I'm a few weeks into learning Korean and I learned how to write statemnts and questions via (습니 까 & 습니다). We take verbs, drop the -다 and apply the correct formula. However, my textbook also showed a bunch of verbs that end in 요, for example: ' 아/여/어 요'. How do these work? Is it the same or something more advanced? In summary, how would you say 'Are you laughing?'?

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    I'd be like "is it funny?" - 웃겨? (informal/rude), 웃깁니까? (formal). Koreans seem to avoid "you" constructs...but if you are just beginning to learn, note this is a more advanced form of verbs where the subject acts upon the object (the person that is "made to laugh"). Good luck learning Korean and korean.stackexchange에 오신 것을 환영합니다! Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 18:28
  • the 피동사 form 웃기다 describes the subject of the sentence as giving laughter (making the other person laugh). A movie is funny; but a movie doesn't laugh (note direction of verb action). 그영화는 웃겨요 (The movie makes me laugh). 그것 보면 내가 웃어요 (When i see it, i laugh). Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


It is only a matter of formality.

웃습니까? -> 'Are you laughing?' (Formal)
웃어요? -> 'Are you laughing?' (Informal polite)
웃어? -> 'Are you laughing?' (Informal)

You will most likely learn about this in the following chapters of your book.

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    While grammatically correct, these are not going to be as common in everyday language as the 피동사 "did it make you laugh?" Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 18:30
  • @제이죤스톤 Right, I did focus too much on the grammar side of the question
    – Lera
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 16:02
  • it was a tricky question to answer. your input is useful and valid. i hoped only to help refine the vein in which you assuredly meant to share the simplicity of it. you did this well. @lera Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 17:36
  • i posted a comment on the question that explains a bit more about the diff between 웃다 and 웃기다. with this footnote, as i said, your explanation is exactly what the OP needed at that juncture in learning. Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 17:44

It's about formality but really depends on the relationship: customer/clients, boss or subordinate, higher in rank, respectful or disrespectful, rude or polite/formal.

~습니까?, ~습니다 is very formal. When you go to a bank and talk to a banker, they may speak this way to you. It gives the feeling of keeping some distance and strictly for a business relationship, and treating you as a client/customer. And also to someone higher in rank.

~요?, ~요 more widely used, not used between close friends but closer than business relationship - it's gentler and friendlier.

~어?, ~어 use with close friends, close and same age or close AND younger, lovers, or sometimes boss to subordinates in work place. It is considered to be very rude if one talks this way to a stranger, business relationship, someone older, higher in rank. You may hear this in TV/movie, police officers speak this way to criminals (talking down, disrespectful), teachers to students in the class (lower in rank).

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