지 마세요)

하십시오체 can be used in spoken Korean for 1) those in uniforms such as military or police

In fact, in the Korean military, they still discourage use of 해요체 as such is less formal, but very casual

2) those actors/actresses appearing in dramas, films and plays where the time setting is definitely not modern Korea but the past

해요체 is still a polite way of saying things in Korean and as the Korean language evolves I believe there will be more and more people much preferring to use 해요체 than 하십시오체 going forward.

However in case you plan on doing your PhD in Korea, your prof. will definitely prefer to hear 하십시오체 rather than 해요체 :D


Also, since the most Korean male population have to serve in the military, Korean men tend to use both 하십시오체 해요체 depending on the context. While there seems to be a strong preference for Korean women to speak more of 해요체 than the other. Thus if you have to guess the gender of the 2 speakers from a written script you can guess as below:

“화장실이 어디에 있어요?” (can equally be a man or a woman)

“화장실이 어디에 있습니까?” (low probability that the speaker is a woman unless she is an active duty military or a female cadet)

Anyway, in a nutshell., 해요체 is still a very polite and safe way of saying or asking things in Korean regardless of who you are speaking to. Hope you are not bogged down too much by the details. ;p


In each example, the first conjugation would be appropriate if you're speaking to someone in your own similar social circumstance. The second, longer conjugation would appropriate if you're speaking to someone who is older or someone you would (should) want to speak respectfully to.


Yes, I agree. It depends on the person/circumstance of whom/when you are speaking to.

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