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The verb suffix '시' is normally used to give respect to the subject of the verb; yet it is easy to see examples where the verb subject is inanimate and an honorific isn't required:

다른 것이 필요하시면 알려주십시오 (from Darakwon via Naver Dictionary).

This seems like a hypercorrect attempt to use an honorific to be polite, when it is not correct; according to this Naver Knowledge Search answer, 필요하면 should be used in cases like this.

However, that answer is clearly about 'official grammar'; as I understand, officially, 필요하면 should be used, but in reality, many people use 필요하시면. What I'd like to know is the reality of the usage: what should be used in practice?

More concretely, if 필요하시면 is used, to an educated ear, does it usually sound like an unnatural hypercorrection? Or if 필요하면 is used, could it sound impolite/too casual? Or will both be accepted freely?

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  • Isn't 소스가 필요하시면 말씀해주세요 actually a shortened version of something like (당신이) 소스가 필요하시면 말씀해주세요? In this case the receiver of 소스 is the main subject being addressed and not the 소스 itself, so 하시면 sounds correct. What I would like to know is whether 필요하(시)면 is needed, given 말씀해주세요 already implies respect for the subject in this sentence.
    – user17915
    Dec 13, 2021 at 4:30
  • related discussion: korean.stackexchange.com/questions/5519/…
    – user17915
    Dec 13, 2021 at 4:36

1 Answer 1

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I strongly disagree with the answer you quoted. 필요하시면 sounds very natural to me, and it is the preferred phrase in most cases as far as I know.

다른 것이 필요하시면 means "If you need anything else". It is clearly talking about possible needs of the other person, and the reason 다른 것 becomes the subject is just the peculiar way the idea is phrased in Korean. No matter how it is phrased, semantically it is the person that has the need, not the thing, and we add 시 because we are talking about the person.

The quoted argument interprets things too narrowly, almost to the point of absurdity. It is like arguing "Hey we use terms like 'customer parking' to mean something is reserved for them, so it is wrong to mark a door 'Fire Exit' since fire doesn't need an exit. It should be marked 'Exit When There is Fire'". Natural language is much more flexible than this line of thought suggests.

As a final note, there are even much more egregious sounding examples of what you brought up, like servers at a cafe saying '주문하신 커피 나오셨습니다'. 나오셨습니다 here is much worse than '필요하시면' because 나오다 (come out, be served) is clearly not referring to the customer but the coffee itself. But it was used frequently enough that there was some controversy about it. But 필요하시면 doesn't even begin to come near this other case and sounds fine to me.

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