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How do you respectfully address someone in Korean?


Respect and honor are deeply embedded in Korean culture, and the way people address each other is no exception. Whether you’re speaking to someone older, younger, or of higher social status, using the appropriate language and honorifics is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore the different ways to address someone respectfully in Korean.

Formal Language

The most common way to show respect in Korean is by using formal language. This includes adding -yo to the end of sentences, using honorific verbs and adjectives, and avoiding contractions. For example, instead of saying “안녕하세요?” (annyeonghaseyo) you would say “안녕하십니까?” (annyeonghasimnikka) to show extra respect.

Title-based Addressing

Koreans also use titles to address people respectfully. For example, if someone is a teacher, you would call them 선생님 (seonsaengnim) instead of their name. Other common titles include 아저씨 (ajeossi) for men and 아줌마 (ajumma) for women.

Age-based Addressing

In Korean culture, age is an important factor in determining how to address someone. If someone is older than you, you would use honorific language and add -님 (nim) to their title. If they are younger than you, you can use casual language but still avoid rude or impolite speech.

Friendly Addressing

If you’re close friends with someone, you can use more casual language and drop honorifics altogether. You might also use nicknames or affectionate terms like 오빠 (oppa) for older brother or 언니 (eonni) for older sister.

Context-based Addressing

The situation you’re in can also dictate how you address someone. For example, if you’re in a formal business meeting, you would use formal language and titles. But if you’re at a casual gathering with friends, you can use more relaxed language.

Gender-based Addressing

Gender is another factor to consider when addressing someone in Korean. If you’re a man talking to a woman, you might add -씨 (ssi) to their name instead of -님 (nim). Women can also use the same honorifics as men, but there are some gender-specific terms like 누나 (nuna) for older sister.

Personal Pronouns

In Korean, personal pronouns are rarely used in conversation. Instead, people often refer to each other by their names or titles. However, there are some gender-neutral pronouns like 저 (jeo) and 제 (je) that can be used in certain situations.

Body Language

Respectful addressing isn’t just about the words you use – your body language is important too. Koreans often bow as a sign of respect, especially when greeting someone for the first time. They might also use two hands when giving or receiving something.

Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re new to Korean culture, it’s easy to make mistakes when addressing someone. Some common faux pas include using informal language with someone of higher status or using overly friendly language with someone you don’t know well.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning how to address someone respectfully in Korean takes practice, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The more you speak with native speakers and pay attention to the way they address each other, the better you’ll become at using the appropriate language and honorifics.


Respectful addressing is a cornerstone of Korean culture, and knowing how to use honorific language and titles is essential for building relationships and showing respect. By following these tips and practicing your language skills, you’ll be able to communicate with Koreans in a way that shows your respect and admiration for their culture.

How do you greet respectfully in Korean?

When greeting others, Koreans typically say “안녕하세요” with a slight bow of the head. This phrase can be used to say hello or good morning/afternoon/evening. When addressing friends or those younger than you, it is acceptable to use the shortened version “안녕?” as a greeting.

How do you show respect in Korean?

It is important to display respect to individuals who are older than you, which includes deferring to their opinions, waiting for their input, and lowering your gaze when in their presence. Additionally, it is proper etiquette to offer and receive objects, gifts, and food with both hands and to remove your hat when inside.

What is the formal version of oppa?

In Korean culture, there are honorific pronouns and nouns used to address family members. For example, “oppa” is used by females to refer to their older brother, while “eonni” is used to refer to their older sister. Similarly, “adeul” means son and “ttal” means daughter, but when speaking politely, they may be referred to as “adeunim” and “ttanim” respectively using honorifics.

Why do Koreans say ah after a name?

When speaking to someone who is of equal or lower social status (taking age into account), it is customary to add the suffix -ah to a name ending in a consonant and -yah to a name ending in a vowel. For example, Yunho might address Junsu as “Junsu-yah!” on occasion. This practice is commonly observed in certain cultures.

What is Anyo in Korean?

The Korean word “anyo” (안요) is a casual greeting, similar in meaning to “hello” or “hi.” It comes from the longer phrase “anyoung haseyo” (안녕하세요) which is a more formal and polite way to say hello or greet someone in Korean.

How do you sound polite in Korean?

Hapsyo-che (하십시오체) is a polite and formal way of speaking that is often used in public speeches, business settings, and in the service industry when addressing customers, elders, or people of higher social rank. It is a way to show respect and is commonly used in formal situations where politeness is essential.

It’s also important to remember that showing respect is not just about the words you use, but also about your tone of voice and overall demeanor. Koreans value humility and modesty, so it’s important to avoid coming across as arrogant or boastful. Instead, try to be humble and respectful in all of your interactions.

Another aspect of respectful addressing in Korean culture is paying attention to hierarchy. Koreans place a lot of emphasis on social status and seniority, so it’s important to be aware of these factors when addressing someone. For example, if you’re speaking to someone who is higher up in the company or organization than you, you would use even more formal language and honorifics.

If you’re unsure about how to address someone or what level of formality to use, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and use more formal language and titles. Koreans will appreciate your efforts to show respect, even if you make mistakes along the way. And if you’re ever unsure about how to address someone, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance or clarification.

In conclusion, respectful addressing is a crucial aspect of Korean culture, and it’s important for anyone who wants to communicate effectively with Koreans to learn how to use the appropriate language and honorifics. By following these tips and practicing your language skills, you’ll be able to navigate Korean culture with confidence and respect. Whether you’re speaking to someone older, younger, of higher social status, or just a close friend, using the right language and showing proper respect will go a long way towards building positive relationships and fostering mutual understanding.

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