20 Essential Korean Phrases For Beginners

You can take the practice course where you can review all the expressions above by listening and repeating along with the video lessons. 
Take the course now: https://talktomeinkorean.com/products/detail/97

1. 안녕. Hi. Hello. (casual)
    안녕하세요. Hi. Hello. (formal)

안녕 means “Hi.”, “Hello.” and it is in 반말(casual language). When you want to say “Hello.” to someone who is older than you or someone you don’t really know well, you need to use 존댓말(formal language). And “Hello.” in formal language is 안녕하세요. 안녕 literally means “peace” or “well-being” and 하세요 means “you do”, “do you?”, or “Please do.”

안녕하세요 is the most common way of greeting someone in Korean. When someone greets you with 안녕하세요, you can simply greet the person back with 안녕하세요.

Learn more about the basic greetings by listening to our free audio lesson: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/l1l1

Sample Conversation

A: 안녕하세요. = Hello.
B: 안녕하세요. = Hello.

2. 안녕히 계세요. Bye. (formal)
   안녕히 가세요. Bye. (formal)

In Korean, there are two types of greetings that mean “Bye.” depending on who is leaving and who is staying. 

If you leave and the other person stays, you say 안녕히 계세요. Because 계시다 is an honorific way of saying 있다 which means “to be there”, “to stay”. So, its literal meaning can be “Stay in peace.” If you stay and the other person leaves, you say 안녕히 가세요. Because 가다 is to go and it literally mean “Go in peace.” 

Listen to our free audio lesson about these expressions with more detailed explanation: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/l1l3

Sample Conversation

A: 안녕히 계세요. = Bye.
B: 안녕히 가세요. = Bye.

3. 수고하세요. Keep up the good work. (formal)
    수고하셨습니다. Thank you for your hard work. (formal)

수고 literally means “effort” or “hard work” but, it’s rarely used on its own, Instead, some expressions including the word 수고 are used very often in everyday conversations. 수고하세요 literally means “Please make an effort” or “Keep working hard.”, but it does not actually have this meaning in conversation. 

When showing appreciation or support for someone who is working hard or is putting in a lot of effort to accomplish something, you can say 수고하세요 to that person as you are leaving. It is almost like saying “goodbye” or “see you” and “keep up the good work” at the same time. 

You will easily see people saying this when they’re leaving a restaurant or a cafe to the staff there to mean just “Bye.” or when they’re about to leave and their coworker has to stay to work, they say 수고하세요 as they leave.

Sample Conversation

A: 감사합니다. 안녕히 가세요. = Thank you. Bye.
B: 수고하세요. = Bye. (Keep up the good work.)

수고하셨습니다 is in the past tense, so it’s often used when some work has been done. Usually, you can say this to your coworkers or business partners to mean “Thank you for your hard work.”, “Good job.”, or “Good work.” 

Sample Conversation

A: 수고하셨습니다. = Thank you for your hard work.
B: 수고하셨습니다. = Thank you for your hard work.

4. 뭐 해? What are you doing? (casual) 

뭐 means “what” and 하다 means “to do”. So, 뭐 해? Literally means “What do you do?” As you can see, there’s no “you” in the sentence. In most Korean sentences, subjects are often omitted. It can be you or any other person depending on the context. But, if someone says 뭐 해? to you without any context, it clearly shows that the person is asking you what you’re doing. 

When you want to say it more politely, you can add 요 at the end and say 뭐 해요?. If you want to be even more polite and formal, you can say 뭐 하세요? So, in the order of politeness levels, it goes like 뭐 해? → 뭐 해요? → 뭐 하세요? from the most casual to the most formal. 

If you want to learn more about politeness levels, check out our free audio lesson about it: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/level-3-lesson-27

Other phrases you can use to mean “What are you doing?” 

뭐 하고 있어? What are you doing? (casual)
뭐 하고 계세요? What are you doing? (formal)
뭐 하고 있었어? What were you doing? (casual)
뭐 하고 계셨어요? What were you doing? (formal)

Practice this phrase with other verbs.

뭐 먹어? What are you eating?
뭐 마셔? What are you drinking?
뭐 봐? What are you watching?
뭐 들어? What are you listening to? 

Sample Conversation

A: 뭐 해? = What are you doing?
B: 일해. = I’m working.

5. 배고파. I’m hungry. (casual)
     배고파요. I’m hungry. (formal)

When you’re hungry, you say 배고파. 배 means a stomach and 고프다 also means “to be hungry” on its own, but, they are always used together. You can say either 배고파 or 배가 고파. When you want to say it in a polite and formal way, you say 배고파요.

Then, how about when you’re full? You say 배불러. 부르다 means “to be full”, so, 배불러 means “I’m full.” It can also be used either 배불러 or 배가 불러. And of course, you can say 배불러요. in a formal setting. 

