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Understanding the -(으)시 honorific suffix Perfectly: 시다, 세요, 셔요, 십니다

learning korean Sep 01, 2023
Understanding the -(으)시 Honorifix suffix

- Author: Good Job Korean team 
- Editor: Good Job Korean team 

👍 Contents (Click to navigate instantly)

✅ The Usages of -(으)시 Honorific Suffix
✅ How Do We Attach the -(으)시 Honorific Suffix to the Base Form?
✅ Conjugation and Example Sentences with -(으)시 Suffix
-세요 vs -셔요
✅ Can -(으)시 Suffix Be Used In Casual Speech?
Fixed Honorific Forms


 In Korean, there are seven speech levels which are 하소서체 (highest and extremely formal), 하십시오체 (very respectful), 하오체 (towards people lower or same social position with a moderate degree of respect), 하게체 (outdated style of formal speech), 해라체 (plain form), 해요체 (polite but informal), and 해채 (informal impolite).


 Generally, polite forms are used between adults, regardless of age and social status. They demonstrate a minimum level of respect and maintain courtesy. Informal impolite language can be used with peers or those younger, but it still requires mutual agreement and is often used as a means to establish a more casual or intimate relationship.


 On the other hand, honorific language is used to show respect towards elders, seniors, or anyone deserving special consideration, regardless of their age. Among the various forms of honorifics, the -(으)시 honorific suffix holds a special place. The -(으)시 honorific suffix attaches to verbs and adjectives in the honorific form, indicating deference and respect towards the subject. This simple suffix can significantly alter the tone of the sentence. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of -(으)시, its usage, and its importance in Korean society.


The Usages of -(으)시 Honorific Suffix


  1. Showing Respect To The Subject Of The Sentence

    The -(으)시 suffix is used to elevate the status of the subject to a higher and more respected position, showing respect to the person in the sentence regardless of whether the subject of the sentence is present and listening.

  2. Speaking to Elders / Seniors

    While addressing elders, whether within the family or outside, using -(으)시 with verbs and adjectives is a sign of respect. For example, saying 드시다 (to eat - honorific form) instead of 먹다 (to eat - polite form) shows respect towards the elder/senior.

  3. Formal Settings

    In formal situations, such as job interviews or business meetings, using -(으)시 is essential to convey professionalism and respect. By using the honorific form, speakers exhibit high regard for the listeners.

  4. Customer Service

    In customer service interactions, service providers often use -(으)시 to show respect and courtesy to customers. This practice enhances the overall customer experience and exemplifies their values.

  5. Expressing Humility

    When speaking about oneself or one’s actions, using -(으)시 can be an act of humility. For example, instead of saying, “했어요” (I did it - polite form), one can say, “했습니다“ (I did it - honorific form) to display humility and modesty.


How Do We Attach the -(으)시 Honorific Suffix to the Base Form?

  1. Verbs/Adjectives ending with consonant + -(으)시 + 다

    Example: 웃다 (to laugh) —> 웃 + 으시 + 다 = 웃으시다

  2. Verbs/Adjectives ending with vowel + -시 + 다

    Example: 오다 (to come) —> 오 + 시 + 다 = 오시다

  3. Verbs/Adjectives ending with ㄹ (drop ㄹ) + -시+ 다

    Example: 팔다 (to sell) —> 파 (drop ㄹ) + 시 + 다 = 파시다

  4. Verbs/Adjectives ending with ㅡ + -시 + 다

    Example: 쓰다 (to write) —> 쓰 + 시 + 다 = 쓰시다

  5. 르 irregular verbs/adjectives + -시 + 다

    Example: 고르다 (to choose) —> 고르 + 시 + 다 = 고르시다

  6. ㅎ irregular verbs (drop ㅎ) + -(으)시 + 다

    Example: 그렇다 (to be like that) —> 그러 (drop ㅎ) + 으시 + 다 = 그러시다

  7. ㅅ irregular + -(으)시 + 다


    Firstly, we follow the first -(으)시 rule where we add -으시 to consonant ending verbs:

