Level 3 Lesson 27 / Politeness Levels / 반말 and 존댓말

안녕하세요! In this lesson, we are talking about the differences between the different politeness levels in Korean. The most casual and intimate language is called “반말”. Find out more about when you can and cannot use 반말 and how to use it by listening to this lesson.

You can download both the PDF lesson notes and the MP3 audio track for this lesson below, and if you want to learn with our various textbooks and workbooks, you can get them on our online bookstore at MyKoreanStore.com. If you have any questions about this lesson, please leave us comments below!

Download PDF

Download MP3

Go to the Grammar Curriculum page to see all of our grammar lessons.

We have a dialogue prepared in 100% Korean based on all the lessons in Level 3. If you want to check how much you can understand before studying all of the Level 3 lessons, try listening to the dialogue here.

Level 3 Grammar Textbook and Workbook

We’ve made the Level 3 lessons even better and published them as a grammar textbook! The grammar textbook itself is filled with very effective comprehension questions, but you can practice even further with our workbook for Level 3. Both are available now on our online bookstore.

 Blank white book w/path

Level 3 Lesson 27 / Politeness Levels / 반말 and 존댓말
Tagged on:                 
  • samah

    thank you for the lesson but there is something confusing ….

    you said if you are the younger one i can say ..

    (말 놓으셔도 돼요).

    (which mean ” you can speak comfortably with me”) ..

    it is confusing…

    1. if i want to ask him( i’m the younger ) “Can i speak 반말 with you?” what should i say ?? or I can’t ask him because he is older ???

    2. if i say 말 놔도 돼요? to someone older than me is it consider not polite ?

    i don’t know if you understand my point but please answer me ..

    thanks for advance..

    • nadiud

      You can say to your younger friend to speak 반말 to you. You can initiate speaking 반말 to someone younger, same-age friend (You have to understand first that Korean do not speak 반말 so easily even to the same-age friend, unless they feel comfortable to each other). I speak 반말 to one of my friend who is 1 year older than me. We knew each other for 1 year. In the other hand, I still can imagine speaking 반말 to one of my friend whom i knew for 5 years. It feels awkward talking in 반말 to him.

      Complicated right?. Just keep talking in 존댓말 to everyone and never initiate to speak 반말 first to another person until you understand how this 반말-존댓말 thing works. Fighting!!!

    • samah

      Thank you so much .. i will try speak only 존댓말 ,
      -it is difficult i think when someone keep speak 반말 with you .. you just switch with out knowing …
      -i think korean friends if they speak 존댓말 to each other that mean they are not close friends ,so if i want to be close with that friend i must make move and speak 반말 with that friend don’t you think that??
      Are you korean? Where are from ?
      Thank you ..

  • Natasha White

    I can’t seem to find the answer to this question anywhere else. I hear people speaking in 반말 using the unconjugated form of verbs (like 나 밖에 없다 instead of 없어). Are they both correct to use in a sentence? I was under the impression that, in order to use a verb in a sentence, it needs to be conjugated first. Can someone explain this? 감사합니다!

    • Kim Hang

      안녕하세요. Technically speaking, both are 반말. 없다 is just the plain style and can be used like that in speaking. I mainly use it to express something but not always in direct conversation with somebody else but many do. It doesn’t need to be conjugated. 없어 is more informal. By the way 없다 isn’t a verb but I got what you meant. If you wanted to not conjugate a verb and put it in conversation so can say 나 지금 학교에 간다. So in a way you need to conjugated a little with ㄴor 는 after the verb but you still use 다 at the end like it’s dictionary form. Hope it helped you some as I’m also still learning.

  • Matt

    저는 걱장하기 한국에 모두를 우윤히 분노할 거예요… = I worry I will accidentally anger everyone in Korea…
    나는 걱장하기 한국에 모두를 우윤히 분노할 거야… = I worry I will accidentally anger everyone in Korea…

    감사합니다 for the lesson!

  • samah

    thank you for the lesson but there is something confusing ….

    you said if i’m the younger one i can say ..

    (말 놓으셔도 돼요).

    (which mean ” you can speak comfortably with me”) that mean i give him my permission ..

    it is confusing…if i’m the younger he will speak 반말 because he is older than me .

    1. if i want to ask him( i’m the younger ) “Can i speak 반말 with you?” what should i say ?? or I can’t ask him because he is older ???

    2. if i say 말 놔도 돼요? to someone older than me is it consider not polite ?

    i don’t know if you understand my point but please answer me ..

    thanks for advance..

