Before we start conjugating Korean Verbs, it’s importan to understand a bit of the cultural etiquette. If you’re American and over 35, you’ve probably seen a lot of respectful features in the United States fade.
“Yes, ma’am” “No, sir” are often replaced with a simple and less than polite “Yeah” or “Nah” when addressing the elderly or individuals of higher social status.
Not so much the case in Korean, as politeness is written into the language itself. Failing to conjugate a verb ending properly can be akin to telling your boss, “oh… and by the way, screw you” at the end of a sentence.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the different types of verb endings.
Informal verb endings are used when talking to a very close friend, such as a spouse, or someone significantly younger than oneself, such as a child. Using the informal ending in other situations is just plain rude and is a sign of great disrespect.
The Polite verb ending is for every day speech and is used for general conversations. One might use it amongst friends, neighbors, co-workers, in passing. Really, it’s meant for common usage.
Next we have Honorific Polite. It’s used as a way to show respect. One might use it to show respect for a teacher, an elder person, or an individual of a higher social standing. It’s particularly used in the business arena.
Lastly, we have the Formal verb ending. Formal endings are used in many of the same situations as Honorific Polite (elderly, in businesses). However, formal endings are also used in public speaking situations such as in the news or in front of an audience.
That covers the basics when it comes to etiquette in conjugating Korean verbs. In the next lesson, we’ll work on conjugating the verbs we’ve learned into informal verbs.