Forum Rocket Korean Conversation in Korean Korean Tutor : 압존법. Honorific rule that not many people know

Korean Tutor : 압존법. Honorific rule that not many people know



Hello guys!

I want to talk about 압존법, which mean suppressing respectable form. 

This rule is very weird rule, but it is correct Korea grammar. However, people do not use it very much, but all male Koreans (who went to military) understands this rule because they learn it in the military.

If you are talking to two people, person A and person B, and depending on their rank or age you suppress the respectable form. 

For example, if a person A is your father, and person B is your grandfather. Situation is where your grandfather asks you what your father is doing, and he happens to be sleeping.
If you say "my father is sleeping now" 아버지(father) 자고(sleep) 있어요(ing) is the translation, but this is disrespectful, so you say "아버지 주무시고 계세요" which sleep and ing are replaced with honorifics or respectable form. However, if your grandfather, who is definitely higher rank(or age) than your father in your family, you skip or suppress the honorifics. So it is correct to say 아버지 자고 있어요, if the person you are talking have higher rank/age than the person you are describing. 

In the military or work place, I will show you how it works. 

You are a private and Person A is Sergeant and Person B is Captain and Person C is general, and just in case you do not understand the ranks, You(Private) < Sergeant < Captain < General 

Captain : "what is A doing now?" A 지금 뭐하고 있어?
You : A병장 지금 자고 있습니다. "A(non-respectable - resp. form would be A병장님) is sleeping now. 
Captain : 장군님은? "how about the general?"
You : 장군님은 주무시고 계십니다. "General is sleeping now"

You see how both the sergeant and the general is higher rank than you, the private. However, you skip the respectable form and honorifics for the sergeant since the captain is higher rank than the sergeant, so you lower the sergeant when talking to captain. 

I know this is very confusing rule, and some Koreans get confused too.

Please let me know if you are unclear about this, and I will try to clarify it better!


G'day. Lets see if I got this. I've learned a little vocab but very little else. :-)

So, basically we use the lower form when referring to the Sargent because he is lower than the Captain. So when talking about a third person the level is determined by who you are talking about, not who you are talking to?

In another way, if the third (talked about) person is higher in status to the person you are talking to you use honorifics but of they are lower (or equal?) you don't?


Hi Stevenw,

let me try to clarify it more. 

압존법 is not used in general conversation or when you are talking about someone who is lower status than you. 

It is used when you are talking to someone (Person B) about someone (Person C), and both of them are higher status than you are. 

For example, If I am talking to Person B(who is higher status than I am) about Person D(who is lower status than me), there would be no concern about honorifics because I do not have to be respectable when talking about Person D. 

Now, the trick comes in scenario where you are talking to Person B(higher than you) about Person C(higher than you). 

What 압존법 tells you is that you have to take consideration about who is higher rank B or C? If B is higher than C, you would not use honorifics too much when talking about C. 

Hope this clarified your question, please let me know if you are still confused though.

** But, stevenw, if you are beginning to learn Korean, do not worry about this too much. This is very special rule that not many people (even many Koreans do not know this) know. 


If the person you are talking to is higher than the person you are talking about you don't have to use formal honorifics just the yo ending. 

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