    • 정수민

      Hi, Samah
      1. you just can say “말 편하게 해도 될까요?” if you want to speak 반말 with someone who r older than you. “말 편하게 해도 될까요?”means “Can I speak 반말 with you?”
      2. Well, it depends on the age of someone older than you. If he is too old enough, it will be considered impolite. but If he is of a similar age, it will be okay.

      I hope you will understand what I said. Thank you.

    • samah

      OoOh finaly an answer^_^ ..Thank you so much^^ that really helping. .
      I said to my colleague he older than me 3 years ..말 놔도 돼요? i don’t know if he consider it impolite ㅋㅋ
      Thank you so much

  • Катя Вика

    I’m really confused now..
    So, what exactly can be identified as 존댓말?
    I mean, both “Type 1” -ㅂ니다 & “Type 2” -(아/어/여)요?

    Or is it just the first [-nida] one? <– And if not, is it "ok" to use "Type 2" -(아/어/여)요 in an official environment such as conference or with your boss/선배

    Please, help me out!

    • 산티아고

      Both Type 1&2 are called 존댓말 but the Type 1 is the Honorific form (if someone is way older than you or is very high in a social rank), is also use in TV programs, newspapers, big business meetings I guess too. Also men use this -ㅂ니다 ending while in the military service.
      And to your question I am not 100% sure, but I think is relative.
      Hope it’s useful, don’t stick with it at 100% because I am not sure if everything is like that, but that’s what I know.

    • Катя Вика

      Thanks for your answer.

  • Asha

    Well that was so helpful 🙂 thanx …
    I have a Question .. If a forgeiner , like me and just met a korean person then started to be somehow , friends , and I don’t know how to talk Korean that well .. Does the korean person still judge me for using 반말 ?? Cuz its a bit hard if u know a little korean and use it with him/her and u didnot even know that it was 반말 or u are not used to this formalities in ur language and u are now just learning them gradualy ? So do people still feel not comfortable with it ?

  • Nengzhao Kalie Yan

    I wish this was the very first lesson in the whole series so that Korean learners would not offend people by mistake.

    • they already said that in level 1
      they teach us that first coz they didn’t want us to offend people by talking in panmal
      hehe it looks like you didn’t study with us from the beginning or you would know

  • 감사합니다

  • Blenda Camargo

    Wait, sorry, I have a question.
    Replacing 씨 for 이 refering or talking about someone with a name ending in a consonant ok, that part is ok, like 주헌이. But if someone’s called 송이 there’s no 이 or 씨? Just… really, nothing at all? And that’s fine? I mean, I wouldn’t be considered rude, or sounding as lacking respect right?
    야 and 누나 couldn’t be used in that case? 야 is just for when I’m calling that person and 누나 only if I’m talking directly to her? Could I say something like “Hey 주헌이, look at this cookie 송이누나 gave me” or that’d be wrong? And if 송이 is my dongsaeng, I just call her 송이 with no 이 or 야? Like “Hey 주헌이, look at this cookie 송이 gave me”
    I’m sorry that’s confusing… I’m confused hehe

    • Anastasia L

      do you still need help?? i can explain it to you if you want

    • tnbm

      I don’t get the problem. 송이 씨, 송이송이야

  • 야신

    – #1 politeness 존댓말:
    어제 공항에 친구를 만났습니다. (Telling it your parents or boss).

    * When it ends in a Vowel you add: ㅂ니다
    * When it ends in a Consonant you add: 습니다.

    – #2 politeness 존댓말:
    어제 공항에 친구를 만났어요. (Telling it to your older classmate in college or neighbor).

    – #3 politeness 반말:
    어제 공항에 친구를 만났어. (Telling it to your younger sibling).

    Sentence = (I met a friend at the airport yesterday).

    This is just an example from what I understood from the lesson.

  • اسماء

    So if someone is older than me but I’ve known them for so long..can I speak 반말 to them?

  • Harvey Rivas Potot

    선생님, 이제부터 말을 편하게 해도 될까요?ㅋㅋㅋ

  • 반말 잘 못해ㅜㅜ 왜냐하면 한국어 수업에서 반말을 많이 연습하지 않아.. 그런데 이번 학기가 수업은 마지막 학기야. 그럼 TTMIK하고 한국어 연습할 거야.

