In this article, we will introduce a very basic, yet important form: the Korean imperative using -(으)세요. Knowing just this one grammar pattern will allow you to understand the intent of a speaker of so many things you will hear and read. So, let’s take a look at this Korean imperative form.
In Korean, imperatives are a pretty complex thing as you will have to take into account the situation. There are a plethora of forms out there, but the form -(으)세요 is the most common form you will encounter. The pattern -(으)세요 as an imperative, is a polite way to tell the listener to do something. This is done when making requests, giving directions or placing orders, … Whenever you want to make a request and you need to be polite, the pattern -(으)세요 is a safe option to use.
Do not confuse the imperative -(으)세요 with the honorific polite present tense, which due to conjugation also ends up looking like -(으)세요. While they look identical, only one is an imperative form. Luckily the use-case of honorific forms is so particular you ought to not confuse them though.
PS: the honorific form of this imperative style is: -(으)십시요. This one is rather commonly used so it is helpful to know it.
가: 살을 빼고 싶어요.
나: 그럼 야채와 과일 더 먹고 운동을 많이 하세요.
A: I want to lose weight.
B: Then you eat fruits and vegetables and exercise a lot.
How To Use
The Korean imperative -(으)세요 is rather easy to use. You simply need to take the verb stem and follow the ‘batchim/no batchim’ rules. When a verb stem ends in a vowel, you attach -세요 to it. On the other, when it ends in a consonant you attach -으세요. Beyond that, there are only a few things to keep in mind.
You cannot use the form -지 않다 or 안 to form a negative imperative. For a negative imperative, you have to use the form -지 마세요. Furthermore, due to the nature of this grammar topic, you can use this imperative only with verbs. However, certain adjectives can use this imperative form of idiomatically. The two common adjectives that tend to use -(으)세요 idiomatically are 행복하다 (when wishing someone happiness) and 건강하다 (when wishing someone stays healthy).