    낫다 (to be better / to recover) —> 낫 + 으시 + 다

    And then, we would apply the ㅅ irregular conjugation rule when meeting vowel suffix by dropping ㅅ. Therefore, it becomes:

    낫 + 으시 + 다 —> 나 (drop ㅅ) + 으시 + 다 —> 나으시다

  8. ㄷ irregular + -(으)시 + 다

    Following ㄷ irregular conjugation rule, ㄷ changes to ㄹ when it meets a vowel suffix.

    Example: 듣다 (to listen) —> 들 + 으시 + 다 —> 들으시다

  9. ㅂ irregular + -(으)시 + 다

    Following ㅂ irregular conjugation rule, ㅂ changes to ㅜ when it meets a vowel suffix.

    Example: 춥다 (to be cold) —> 추우 + -(으)시 + 다 —> 추우시다 (Following the second rule where we add -시 to vowel ending verbs)


As adding -(으)시 creates an unconjugated word, you need to conjugate the verbs in your sentence.


Conjugation and Example Sentences with -(으)시 Suffix


웃다 - to laugh / to smile

Base form - 웃다

Honorific base form - 웃으시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 웃으셔요 / 웃으세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 웃으셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 웃으실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 웃으십니다


Example sentences:

할머니는 텔레비전을 보면서 웃으세요.
Grandmother smiles while watching the television.

 *할머니: grandmother
*텔레비전: Television
*보다: to watch



오다 - to come

Base form - 오다

Honorific base form - 오시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 오셔요 / 오세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 오셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 오실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 오십니다

Example sentence:

삼촌이 우리 집에 오셨어요.
My uncle came to our house.

*삼촌: uncle
*우리: we, us, our
*집: house, home



팔다 - to sell

Base form - 팔다

Honorific base form - 파시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 파셔요 / 파세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 파셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 파실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 파십니다


Example sentence:

할아버지는 시장에서 생선을 파십니다.
My grandfather sells fish at the market.

*할아버지: grandfather
*시장: market
*생선: fish



쓰다 - to write, to use

Base form - 쓰다

Honorific base form - 쓰시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 쓰셔요 / 쓰세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 쓰셨요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 쓰실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 쓰십니다


Example sentence:

엄마는 편지를 쓰실 거예요.
My mom will write a letter.

*엄마: mom
*편지: letter



고르다 - to choose

Base form - 고르다

Honorific base form - 고르시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 고르셔요 / 고르세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 고르셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 고르실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 고르십니다


Example sentence:

이모는 빨간 드레스를 고르셨어요.
My aunt picked up the red dress.

*이모: aunt
*빨갛다: to be red
*드레스: dress



그렇다 - to choose

Base form - 그렇다

Honorific base form - 그러시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 그러셔요 / 그러세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 그러셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 그러실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 그러십니다


Example sentence:

Why did you do that?

*왜: why


낫다 - to be better, to recover

Base form - 낫다

Honorific base form - 나으시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 나으셔요 / 나으세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 나으셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 나으실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 나으십니다


Example sentence:

감기 빨리 나으세요. Get well soon from your cold.

*감기: cold, flu
*빠르다: to be fast
*낫다: to recover, to be better



듣다 - to listen

Base form - 듣다

Honorific base form - 들으시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 들으셔요 / 들으세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 들으셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 들으실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 들으십니다

Example sentence:

엄마는 운전하면서 라디오를 들으십니다.
Mother listens to the radio while driving.

*운전하다: to drive
*라디오: radio



춥다 - to be cold

Base form - 춥다

Honorific base form - 추우시다

Present tense (+ -아/어요) - 추우셔요 / 추우세요

Past tense (+ -았/었요) - 추우셨어요

Future tense (+ (으)ㄹ 거예요) - 추우실 거예요

In + -ㅂ/습니다 ending - 추우십니다

Example sentence:

선배님 추우세요?
Senior, are you cold?