  • McKenzie Rodwell

    its a little hard saying 말 놔도 돼요 lol i feel like i’m getting tongue tied lol

    감사합니다!! very useful lesson

  • behindtheblack

    What should you say if you’re the older person and want to switch to BOTH people using banmal (such as when you’re very comfortable and close in age)? Does this happen in steps? As in first, the older person asks to use banmal to the younger, the younger accepts… and then, when you are more comfortable, the older person can ask the younger person if they want to use banmal too?

  • Antoine

    But where is the lesson about -(스) ㅂ 니다/ (스) ㅂ 니까? I can’t find it.

  • Nick RT

    Hyonwuu, you have me confused with your explanation here.
    Here’s what I understand before you confused me:

    First, Politeness level or speech level and Formality level or Setting level are different.
    Politeness Levels are divided into Polite and Non-polite, NOT Polite vs Impolite. 반말 is the Non-polite speech (not impolite speech). Because you can be impolite even using 존댓말. And “sound” so polite even using 반말. Being impolite is completely different from Non-polite speech.

    Second, Formality level is not Speech level, Formality level has different determiners, which to refer situation/setting where/when the speech is happening. Formality Setting Level also work to both 존댓말 and 반말.

    For example we’re trying to conjugate the word 감사하다 and 있다.

    1. Formal Polite (Formal setting, Polite speech)
    Being polite to others in formal setting. Ex: giving speech, presentation, etc.

    2. Informal Polite (Informal/Casual setting, Polite speech)
    Being polite to others in a casual setting. Ex: daily conversation with someone older, in meeting, talking to a stranger, etc.

    3. Formal Non-polite (Formal setting, Non-polite/Intimate speech)
    Talking intimately to others in formal setting. Ex: giving out speech to your classmates or same-age group (like when you’re the president of your class, and you’re trying to sound authoritative to your classmates who are in the same age as you). Some said it is also best when used to write diary and imperative self speeches, or even poetry.

    4. Informal Non-polite (Informal/Casual setting, Non-polite/Intimate speech)
    Talking intimately and casually (eg. your daily conversation with your pals, talking to someone younger, etc)
    있어 / 있다

    **Of course those examples above still have a lot more exteeeeeensive usages and examples. Along with their exceptional cases.

  • Lewis Horwood

    감사합니다! 저는 존대말 항상 하는데 그래서 제 학생들하고 친구들 저를 비웃었어요…
    지금 부터 말을 잘 할거예요. 지금 부터… 이상한 외국인 아니에요. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

  • ryebun17

    1. 어제 케이크 만들었어, 같이 먹자!
    2. 전국아, 이 밤에 방 안에 영화를 볼까?
    3. 이 파티 재미 없어서, 지금 진짜 집에 가고싶어!

    1. I made a cake yesterday, let‘s eat it together!
    2. Jungkook, shall we watch a movie together in my room this night?
    3. This Party isn‘t fun, I really want to go home!

  • 조슈아

    민아: 채영아! 공부하기 위해서 내 집까지 와.
    채영: 말 놓으셔도 안 돼요. 너는 너무 무례해요!
    민아: 왜? 우리 동일한 학급 있어.
    채영: 우리는 공부하자. 뭐 공부할 거야? 과학이야? 수학이야?
    민아: 아니. 안녕.

    Mina: Chae-yeong! Come to my house to study.
    Chae-yeong: You cannot speak to me in 반말. You are way too rude!
    Mina: We are in the same class.
    Chae-yeong: Let’s go study. What will we study? Science? Math?
    Mina: No thanks. Goodbye.

  • Yuki

    여보세요? 엄마 돈을 좀 주세요 새 구두를 사고 싶은데요~ (Hello? mom please give me some money, I’d like to buy new shoes)

    s: 언니 집에 빨리 오세요 (Come home quickly)
    w: 지금 안되 일에 있어 미안해 (I can’t I’m at work now)
    s: 야 패고파서 음식을 없어 그냥 와 (hey I’m hungry and there’s no food just come)
    w: ‘야’!!!? 미쳤어? 넌 말 편하게 안돼!!! (“Hey”!!!? Are you crazy? You can’t talk freely -with me-)

    할머니께서는 연세가 많이 있습니다 (My grandmother is very old)

    나 이제 빨리 먹어하고 좀 공부하고 잘 거야 왜냐하면 내일 일찍 일어냐 하기 때문이다 (I will eat fast study a bit and go to sleep because I have to get up early tomorrow)

    내가 만약 실수를 했는지 알려 주세용 ^^