What does yah mean in Korean?

Forms of courtesy

The most difficult thing to get used to in the Korean language are the various forms of politeness. Regardless of whether you are talking to or about someone, there are always different levels of politeness.

To know which form of courtesy to use, you should be able to answer the following questions:

Is the situation formal or informal?

Formal politeness is easy to recognize by using 입니다 (imnida) at the end of sentences. It is used in formal situations such as state visits, important occasions, or radio and television.

In the informal form of politeness one often hears 아요, 어요 (ajo, ojo). This form is common in everyday language and is probably the most important one for beginners. The informal form of politeness is just as polite as the formal form of politeness, except that it is not intended for formal occasions.

What is the social status of the person you are speaking to?

If the person you are speaking to is of higher social rank than you, the salutation should be made a little more polite. The syllable 시 (schi) is inserted in the majority of verbs, other verbs have their own more polite form. There are also differences in personal pronouns. See chapter Personal Pronouns.

How old is the person you are talking to?

Age is still held in high regard in Korea. This is why a little more courtesy is advisable towards older people.

How well are you familiar with the other person?

Special forms of courtesy are usually left out among friends.

Even for Koreans, it is not always immediately obvious which form of politeness to use. That is why new interlocutors are often asked about age and occupation.

The level of politeness can also be varied within a conversation. For example, a more polite form of "thank you" will often be chosen than for the general discussion at the table.

One small consolation: Koreans generally don't expect beginners to use the correct form.


In Korean names, the last name is pronounced before the first name. This is followed by the title or a corresponding courtesy address.

Koreans often use kinship terms as a form of address. Uncle (아저씨 = ajeossi) and aunt (아주머니 = ajumeoni) are also used in everyday language for strangers. Young women often address their partner as a brother (오빠 = oppa). Female waitresses in restaurants are also called sister (언니 = unni).

If you address a foreign Korean on the street, we recommend addressing him as Mr. (선생님 = seonsaengnim).

Salutation Meaning:

선생님 = seonsaengnim

Lord (actual meaning: teacher)

- 씨 = ssi

Mr / Ms (may only be added to the first name)

- 아 = a

You (is added to the first name if it ends in a consonant)

- 야 = ya

You (is added to the first name if it ends in a vowel)

- 님 = nim

is appended to job titles (politely)

- 께서 = kkeseo

is appended to family or job titles when talking about this person (politely)


A couple of ways to address Tobi Park (토비 박).

Salutation Meaning:

- 박 선생님 = bag seonsaengnim

Mr. Park

- 박 토비 씨 = bag tobissi

Tobi Park (politely)

- 토비 씨 = tobissi

Tobi (polite but more familiar)

- 토비야 = tobiya

You Tobi

- 야 = yah


Declaration of love:

This is the section that probably most people will be interested in. Suppose Tobi Park wants to confess his love to Tina Lee (티나 이). Then he has the following options:

- 이 티나 씨! 당신 은 사랑 합니다! = I tinassi! dangsin-eun salanghabnida!

Tina Lee! I love you! (familiar but formal)

- 티나 씨! 사랑 합니다! = Tinassi! salanghabnida

Tina! I love you! (familiar but formal)

- 티 나야! 사랑 해요! = Tinaya! saranghaeyo

Tina! I love you! (familiar)

- 사랑 해요! = Saranghaeyo

I love you! (spoken: Saranghejo)