The endings can be categorized into two types: pre-final endings and final endings, depending on where they are placed in the verb or adjective.
Pre-final endings are inflectional elements that come between the stem and the final ending. They include the honorific suffix -(으)시, past tense marker 었/았, and so on.
Consider the following example:
|* Pre-final Ending|
There are two types of final endings: non-sentence-final endings that ends a verb or an adjective but not the sentence, and sentence-final endings that ends both the verb and the sentence. Non-sentence-final endings include various clausal conjunctives such as -고(and then), -어/아서(because), -으면서(while), -지만(although), -도록(in order to), and so on.
Consider the following sentence.
|* Final Endings|
The typical examples of sentence-final endings are various speech-level endings. Korean has six speech levels as shown below. These speech-level endings indicate the speaker’s interpersonal relationship with the addressees or attitude toward them.
The deferential speech level is the highest among the six, followed by the polite speech level and so on. In addition, each speech level has four endings that indicate the type of sentence: declarative(statement), interrogative(question), imperative(command/request), and propositive(suggestion):
|* Sentence-final Endings|
Let us apply four of the endings above to the verb stem 먹(eat). When saying “(someone) eats”, one needs to use one of the four interrogative endings like -습니까, -어요, -어, and -냐.
Notice that the verb stem in each speech level as well as the referential meaning are the same. In addition, different endings render different social meanings, such as speaker’s attitude toward the hearer and the formality of the situation. Consequently, choosing the right speech level is critical, and it all depends on who you talk to.
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