Sample Conversation

A: 배고파. = I’m hungry.
B: 나도. = Me, too.

6. 뭐 먹을까? What should we eat? (casual)
    뭐 먹을까요? What should we eat? (formal)

The most important question in a day is this. “What are we eating today?” In Korean, you can say 뭐 먹을까? which literally means “What should we eat?” or “What shall we eat?”. 먹다 means to eat and 뭐 means what. And, when you suggest doing something together, you can use this sentence structure -(으)ㄹ까(요)? 

For more detailed explanation about this sentence structure, -(으)ㄹ까(요)?, please click on the link: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/level-3-lesson-4

Other ways to say “What should we eat?”

뭐 먹지? What should we eat? (casual)
뭐 먹을래? What do you want to eat? (casual)
뭐 먹고 싶어? What do you want to eat? (casual)
뭐 드시고 싶으세요? What do you want to eat? (formal)

Practice this phrase with other verbs.

뭐 마실까? What should we drink?
뭐 볼까? What should we watch?
뭐 들을까? What should we listen to?
뭐 선택할까? What should we choose?

Sample Conversation

A: 뭐 먹을까? = What should we eat?
B: 떡볶이 어때? = How about 떡볶이(tteok-bbo-kki)?

7. 잘 먹겠습니다. Thank you for the meal. (formal)

잘 먹겠습니다 literally means “I will eat well”. 잘 means “well”, 먹다 is to eat and -겠습니다 is used when you express one’s intention to do something. In more casual Korean, you can say 잘 먹을게.

You can say this to someone who prepared the food or someone who treats you to the food before you start eating but even if no one is treating anyone, you can still say this before a group of people start eating together. 

Then, how do you respond to this? If you’re the person who prepared the food or treated people the food, you can say 맛있게 드세요. meaning “Enjoy your meal.” or 많이 드세요. meaning “Help yourself.”

Sample Conversation

A: 잘 먹겠습니다! = Thank you for the meal!
B: 맛있게 드세요. = Enjoy your meal.

8. 잘 먹었습니다. Thank you for the meal. (formal)

잘 먹었습니다 literally means “I ate well.” and it’s used when you’re finished eating as well as to someone who prepared the food or treated you to the food. And a casual way to say this is 잘 먹었어.

Sample Conversation

A: 잘 먹었습니다. = Thank you for the meal!
B: 맛있게 드셨어요? = Did you enjoy your meal? / Was the food okay?

9. 여보세요? Hello? (on the phone) (neutral)

When you answer the phone, you say 여보세요? and this is a neutral phrase, so, you’re safe to say this exact same phrase to anyone. Then, how about when you hang up the phone? In Korean, people usually say 끊어 meaning “Hang up!” or 끊을게(요), which means “I will hang up,” or 끊겠습니다 in a more formal Korean.

Sample Conversation

A: 여보세요? = Hello?
B: 나야. 주연이. 뭐 해? = It’s me, Jooyeon. What are you doing?

10. 진짜? Really? (casual)
       진짜요? Really? (formal)

“Really?” is 진짜? in Korean. Even though this phrase means “Really?”, people say this a lot while they’re having a conversation even when they are not that surprised or suspicious. People say 진짜? just to show that they’re listening to the speaker. It is kind of similar with some reactions like “Is it?”, “He is?” or “They are?” in English. 

Sample Conversation

A: 어제 빌리 한국 왔어. = Billy came to Korean yesterday.
B: 아, 진짜? = Oh, he did?

11. 당연하지. Of course. (causal)
       당연하죠. Of course. (formal)

당연하다 means “to be natural”, “to be reasonable”, or “to be fair”. And when you say 당연하지 or 당연하죠, it means “Of course.” 당연하죠 is short for 당연하지요. 

-지(요) ending
The -지(요) ending is used because you and the other person both know something, and you show your agreement as the other person is mentioning it.

For more detailed explanation about -지(요) ending, please click the link here: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/level-4-lesson-4

Sample Conversation

A: 잠깐 볼 수 있어? = Can I see you for a while?
B: 당연하지. = Of course.

12. 대박! Awesome! / Oh, my god! (neutral)

대박 literally means a big success and now it’s kind of a slang word meaning “Awesome!” or “Oh, my god.” So, when you want to express your surprise, you say 대박. For example, you just heard the news that your two best friends are dating each other and you had no idea, then you say 대박. Or when you just found out that your favorite idol is going to have a come back soon, you can also say 대박.

Sample Conversation

A: 지연이 어제 로또 당첨됐대. = I heard Jiyeon won the lottery yesterday.
B: 대박! 진짜? = Oh, my god! Really?

13. 미안해. I’m sorry. (casual)
      죄송합니다. I’m sorry. (formal)

The basic expression you can say when you’re sorry is 미안해 in casual language, and 죄송합니다 in formal language. To respond to this, you can say 아니에요 literally meaning “No, it’s not,” but actually it means “No, it’s okay.” You can also say 괜찮아요, which also means “It’s okay.”

