Korean Word Comparison – 갈아타다 vs. 환승하다 (to transfer)

There are two words to say ‘to transfer’ in Korean (갈아타다 환승하다). 🚌 🚶🏻‍♂️ 🚃
When you transfer from one vehicle to another or one form of transportation to another form,
you can say 갈아타다 or 환승하다.


갈아타다 vs. 환승하다

a person transferring vehicles (갈아타다 환승하다)

#1 환승하다

환승 is a Sino-Korean word.
환(換) means "to change". 승(乘) means "to ride".
환승(換乘) is a noun which means "transfer" and, with 하다 at the end, 환승하다 is a verb that means "to transfer".
환승하다 becomes ‘to transfer’.


#2 갈아타다

갈아타다 is a native Korean word which is a combination of 갈다 and 타다.
갈다 means "to change something to a new one".
전구를 갈다 to change a light bulb / 기저귀를 갈다 to change a baby’s diaper

타다 means "to ride" or "to take".
버스를 타다 to take a bus / 말을 타다 to ride a horse

Therefore, 갈아타다 means ‘to change and ride’ and becomes "to transfer".


Basically, 환승하다 and 갈아타다 mean exactly the same. They are pretty much interchangeable.

저 다음 역에서 (환승할 거예요 / 갈아탈 거예요).
I am going to transfer at the next station.
어디에서 (환승해야 돼요 / 갈아타야 돼요)?
Where should I transfer?


Check out our video "Korean subway announcements explained".
You can hear both ‘환승하다' and ‘갈아타다' used in subway announcement from the video.


However, 갈아타다 is less formal than 환승하다 and has another meaning.
It also has the sense of moving from one kind of product, service or anything you use frequently.

to switch to android from an iPhone (안드로이드로 갈아타다)

저도 아이폰으로 갈아탔어요.  I also switched to an iPhone.
저 이번에 윈도우로 다시 갈아탔어요. I recently switched back to using Windows.
삼성 폰 쓰다가 이번에 LG로 갈아탔어요. I was using a Samsung phone and recently changed to LG.
다른 사람으로 갈아탔어요. I am now dating someone else. / I am now a fan of someone else.


To sum up, 환승하다 and 갈아타다 both mean "to transfer".
갈아타다 has another usage to say "to switch to a different product or service".


FYI, 환승하다 is used as slang with negative connotation in the young generation when you date someone new right after you break up with someone as if you transfer vehicles.

나 환승이별 당했어.
I broke up with him/her and he/she started dating someone right away.
He/She dumped me and started dating someone right away.