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Greetings and Polite Endings

Let's take a closer look at some of the greetings you just learned.

안녕하세요?
Annyeonghaseyo?
How are you? (hon.)/Hello. (hon.)
지내요?
Jal jinaeyo?
How are you? (lit: Are you spending time well?)
지내세요?
Jal jinaeseyo?
How are you? (hon.)
요즘 어때요?
Yojeum eottaeyo?
How are you these days?
요즘 어떠세요?
Yojeum eotteoseyo?
How are you these days? (hon.)

The common greeting 안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo can be shortened to the first two syllables from the longer expression: 안녕 annyeong. 안녕annyeong is used among close friends and acquaintances who are usually the same age or younger. 안녕annyeong is an informal way of greeting a person, while 안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo is conventionally used for more formal interactions such as with business partners, professors, or older people. The Korean language is sensitive to age and social status, a distinction marked by which sentence ending is used. The final syllable in the longer formal expression, yo, marks politeness. The syllable in front of yo, –se–, is called the "subject honorific," and indicates that the subject of the sentence is being honored. It is used when talking about a person who is in a position of respect.

Often you can drop this last syllable ( yo) to turn a polite form into a non-polite or an informal form. Non-polite/informal forms are used only between close friends or with someone who is younger than you.

Polite Non-polite
지내요?
Jal jinaeyo?
How are you?
지내?
Jal jinae?
How are you?
요즘 어때요?
Yojeum eottaeyo?
How are you these days?
요즘 어때?
Yojeum eottae?
How are you these days?
안녕하세요?
Annyeonghaseyo?

How are you?
안녕?
Annyeong?
How are you?

Note that in the case of 안녕하세요? Annyeonghaseyo?/ 안녕? Annyeong? the entire ending (하세요 haseyo)—not just the final syllable ( yo)—is dropped to make in non-polite. In the following lessons, we’ll learn more about how these endings work and learn expressions that are appropriate in different situations. For now, though, just memorize and continue to use these expressions.