One of the most critical parts of using any language is knowing how to be polite. As a Korean language beginner, having manners and speaking politely will be valuable tools during the early stages of your skill development.
Koreans are famous for their social etiquette, so being able to say phrases like “Please”, “Thank you”, and “You’re welcome” will go a long way in helping you win new Korean friends. This article will teach you how to say “Thank You” in Korean properly.
Before we start, here’s a recap: The Korean language has different levels of etiquette, which can change the structure and syntax of the message. The basic 3 levels are:
- Formal polite: used in business, to speak to superiors, in the News, official events, etc.
- Informal polite: everyday interactions with strangers, daily life, TV dramas, etc.
- Casual: among friends, peers, and to other people with whom you are close.
Now, let’s learn how to say Thank You in Korean in different ways.
Thank You in Korean: Most Common Expressions
In all three of these levels, you can say 감사합니다 (gam-sa-ham-ni-da.), which makes it very useful and simple. In fact, there are no situations in which this would be inappropriate. So feel free to fire off 감사합니다 (gam-sa-ham-ni-da) in all kinds of situations. Koreans will love to hear you say it.
The official pronunciation is broken down as follows –
감 사 합 니 다
gam sa ham ni da
As your pronunciation skill improves, you will be able to string the syllables together in a more fluid and natural form. To sound like a native Korean, the pronunciation is more similar to this –
감 사합 니 다
Gam sahm ni da
Word Structure: The root word is an unconjugated verb 감사하다 (gam-sa-ha-da), which is a two-part word; with a noun + a very common verb ending.
- 감사 + 하다
- 감사: thanks
- 하다: to do
So, literally, the word translates into “Thanks to do”. In English, you can think of this as “to give thanks”.
The verb ending 하다 (ha-da), which means “To do” is an extremely common verb-ending in the Korean language. But, it does not always directly mean to do. Sometimes it more accurately means to be, there is, or to give.
In the case of 감사합니다 (gam-sa-ham-ni-da), we can see that the verb-ending changes to
~ 합니다 (ham-ni-da). This is the formal polite way to conjugate the verb 하다 (ha-da).
감사하다 becomes 감사합니다
Hint #1: any time you see or hear a word ending with ~합니다 / 니다, it is a formal polite form of the verb.
From the table above, it is best to use the formal polite version as a beginner speaker. It is a fail-proof form of “Thank you” and will be acceptable in almost every situation. As you develop, you will become more comfortable using the other forms in the table above.
Hint #2: Don’t try to use anything less than the Formal Polite with older Koreans. Even if you feel comfortable with them, or you think it is cute, DON’T DO IT. There is a high probability seeming rude.
Thank You in Korean: Between Close Friends
고 마 워 요.
go ma wo yo.
고 마 워.
go ma wo.
The second most common way to say “Thank you” in Korean is with the root verb
고맙다 (go-mop-da). This version of “Thank you” is not different from what we studied above. It is used less, but the casual form is used more often in close relationships.
Please refer to the table below for the different conjugations and varying levels of etiquette.
Hint #3: As you can see, the more Casual form is considerably shorter than the Formal form. This is a common pattern in Korean conjugations. Basically, the more Formal the situation, the longer, and harder conjugation should be used. The more informal and casual the situation, the shorter and easier forms can be used.
In short, the two short phrases below will solve 90% of the problem of how to say thank you in korean.
고마워요. (gomawoyo.) or 고마워. (gomawo.)
The first version – 감사합니다 – is the standard way to say thank you, and can be used in most situations.
The second version – 고마워요 or 고마워 – is more commonly used in casual and familiar relationships. You may hear this being used among couples or close friends. Especially couples tend to use 고마워 with their partner because it sounds cuter and softer; indicating a sense of affection with their significant other.
Here are two example situations and the suitable ways of how to say thank you in Korean.
- A manager buys an employee a coffee: 감사합니다
- A boyfriend buys his girlfriend a delicious pastry or snack: 고마워
So, please, if someone you are close to does something nice for you, you should try to use 고마워. It will indicate that you feel familiar and comfortable with him or her.
Thank You in Korean: Less Common Forms
– this is the highest honorific form of “Thank you”. It is extremely polite, very formal, and highly respectful.
– You will hear this used occasionally, but the formality and respect are a bit ambiguous.
고맙습니다 . (go-mop-seum-ni-da.)
– this is polite and formal, but less common than 감사합니다.
Thank You Very Much in Korean
Except using only the verb, you can also add degree modifiers to the phrase to emphasize how much you would like to thank other people.
Add the modifier before the verb. So, literally it becomes “Very thank you” or “Really thank you”
You can add 정말 (jeong-mal), which means REALLY, before the verb:
Thank you so much.
Or add 너무 (nuh-mu), which means VERY, before the verb:
Thank you so much.
Thank you for xxx in Korean
Similar to the structure above, you can simply add the noun to the front of the sentence, which carries a similar meaning to “Thank you for ____” or more literally “For ______, thank you”
선물 (sun-mul) 고마워요
Thank you for the gift (선물).
Literally: Gift thank you.
커피 너무 감사합니다
Thank you very much for the coffee (커피: keo-pee)
Literally: Coffee (커피) very much thank you
와 주셔서 감사합니다. (wa ju-syeo-seo gam-sa-ham-ni-da.)
Thank you for coming.
Literally: You came, so thank you.
Breakdown: 와 (come) 주셔서 (because you did) 감사합니다 (thank you)
Respond to Thank you in Korean
Responding to “Thank you” in Korean is not the same as it is in English. In western culture, it could be rude NOT to respond to “Thank you”. But in Korean culture, it is not always necessary. This could take some time to adjust to as a beginner.
Koreans may simply respond by saying “Yes” with “네” or the more casual “예”. This may seem rude by western standards, but it is not rude in Korean culture. “You’re welcome” just isn’t as common.
However, there are ways to say, “You’re Welcome.”
The most common way to say “You’re Welcome” is with
You’re welcome. / Don’t mention it.
A less formal way is to say
Another informal polite of “You’re Welcome” is
별거 아니에요. (byeol geo anieyo)
It’s not a big deal.
Overall, using “Thank you” in Korean is very simple and straightforward. Although there are several different forms, you can get by with the 3 most common forms: 감사합니다, 고마워요, 고마워. So, don’t be hesitant to say “Thank you” to friends and strangers.
Watch their eyes light up with kindness and warmth from your politeness. Enjoy!