Negative Commands and Suggestion 마-ㄹ (ma-l)

The polite verb ending 요  is versitile that it can be used to express statement, question, command or suggestion. The classic example, 가 (Ga which mean go) have the same form when used in varying form of expression.

  • 가요 (Gayo) – Let’s go
  • 가요? – Let’s go?
  • 가요! – Let’s go!

So in negative expression, 가  can be formed and would mean not going in these ways:

  • Both would mean ‘not going’
    • 안 가요 (an gayo)
    • 가지 않아요 (gaji anhayo)
  • All below would mean aren’t you going?
    • 안 가세요? (an gaseyo? — used with esteemed person)
    • 안 가요? (an gayo?)
    • 가지 않으세요?   (gaji anhuseyo?)
    • 가지 않아요? (gaji anhayo?)

However in a negative command, it is not right to say 가지 않아요!  A negative command or suggestion uses an auxilliary verb 마-ㄹ (ma-l), an L-extending verb.  As such to say don’t go would be:

  • 가지 마세요 (Gaji maseyo, drops ㄹ when followed by consonant) used with esteemed person
  • 가지 말아요 (Gaji marayo)
  • 가지 마십시오 (Gaji mashipshiyo) honorific formal style – command
  • 가지 마십시다 (Gaji mashipshida) honorific formal style  – suggestion, note that removal of 십 will make the statement very authoritative.


I think I have written on my previous entry that in Korean, the manner of speaking is very important and it depends on who you are talking to. This actually confused me when I was trying to learn Hangul — I am still trying by the way :-P.  Most of the phrase books are suggesting phrases in honorific style or at times the polite ones.  There seems to be pattern but nevertheless if you don’t read and read you won’t be able to understand.

Based from what I read there are 3 major ways of expressing thoughts in Korean:

  • Honorific – which is the style used when talking to someone esteemed (older than you, professional people , parents or those whom you have high regard)
  • Casual Polite – the style used when talking to a friend you usually call with sshi 씨 or if you are unsure of the person’s age who seems to have the same age as you.
  • Intimate – the style used when talking to younger person or someone who is very close to you.

It is very important to remember that honorific style is never used to describe your own deed or action. 

To give an example on these different styles, take the case of saying ‘let’s go’ or ‘go’:

  • 가세요 – Ka-Se-Yo, Ka means go and Se is an honorific marker then the polite ending Yo.  As mentioned in my earlier entry  its never an issue to drop the subject when communicating in Korean as such you will not find I or You in the sentence.
  • 가요 – Ka-Yo, this is casual polite just removing the honorific marker Se but ending using the polite way which is Yo.
  • 가 – Ka is actually the word in its infinitive.  When I was talking about base and dictionary entries for word previously, verb in its infinitive form can be used to express action or describe action (words in dictionary form is never used in a normal conversation — later i’ll post more on base words).  Dropping the polite ending Yo leaves you with the word 가 which is the infinitive form for this word which means go.