Adjectives - Polite [Present, Past]

Polite Form

In the previous post, Adjectives - Present, Past, we learned to distinguish between the written and spoken forms of Korean. In addition to it, we're going to further distinguish between the polite and informal forms in Korean.

What are the difference between the informal and polite forms?

  • Informal - Generally speaking, the informal form is used among people of the same age or to people who are younger by older people. It is also used by people who are closely related such as such family members and relatives. People who are close friends would use this form depending on the familiarity and acceptability.

  • Polite - The polite form is used when speaking to people who are older than you or of a higher rank than you such as in the company, army and other institutions. However, people generally use the polite form in many social settings regardless of one's age. Initially, it would be best to stick to the polite form when learning Korean, as this would be the predominant form of speaking to people in many social environments. However, if you attend school or other similar institutions where you'd make friends and the environment is more casual, it might be more appropriate to use the informal form.

Below are the two tables showing the polite form of the written and spoken forms of Korean. Please note that the words in bold indicate which of the two negatives are more common in each form, i.e. 빠르지 않습니다 is more commonly used than 안 빠릅니다 in the written form whereas 안 빨라요 is more commonly used than 빠르지 않아요 in the spoken form.

Polite Written Form
빠르지 않습니다
안 빠릅니다
빠르지 않았습니다
안 빨랐습니다

Polite Spoken Form
빠르지 않아요
안 빨라요
빠르지 않았어요
안 빨랐어요

Conjugations rules

I) Informal written form → Polite written form (Present tense)

First of all, take 다 off adjectives, and then:

1. For adjectives whose final character has no final consonant, add ㅂ 니다.

  • 크다 → 큽니다 = big/large
  • 세다 → 셉니다 = strong
  • 빠르다 → 빠릅니다 = fast
  • 느리다 → 느립니다 = slow
  • 착하다 → 착합니다 = kind
  • 따뜻하다 → 따뜻합니다 = warm (touch, feeling)
  • 시원하다 → 시원합니다 = cool (touch, feeling)

2. For adjectives whose final character has a final consonant, attach 습니다.

  • 작다 → 작습니다 = small (size)
  • 많다 → 많습니다 = many
  • 적다 → 적습니다 = small (quantity)
  • 쉽다 → 쉽습니다 = easy
  • 어렵다 → 어렵습니다 = difficult
  • 뜨겁다 → 뜨겁습니다 = hot (touch)
  • 새롭다 → 새롭습니다 = new

    II) Informal written Polite written (Past tense)

    Take 다 off the past tense of adjectives, and then attach 습니다.

    • 컸다 → 컸습니다 = was big/large
    • 작았다 → 작았습니다 = was small (size)
    • 좋았다 → 좋았습니다 = was good
    • 빨랐다 → 빨랐습니다 = was fast
    • 느렸다 → 느렸습니다 = was slow
    • 쉬웠다 → 쉬웠습니다 = was easy
    • 어려웠다 → 어려웠습니다 = was difficult
    • 뜨거웠다 → 뜨거웠습니다 = was hot (touch)
    • 차가웠다 → 차가웠습니다 = was cold (touch)
    • 새로웠다 → 새로웠습니다 = was new

      III) Informal Polite (Spoken)

      Attach 요 at the end of the adjectives of all forms.

      • 높아 → 높아요 = high
      • 안높아 → 안높아요 = not high
      • 높았어 → 높았어요 = was high
      • 안높았어 → 안높았어요 = was not high

        • 많아 → 많아요 = many
        • 안많아 → 안많아요 = not many
        • 많았어 → 많았어요 = were many
        • 안많았어 → 안많았어요 = were not many

          • 커 → 커요 = big/large
          • 안커 → 안커요 = not big/large
          • 컸어 → 컸어요 = was big/large
          • 안컸어 → 안컸어요 = was not big/large

          For help with the pronunciations of these adjectives in various forms, please use the 'listen' feature on Google Translate.


            1. thnks for the guide first of all. i thought 'seumnida' is used for past verbs. isnt 'imnida' used for present verb with a final consonant?

            2. ah, kwaenchanayo, i get it already. the imnida refers to the i + the ending mnida, right?

            3. 달슴니다, 달아, 또 달아요 - valid forms of 달다 - sweet?

              1. Hi Gregos,

                Here are the different forms of 달다.

                달다 written Korean (informal)
                답니다 written Korean (polite)
                달아 spoken Korean (informal)
                달아요 spoken Korean (polite)


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