What is the difference between the honorifics 씨 vs 시 when used at the end of a name?

씨 as an honorific: https://blogs.transparent.com/korean/honorific-titles/

시 as an honorific: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%EC%8B%9C

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    씨 is analogous to English "Mr." and -시- is a verb suffix. Other than similar pronunciation, these two have nothing in common.
    – jick
    Aug 26, 2020 at 16:51
  • Thank you for your most kind response. What is a verb suffix? Do you mean it cannot be used at the end of a name like an honorific? Aug 26, 2020 at 21:17
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    A verb suffix is like English "-ed" or "-ing", though Korean verbs are a lot more complicated. In particular, -시- cannot end a verb: it must come between verb root (or another suffix) and yet another suffix, like "가십니다" = 가(go) + -시- (honorific) + -ㅂ니다 (sentence ending). And it cannot be used next to any noun, including names.
    – jick
    Aug 26, 2020 at 22:58
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    If you don't know what's a verb suffix yet, don't worry - I wouldn't recommend working on them at your level. First try to practice basic expressions, and sooner or later you will realize that the verbs you see follow certain patterns. After that you can learn about them to understand verbs better.
    – jick
    Aug 26, 2020 at 23:03
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    Unlike "Mr.", you can use 씨 to call and mention either a man or woman. Some people hate to use or hear it for reasons that I do not quite understand; they always prefer 님 which sounds formal to me. A pre-final ending (선어말 어미) is the term that is used for -시- in some dictionaries and textbooks. -시- is applied to not only verbs but also adjectives (but not names).
    – Klmo
    Aug 28, 2020 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


I did not leave an answer immediately because that kind of question usually arises when one is unable to distinguish between certain sounds, rather than when one does not know usage differences. English speakers who do not know Korean will transliterate both 시 and 씨 as si, but ㅅ and ㅆ sound clearly different to Koreans' ears. I would say that to differentiate ㅅ from ㅆ, you need to sense the difference in aspiration time although there are some other acoustic cues. Of course, there are situations (for example, emergencies) when a person cannot always pronounce a word in the correct way; in such cases, you will have to use contextual cues.

You can use the bound noun 씨 to call and mention someone (usually, a colleague or stranger who is/seems not older or higher than you, an adult around your age who is not close to you, or your boyfriend/girlfriend) deferentially as follows:

  • 철수 씨, 어디 가세요? (Translation: 철수, where are you going?)
  • 김철수 씨는 어제 어디 가셨어요? (1. Where did 김철수 go yesterday? 2. 김철수, where did you go yesterday?)
  • 이분이 영희 씨세요. (This person('s first name) is 영희.)
  • 박 씨가 내일 여기 온대. (I (have) heard that the person whose family name is 박 would(/will) come here tomorrow.)

As you may have noticed, the bound noun 씨 follows a full name, first name, or last name; however, it might be rude to use 씨 with a last name since it can imply that you do not remember her/his full name or that you do not want to call her/him politely.) This is one of the correct ways to call and mention "you" or someone else. This 씨 may translate into Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms., but I would not translate it because it is not a gender-specific word. You should note that I have dealt with the bound noun 씨 not the suffix -씨. The suffix -씨 (attached to a last name or some other types of nouns) is irrelevant to honorifics.

The more deferential one is 님. I mentioned that some hate to use or hear 씨. They think that 씨 lacks courteousness even when they are lower in rank or much younger than their interlocutors. This article and this post may be interesting to you. Because of such a perception gap, some companies use English names or allow 님 only.

Ironically, 님 can also be informal especially in cyberspace as there are countless strangers whose ages are unknown. On the Web, people sometimes use it as a pronoun or interjection (I mean, without a name) as follows:

  • 님, 내일 어디 가세요? (Hey, where are you going tomorrow?)
  • 님은 어떻게 생각하세요? (What do you think about it?)

This is a non-standard way to call and mention "you." You might ask: "Isn't there the word 당신 to call 'you' politely?" No, 당신 is not an honorific in conversation when you speak to someone who is not your life partner, when you do not use 하오체 (which is seldom used these days), and when it does not refer back to the subject of the sentence. You can even start an argument using the word 당신. The advisable way to call "you" politely is to use her/his name with an honorific bound noun.

The pre-final ending -시- never comes right next to a name, which is a noun, because it has to be placed between the stem of a verb, adjective, or 이다 and another ending. One might bring this:

  • 성함이 혹시 이영희십니까? (Is your name, by any chance, 이영희?)

which cannot disprove my statement because there must be the omission of the stem 이 of the postposition 이다. Technically, it has come right next to the omitted 이-; the original sentence is "성함이 혹시 이영희십니까?" The postposition 이다 has no significant meanings; it is quite natural to avoid the repetition of the "ㅣ"(이) sound.

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