Korean - What Is Your Name? (존댓말)

Updated: Mar 30

여러분, 안녕하세요!

I know our last Korean session didn’t quite make sense, when it came to the title, I mean, I spoke about saying “goodbye”, when I was supposed to say “hello”, but there are only so many ways you can say “hello” in 한글, there wasn’t much point in dwelling over it. So, let’s recap, shall we?

“Hello” can be said in two ways, 안녕하세요 which is the 존댓말 form, or the “polite” form, and you have 안녕, which is the 반말 form, or the “casual” form. Of course, you’ll have other ways of saying “hello” like we do in English, for example, “good morning”, “good evening”, “how are you”, but we’ll cover those, in another lesson, or you can look them up in the 사전 (the dictionary).

Now, we can also say “goodbye” and that one is a little different. There’s at least five different ways you can say “goodbye”, and that doesn’t include the other phrases like “see ya”, “see you tomorrow”, “see you next time”, or “later”. Ok, so I won’t list them here, because that would be pointless. If you don’t already know how to say “goodbye”, then I strongly suggest, you go back to my last post, and review them.

Say Hello

Ok, so moving on. We’re going to be learning how to say your name and ask someone what theirs is, and yes, as with saying “hello” and “goodbye” there are 존댓말 forms and 반말 forms. So, pay close attention, because you’ll need to know them, especially if you’re going to be coming into contact with people of different age groups, professions and personalities. What I mean is, you might be speaking to a high-profiled business man, or your grandmother who demands respect (let’s assume she knows 한글), in which case you’ll need 존댓말. Or, let’s say you’re speaking to a pen pal, or your best friend, who comes from Korea. With them, you’ll need 반말.

Enough Chatter, Let’s Speak!

Alright, so let’s take a look at the different ways you can ask what someone’s name is.

성함이 어떻게 되십니까?

Ok, if you’re still struggling with reading 한글 I’ll spell it out just this once. So, what you’re looking at is seong(성)-ham(함)-i(아) eo(어)-tteo(떻)-ge(게) doe(or dwe)(되)-sib(or shib)(십)-ni(니)-kka(까). Now, say it all together, because if you remember, they slur their words, so the silent ㅇ is literally bypassed. Since we’re really going all out with the Romanised version, it should sound like “song-am-ee oh-toh-ge dwe-shim-ni-ka” …I really cringe every time I Romanise Korean, so please learn their alphabet carefully, to really get an idea of how the words should sound like.

Anyway, this version is, as you can guess, the most formal and polite version of the phrase “what is your name”. In fact, you’re not asking someone for their first name at all, because 이름 is the word for “first name”. Can you guess what 성함이 means? If you guessed that it means your surname, or “family name”, you’re correct. It’s like asking someone at a reception desk, “and what is your name sir/ma’am?”. You would give your full name, so they can look you up on their computers. That’s basically what this phrase does. You’re supposed to give your family name, but you can give your full name as a response.

Of course, there’s also another way to ask, in 존댓말 and that’s…

성함이 어떻게 되세요?

Now, the difference between the two is minute. The reason why there are two versions of this phrase in the formal form, is because one is minutely less formal than the other. Can you guess which one?

That’s right, this second version is more informal, why? Well, when you’re learning Korean for the first time, you’ll probably see the 니다, 십니다, and십니까 form a lot. This is the 존댓말 form, which pretty much means that your sentences and phrases will sound longer because they’re more respectful, and since it’s your first time speaking in 한글, and you’re not familiar with the 반말 version, you'll be using these little nuggets often. So, when you ask the second version, it means you’re just that little more comfortable, either with the person, or the language itself. Either way, if it’s your first time speaking to someone in 한글, you’ll want to use the first version, instead.

When Do You Use These Phrases?

As I mentioned before, you’re most likely to hear it in hotels, restaurants and fancy high-brow places like VIP lounges and all that jazz. That’s because the people that work there are lower in social status than you are. So, they’re showing you respect by speaking to you formally, but if you’re the one speaking, then you need to be mindful of the people you’re speaking to.

So, if you’re using these phrases, you’re probably going to use them in situations where you’re the one working in a high-class hotel, or a VIP lounge. You’re also more likely to use these phrases when speaking to someone of higher authority, like if they’re your company’s executives or if you’re talking to politicians and royals (not that you’d need to ask them, but it’s a good example of what kind of higher authority we’re talking about). You’ll also use the phrases on someone much older than you, like an elder, or an older relative who’s name you’ve completely forgotten, because you’ve only met them once or twice in your life.

Next Time – The Informal

Alright, so that was a lot more to unpack than I initially thought, so I’m going to leave it here for you guys, because I know we’re not going to be speaking to someone new anytime soon, so you can keep practicing for now. Remember to familiarise yourself with the pronunciation and don’t forget to keep trying to read 한글 letters, because then it will be easier once we start looking at longer sentences and once we start switching between 반말 and 존댓말. In the meantime, why don’t you check out this website:

90 Day Korean

They do excellent tutorials and lessons on how to speak Korean, and they have native speakers who can help you pronounce those pesky sound changes, when you’re trying to speak properly. Like I said, I’m not Korean myself, and I am not a professional when it comes to pronunciation, so listening to actual natives will help with your overall practice.

Well, that’s it from me today, I’ll see you guys next time. For now, don’t forget to like, subscribe and follow for more updates and the latest posts here on Feather’s Charm and on my social media accounts. Oh, and share these posts with family and friends, those who you’d think might enjoy these topics and tips! I’ll see you later!

With love,

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