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‘비켜 주세요’ (Please step aside)

Posted by on July 23, 2011

Today’s lesson is a little bit on the elementary side, but I’m sure even advanced learners will be able to find something of use.
The video has some harder expressions too.

When you are trapped behind a wall of people on the starboard side of Line 2 and it turns out that, alas, the port-side doors open at your stop, how can you make your dash out before the doors slam shut? What expressions can you use?

The truth is, when Koreans find themselves in such a situation, they rarely say anything at all. There’s definitely a lot more nudging and body language than spoken entreaties for you to “get out of the way.” Even so, I am still not comfortable with touching people I don’t know (and being touched by people I don’t know), so I always try to get the point across with words. And as people are unaccustomed to hearing someone ask to get by, it’s an attention grabber and therefore surprisingly effective.

How to play Moses in a Red Sea of humanity

Let’s start out with some methods that I would avoid using.

“비켜 주세요” (비추천)
Just as the expression, “Please step aside” has a very brusque ring to it in English “비켜 주세요” is not a polite-sounding way of asking to get by. I know this is the sentence taught to beginning-level Korean students but just like many of the things you will learn in the early levels, it is not suitable for real-world application. This goes for other iterations of the phrase — “비키세요,” 비키십시오” etc. — as well.

So, what’s a more polite way to get the point across?

“죄송합니다만, 지나가도 될까요?”

…Now that’s a polished man’s way of asking to get by. The problem is, that you will never be able to get that whole sentence out in time. And it may be overkill for the situation. You’re not, after all, having a scotch at the country club.

Now for the real options then…

What Koreans actually say, despite what the Level 1 Korean textbook told you, is either one of the following two phrases:

“잠시만요”
“지나갈게요”

Of course, they are often used in conjunction too.

The all-purpose phrase “잠시만요” can be literally translated as “Just a moment, please,” but has a much broader application than that phrase. This situation is a perfect example of that.

For the second part of your sentence, you can use “지나갈게요” as is written above or the higher, but also more resolute, “지나가겠습니다.”

Good luck making it off the subway in time!

2 Responses to ‘비켜 주세요’ (Please step aside)

  1. Michael

    True, true. “잠시만요” creates a shockwave of stupefaction that transfixes the vicinity : )

  2. Mike

    hmm from the start I just assumed that I didn’t need to say anything and that worked out fine, although with kids at the hagwon (sigh) they get the “비켜!” treatment. i do recall using 잠시만요 once or twice, at which I was given tons of room to pass, more out of shock (not sure if it was my foreignness or the politeness) than anything~

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