I wanted to ask if the overuse of -요 [polite informal register] more feminine than other endings like the Japanese -ます ending ?

  • "More feminine than others?" Yes. Is it always considered feminine? No. Just like the -masu/desu ending. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


One of the sociolinguistic features that contributes to this perception is the fact that in the male-dominated South Korean military, 해요체 is disallowed. This also extends to more 'official' formal settings, such as certain news and public information broadcasts. In such circumstances, 합쇼체 (-ㅂ니다, -ㅂ니까, -ㅂ시다, -십시오 etc.) is required.

In the military, that has resulted in novel grammar, the '(-지) 말입니다' form, which retain the form of the 합쇼체 but have some of the flexibility (indeed, 'informality') of 해요체. This is somewhat parodied in 'civilian' society.

Not using the standard 존댓말 mix of 합쇼체 and 해요체 implies someone who has never mastered that mix of formality, and has thus not had a 'standard' 'mature' 'masculine' experience in South Korea, given that military service is experienced by the vast majority of South Korean males. As stated in Cho YA (2006) in Gender Differences in Korean Speech:

Therefore, the fact that females use more -yo endings can be thought of as the result of women's having fewer opportunities to speak in formal settings.

There are of course certain expressions that stick quite closely to 합쇼체, and would stick out in 해요체. The most salient one in my experience is 감사합니다 vs 감사해요, where the difference in nuance is quite sizeable.


I don't know the Japanese -ます ending.

There is a tendency that female speakers to use 해요체 (_요 ending) more often than male speakers. However, it does not mean that using 해요체 sounds like feminine.

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