*선배: senior


-세요 vs -셔요

 From the examples above, you may notice the present tense ending for -시 suffix are -셔요 and -세요. These two endings are both grammatically correct, although -세요 is more common than -셔요. However, when combined with another verb ending, -셔요 is used.


 What does that mean? Let’s take 쉬다 (to rest) as an example. When you add the -(으)시 honorific suffix, it becomes 쉬시다. Therefore, the present tense endings for this verb can be both 쉬세요 and 쉬셔요. But when you add another verb ending to the sentence, you may only use 쉬셔요. For instance:


쉬시다 —> 쉬셔 (present tense without 요) + 야 해요 —> 쉬셔야 해요 ✅

쉬시다 —> 쉬세 (present tense without 요) + 야 해요 —> 쉬세야 해요 ❌


Hence the correct expression would be:

엄마는 쉬셔야 해요. ✅
Mom, you should rest.


Can -(으)시 Suffix Be Used In Casual Speech?

 It is important to remember that -(으)시 shows respect to the subject of the sentence, not the listener. Therefore, sometimes -(으)시 can also be used in casual speech.


For example:

Ex) 할머니가 많이 아프셔.
My grandma is very sick.

→ The -(으)시 suffix is used to elevate the status of "grandma" to a higher and more respected position.
→ There is no ‘아프십니다’ or ‘아프셔요’ ending in the example sentence above, so it is considered casual language. Hence this sentence should be used within close relationships


 The speaker shows respect to her/his grandma by using “아프셔” instead of “아파.” This shows respect to the subject, 할머니(grandma) in the sentence even when she is not present and listening.


 Nevertheless, the -(으)시 suffix is more commonly used when talking with the elderly or someone of higher status than you, as the subject is always "YOU" when asking a question. In such cases, you should not only use the -(으)시 suffix but also incorporate formal speech endings such as ‘-요/-ㅂ니다/-니까.’


 Let’s say you ask this question to your grandma directly.


할머니, 많이 아프셔요? (=아프세요?)
"Grandma, are you very sick?"

→ The -(으)시 suffix is used to elevate the status of the subject, "you (grandma)," to a higher and more respected position.
→ The polite speech, ‘요’ ending, is used in this sentence because it is addressed to grandma.


Fixed Honorific Forms

 Other than adding the -(으)시 honorific suffix to regular verbs to show respect, there are several fixed honorific forms, which are:

  1. To eat (먹다) / to drink (마시다) —> 드시다

    Example sentence:

    저녁은 드셨습니까?
    Did you have dinner?

    *저녁: dinner

  2. To speak (말하다) —> 말씀하시다

    Example sentence:

    교장 선생님이 부모님께 말씀하셨습니다.
    The principal spoke to the parents.

    *교장: principal
    *부모: parents

  3. To sleep 자다 —> 주무시다

    Example sentence:

    할머니는 어젯밤 몇 시에 주무셨어요?

    Grandma, what time did you sleep last night?

    *어젯밤: last night
    *몇 시: what time

  4. To be at/to exist 있다 —> 계시다

    Example sentence:

    회장님은 사무실에 계십니다.
    Mr. Chairman is in the office.

    *회장: chairman
    *사무실: office

  5. To not exist 없다 —> 안 계시다

    Example sentence:

    코치님은 오늘 학교에 안 계십니다.
    The coach is not in school today.

    *코치: coach
    *오늘: today
    *학교: school


 In conclusion, the -(으)시 honorific suffix represents Korean politeness and respect towards elders and seniors. As Korean learners master the usage of the -(으)시 honorific suffix, it displays linguistic proficiency and sincerity in forging meaningful connections with native speakers.

- Author: Good Job Korean team 
- Editor: Good Job Korean team