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I was chatting to a Korean gentlemen this morning, with whom I was speaking for the first time. Because I texted "안녕하세요" his first thought was I spoke Korean. So he asked me

엇 한국어 가능하세요

Which google translate translates as

Oh, do you speak Korean?

However I looked up on Naver dictionary the verb 가능하다, which apparently means "possible/practicable/feasable". I think is a combination of the noun 가능 (possible, feasable practicable,...) and 하다.

If I had to translate my self I would've written

엇 한국어를 할수 있어요?

I think the meaninig would be equivalent. Anyway... my questions are

  1. Are the original sentence and my translation equivalent?
  2. Why the use of -세요? my understanding of the 아/어 + 세요 is to construct imperative, however when in interrogative sentences are constructed using such pattern I am not sure if the meaning changes.

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예. 두 문장은 거의 같습니다.
Yes, those sentence are almost same.

-세요 의 의미는, 가능하시냐를 높여서 질문한 것 입니다. 저는 한국인이지만 문법적으로 이것이 이렇다고 설명할 능력이 없어서 참 곤란하네요.
-세요 means, politely ask "can you do something?" in interrogative sentence and also politely allow "you can do something" in Imperative sentences.

I'm even Korean, But I cannot tell you grammatically the principle. :)

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하세요 is the Honorific Present conjugation of the verb 해요 -- so while both 해요 and 하세요 are formal, you can think of 하세요 as elevating the listener slightly.

가능 is used in a variety of circumstances so it makes sense that the translation is not quite one-to-one to its English usage. In the context of your conversation partner's response, 가능 means "able", so they are asking if you are "able" to speak/(do) Korean. Another way 가능 can be used with a similar meaning: 통화 가능? -- (Able to call?/Is it possible to call?).

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