If you’re interested in Korean culture and language, chances are you have heard some basic Korean words and phrases. With the popularity of shows like Squid Game, other K-dramas, and K-Pop, you may already be able to produce a few keywords and phrases. That’s great! The first step to effectively using any language is exposure to the basics and the phonetics used in everyday conversation.
Whether your goal is to travel to South Korea, converse with Korean people, or enjoy your K-dramas with better understanding, LingoDeer is here to help!
In this article, we will cover some basic Korean words and phrases, survival phrases for travel, everyday phrases that Koreans use, and even some popular phrases you hear in K-dramas. So, get your pencil and pad ready, have a snack (I recommend ramen^^) and let’s get started.
Most Basic Korean Words and Phrases
For you, this may be a review, but it’s always good to revisit the basics of the Korean language. Let’s take a look at the simple phrase and words you will most often use.
Tip 1: This is used any time of day
Tip 2: If you are speaking to your close friends or people younger than you, just say the first part: 안녕 (annyeong)
Hello (on phone)
This is how to say “Hello” when answering the phone. You must have heard of it if you are a k-drama fan.
Tip: You don’t need to say “Goodbye” on the phone. Usually, Koreans hang up after the conversation is finished.
Tip: Besides “Yes”, this also how to say “You’re welcome” after someone says “Thank you” (감사합니다)
Excuse me (to apologize)
You may make mistakes sometimes, and that’s ok. There is more than one way to apologize. You can also say – 미안합니다 (mi-an-hamnida)
Tip: to say “Excuse me” in a way to get someone’s attention, you can say – 저기요 (jeo-gi-yo)
Survival Phrases in South Korea
Good job! Now that we have covered the basics, let’s look at some Survival Korean. These words and phrases will help you get around and communicate with Koreans.
It can be nerve-wracking trying to find a bathroom in an unfamiliar area. In order to keep yourself from having an embarrassing accident, let’s ask the question….
Where is the bathroom?
화장실 어디에 있어요?
hwa-jang-sil- eodie- isseoyo?
Tip 1: “화장실” actually means “toilet” in Korean, so if you’re in a pinch and can’t remember, just say “toilet” and someone will point you in the right direction.
Tip 2: In fact, you can use this question structure to ask about the location of places. Just say the place and add ~ 어디에 있어요?
Can you speak English
영어 할 수 있어요
yeongeo hal su isseoyo?
Sometimes you might just need to ask for help in English. Luckily, many Koreans can speak English at a basic level.
Please speak slowly
천천히 말해 주세요
cheon-cheon-hi mal-hae juseyo.
This phrase can be very handy if the speaker is unaware of your Korean level, and is speaking too quickly.
Is there / Do you have _____?
This is a very useful way to ask if something is available or if a service is possible. Just say the object in question and add ~ 있어요?
I don’t understand
At times, it may be useful to admit that you don’t understand and need more help. This is a polite way to indicate that you’re confused.
Tip: it could be useful to pair this phrase with another, such as…
Please help me
Check out the travel phrasebook in our LingoDeer app to learn more useful phrases for free!
Common Everyday Phrases in Korean
Now let’s study some common phrases that you might use in everyday life for situations such as buying stuff, ordering coffee, and having basic interactions with Koreans.
Please give me 2 iced Americanos
아이스 아메리카노 두 잔 주세요
aiseu amerikano du-jan juseyo
The verb at the end of the sentence, 주세요 (juseyo), is a common way to order or ask for something. It translates to “Please give me ____?” You can use it with other items as well.
You may also hear many Korean people, especially the yougn, refering to iced Americano as 아아. Why? Learn more from our previous article about Konglish.
What is the Wifi password?
비밀번호 알려 주세요
bimilbeonho allyeo juseyo
Wifi is everywhere in Korea. In order to connect to the strongest signal, you might have to ask for the password.
How much is it?
When shopping in the city markets or with street vendors, you may need to ask how much something costs. This is one of the most common and important phrases you can use.
Is it spicy?
There is an abundance of delicious food in Korea, some of it is very spicy. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you may want to ask before ordering.
Tip: if you can eat spicy food, you will impress Koreans. They love to see foreigners eating their beloved spicy dishes.
How old are you?
This is often one of the first questions you will hear when talking to Koreans for the first time. Because age is a very important part of the Korean social structure. So are birthdays!
Tip: Another common and more formal way to ask this question is ~ 나이가 어떻게 되세요? (na-iga eo-tteo-ke doeseyo)
This is probably one of the most common responses used in everyday Korean life. It can be used in a variety of situations: from indicating your condition to responding to an apology. It’s very handy.
Korean Drama phrases
If you’re a fan of K-drama, you’ve probably heard some of these expressions. Although they are used in dramas, they are also commonly used in real conversation. These phrases and expressions can be fun to use because they are current, trendy, and natural. Let’s take a look at a few.
All of these are used as common responses to convey disbelief, shock, or excitement at what someone has said. You may be already familiar with these phrases if you are a K-drama fan. They are very fun to use. Try them out.
Older brother / older male friend / boyfriend
This is an extremely common word that is often heard in romantic dramas. It is widely used by females to address males who are slightly older. It can be used to give a sense of familiarity and kindness.
By any chance …
This phrase is commonly placed at the beginning of a sentence or question. It has a very polite, non-confrontational tone. You will often see this used when the speaker is trying to appear gentle and courteous. It can be translated as “maybe…” or “by any chance…”
What are you talking about? / What do you mean?
무슨 소리야 이게?
mu-seun soriya ige
This phrase is commonly used to convey a feeling of confusion or disbelief in what the speaker said. Even if you understood their statement, you could use this expression in response. In dramas, we often hear this during arguments and lover’s quarrels
This is one of the most popular phrases used in K-dramas. Characters often use it when in disbelief or anger. I’m sure you can recall this phrase during an emotional break-up or fight scene.
Tip: The first part is the word for “lie” (거짓말) and the second part is an informal and strong way to say “don’t (하지마).
These are just some of the many useful words and phrases you will come across in your Korean language learning experience. They are very common and found throughout Korean culture. So, go ahead and practice using them with your family and friends. Even if they can’t speak Korean, you can imitate the feeling behind the words for practice. If you have some Korean friends, show them your new skills and knowledge. Always make sure to check your pronunciation and tone. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the learning experience!
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