Let's say I accidentally say "몇 살이에요", "어디 가?", or "밥 만들어줄까?" to a superior, and immediately realise my mistake. What's the best way to recover from the mistake? Should I repeat the sentence using more appropriate language? Or would that draw more attention and be worse than just moving on and being more careful in the next exchange?

I had assumed "just move on" would be better, but I think I have seen a couple of examples of people correcting themselves - e.g. to add the '시' particle.

  • 1
    I think it's best to correct the mistake right away. We do it in English too, don't we?
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 6:55
  • @Hwang Factual and grammatical mistakes are often corrected, but I don't often feel i should correct mistakes in register in English. Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:18
  • 2
    If you are not Korean, then your opponent will understand. But if a Korean makes such a mistake and doesn't correct it, then it's a problem. I guess it's the same as calling a Miss by Mister and not correcting it, although I am not familiar with cultures outside Korea.
    – Hwang
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 7:44
  • 1
    My colleagues usually ask me what to do if they make mistakes. My answer is always "If I make those kind of mistakes in front of my bosses, they might be very angry and try to fire me. But for you, that's OK because you are not Korean. " Koreans also understand using honorific expression is the most difficult part to foreigners who don't speak Korean well. If you are not familiar with honorific expressions, you'd better use -해요 always. Because it is not 'too polite' but it isn't rude either.
    – jungyh0218
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 7:01

3 Answers 3


It would be unacceptable from a native Korean speaker, but from a foreigner, they'll understand. Honorifics are hard, and they know it's hard to learn.

In my opinion, you should just correct it right away, showing you actually know how to say it but just made a mistake that one time.

If it's as short as "어디 가?", then I'd just correct it right away: "어디 가세요?" If it's a little longer, like "밥 만들어줄까?", I'd tack on a "죄송합니다" and continue on with the correction.


"몇 살이에요?" is not as offensive as "어디가?" "밥 만들어줄까?" As others pointed out, you can get away with your mistakes because you are a foreigner. If you were a Korean, you would be fired because it's simply unacceptable.

Even so, if you keep making this type of mistakes, Koreans would feel offended eventually. If you just blurt out these expression while knowing their honorific forms, you'd better correct yourself right away, saying 죄송합니다. 실수했습니다, then say 연세가 어떻게 되세요? 어디 가세요/ 어디 가십니까? 식사 하시겠습니까/ 밥 드릴까요?


As a beginner and recently traved to Korea for an extended stay in order to get first hand experience, I can tell you most Koreans will not be offended if you overall, respect them with your choice of words.

Most times they were delighted with the effort put forth to speak respectfully. They understand and usually excuse minor mistakes.

Any slight error swiftly met with an apology:

''죄송합니다. 실수 했었습니다'' - I'm sorry I made a mistake.

will usually help to show your efforts to be polite and respectful.

But I would advise anyone attempting the language to put maximum effort in learning polite usage of Korean before attempting anything else. Just in my opinion.

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