But even though 미안해 and 죄송합니다 mean “I’m sorry”, you can’t use 미안해 and 죄송합니다 when you want to say “I am sorry to hear that.” These expressions only mean “I apologize.”, “It was my bad.” It can never mean “I’m sorry to hear that.” 

Sample Conversation

A: 죄송합니다. = I’m sorry.
B: 아니에요. 괜찮아요. = No, it’s okay.

14. 시간 있어? Do you have time? (casual)
       시간 괜찮으세요? Do you have time? (formal)

시간 is time and 있다 can mean “to be there”, or “to have”. So, when you say 시간 있어?, it means “Do you have time?” 시간 괜찮으세요? is a polite and formal Korean to mean “Do you have time?” or “Can I see you?” 괜찮다 means “to be okay”. So, it can mean “Are you okay with me spending your time?” 

Sample Conversation

A: 잠깐 시간 괜찮으세요? = Do you have time for a moment?
B: 네. = Yes.

15. 얼마예요? How much is it? (formal)

When you are traveling, it’s important to know how to ask the price of something. In Korean, you say 얼마예요?

이거 얼마예요? = How much is this?
저거 얼마예요? = How much is that?
빨간색 얼마예요? = How much is the red one?
아메리카노 얼마예요? = How much is americano?

Sample Conversation

A: 이거 얼마예요? = How much is this?
B: 오천 원이에요. = It’s 5,000 won.

16. 저기요! Hey! Excuse me! (formal)

When you want to catch someone’s attention, you say 저기요. For example, in a restaurant, when you’re ready to order or pay, you say 저기요! to a waiter and waitress. Or, when you want to address someone you don’t know, you also address them 저기요. 

Sample Conversation

A: 저기요! = Excuse me!
B: 네? = Yes?

17. 이거 주세요. This one, please. (formal)

When you order something, you say 주세요, meaning “Please give me.” You add something you want to order before 주세요. For example, 이거 주세요. This one, please. 아메리카노 주세요. Americano, please. 

Sample Conversation

A: 이거 주세요. = This one, please.
B: 네. = Okay.

18. 오늘 날씨 진짜 좋다. The weather is really good, today. (casual) 
      오늘 날씨 진짜 좋네요. The weather is really good, today. (formal)

Talking about the weather is probably one of the most common and frequent subjects for conversations. First, 날씨 is weather and 오늘 is today. 좋다 is “to be good”, “to be nice” and 진짜 is really. So, when you say 오늘 날씨 진짜 좋다, it means “The weather is really good, today.” 

-다 ending form
Finishing the sentence 좋다 instead of 좋아 is because -다 ending is exclamation form. It looks like a basic form, but, it’s not. This form is used when you give an exclamation. 

Please click on the link and watch the video to learn more about this -다 ending form. → https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs6pQ5A_Qa4

-네요 ending form
This -네요 ending is used when you indicate that you are expressing your impression, thought, or surprise. 

Learn more about this form by listening our free audio lesson: https://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/level-3-lesson-25

Sample Conversation

A: 오늘 날씨 진짜 좋네요. = The weather is really good, today.
B: 그러게요. 정말 좋네요. = I know. It’s really good.

19. 좋아! Good! Cool! (casual) 
      좋아요! Good! Cool! (formal)

좋다 means ‘to be good’, ‘to like’. So, when you say 좋아!, it means “It’s good.”, “I like it.”. Besides, when you accept a suggestion saying “Cool!”, you can say this, too. 

Sample Conversation

A: 내일 6시에 만날까? = Do you want to meet up at 6 tomorrow?
B: 좋아! = Cool!

20. 내일 봐. I will see you tomorrow! (casual)  
      내일 봬요. I will see you tomorrow! (formal)

내일 means tomorrow and 보다 is to see. And the future tense of 보다 is 볼 거예요. But, you don’t say 내일 볼 거예요. when you want to say “I will see you tomorrow.”. If you say 내일 볼 거예요, it sounds like you’re going to watch something tomorrow, not “see you tomorrow.”.

내일 봐 means “Let’s meet tomorrow.”. And another phrase you can use to mean the same thing is 내일 보자.
A more polite way of saying is 내일 봐요 and a very polite and formal language is 내일 봬요. 

 Sample Conversation

A: 내일 봐. = I will see you tomorrow.
B: 네. 내일 봬요. = Okay. See you tomorrow.

You can take the practice course where you can review all the expressions above by listening and repeating along with the video lessons.

Take the course now for free: https://talktomeinkorean.com/products/detail/97


주식회사 지나인 (사업자 번호 110-81-94935)
서울시 마포구 서교동 394-74번지 3층
Version: TTMIK v1.4.106-production