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In a Korean book there is a sentence that goes like this:

선생님, 저와 함께 술을 드시러 가시지요

This book says that the above sentence is not entirely correct because it uses incorrect honorifics. Can you help me find the mistake in the above sentence?

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  • which book is this and what level of Korean is this discussing?
    – user17915
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 1:02

2 Answers 2

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It mostly depends on the age difference between them. If it's just a few year difference, then it might be okay. (선생님 can be used in a lot of different situations, so it doesn't tell us much about the relationship)

The sentence doesn't sound very natural even in such a case though. 저와 함께 is rather formal (저하고 or 저하고 같이 is more colloquial) and 술을 드시러 sounds a little too direct. Traditionally, men say it like this in a casual setting.

  • 선생님, (저하고) 어디 가서 술이나 한잔 하실까요? = Would you like to go somewhere and have a drink with me?

But this can only be said to someone who is fairly close to you.

If the other person is much older (like 5 years or more) or senior to you in an organization, there is no one glaring problem but many things to consider.

  • 가시지요 might sound too casual and forward for good manners. More respectful way is 술이라도 (한잔) 대접하고 싶습니다, where 대접하다 is formally giving someone a treat. 술이라도 is more natural than 술을 because -(이)라도 implies "I'd like to do more if I could but at least I would do this".

  • Words like 술 and 밥 are best avoided in a formal setting. You might just say 식사라도 대접하고 싶습니다 since people typically go to dinner and have a drink over a meal.

  • Lastly, if the other person is much senior to you, the suggestion itself would be inappropriate. The sensible thing is for a senior person to make such an offer to a junior person. So the younger person should just wait for the other person to make that offer. (This is in the same spirit as the rule that says a junior person should wait for the senior person to extend their hand first rather than initiating the handshake themselves)

As you can see, all depends on the relative standings of the two people.

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My guess is that the sentence is "wrong" because of "드시러": the speaker is proposing to go and have a drink with 선생님, so both of them are going to drink. Therefore, the implicit subject of 드시러 is both of them, i.e., 선생님 and 저.

But then you are using honorific to yourself, which is considered wrong.


Now that's the prescriptivist, "the school says so" take, and it's not a bad advice to follow. But let's consider the actual Korean speech for a second.

Native speakers get such a sentence "wrong" all the time, which raises the question: if even native speakers can't tell that the sentence is "wrong" without being told why, is it actually wrong?

In a sense, this is akin to such English rules like: "Tom and I went to school" is correct, but "Tom and me went to school" is wrong. But the thing is, native English speakers get it "wrong" all the time, because (for many native speakers) that's not a part of the innate English grammar they learned as a native speaker, but just some factoid they were told at school.

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