Korean Phrases You Can’t Live Without


Power of Korean Phrases

If you’re planning on visiting or living in Korea, then it definitely pays to learn at least a few key Korean phrases. If you live here, then you already know how valuable it is to speak at least a bit of Korean. Here are the top 10 reasons why people learn Korean phrases:

Power of Korean Phrases

If you’re planning on visiting or living in Korea, then it definitely pays to learn at least a few key Korean phrases. If you live here, then you already know how valuable it is to speak at least a bit of Korean. Here are the top 10 reasons why people learn Korean phrases:

1. Meeting new friends
2. Ordering at restaurants
3. Chatting with locals
4. Taking public transportation
5. Getting discounts
6. Finding best cafes in town
7. Driving
8. Dating
9. Talking to in-laws
10. Showing respect as a visitor

A large number of Koreans in Seoul can speak at least basic English, so it’s true that you are unlikely to get stranded if you visit or come here to live.

However, not knowing any phrases at all severely limits the quality of your time here. If you’re going to travel all this way to Asia, might as well make it the best experience possible!

Many people think that Korean is too difficult to learn. The surprising thing most people don’t know is that you can learn to read the Korean alphabet (Hangul) in less than one hour. Imagine, you can be reading Korean signs and ordering off of menus by studying for a bit on your airplane/boat/helicopter/submarine ride over here! Exciting, isn’t it?

Of course you may not know what the words mean, but thankfully Koreans have Konglish! (Korean-English). Since many modern Korean words are taken from English, you’ll be able to recognize them easily as long as you can sound them out. Once you learn to read Hangul, you’ll have a vocabulary of hundreds of words right from the start. That’s a great way to learn Korean fast.

So if you want to learn conversational Korean, does that mean you need to put in months of study before you can get to talking?

Absolutely not!

You can learn basic conversational Korean in only a few days  by first learning to read Hangul and then adding a few key Korean phrases into the mix. Then you’ll have tons to talk about!

We’re going to give you plenty of key phrases here, but know that you may be in for a surprise. These aren’t your regular run-of-the-mill phrases taken straight from a guidebook. We’ve been there, done that, and the fact is that a lot of those phrases aren’t what people use in everyday life. It’s embarrassing if people don’t understand you.  Instead of putting you in that situation, we’ve hand-picked the most commonly used phrases so you can talk the talk with confidence!

Before we kick things off, make sure to heed the Hangul Warning.

Hangul Warning

All of the phrases below are written in both English and Hangul (the Korean alphabet).

“But I can’t read Hangul, I just want the phrases!”, you might say.

While it is possible to learn some basic Korean without knowing any Hangul, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Learning the Romanized version (English letters to sound out Hangul) of Korean is a dangerous way to learn the language. The reason is, it severely limits you and almost guarantees failure. If you don’t learn basic Hangul:

1. You can’t read menus and signs

2. You can’t pronounce words correctly

3. You can’t understand other people

To elaborate, not being able to read menus and signs makes you feel like more helpless and lost in Korea. This is especially true if you venture outside of Seoul. If you don’t know Hangul, then pronunciation becomes much harder. Romanized Korean is hard to pronounce even to fluent speakers of Korean. It’s confusing! If you don’t know the correct pronunciation for a Korean phrase, you’re not going to recognize it when someone says it to you.

All of this ultimately leads to confusion and frustration, which eventually ends in lost motivation. This is how people end up quitting and saying Korean is too hard.

It’s not true. The learning system is the problem.

So whether your goal is to pick up a few Korean phrases or to become fully conversational, heed the Hangul Warning and spend the next 60 minutes learning the Korean alphabet. Your future self will thank you for it!

Formal or Informal?

Korean has many levels of formality within the language. Because of this, saying simple things can seem extremely complex because of the social hierarchies.

If you’re learning Korean but you don’t have Korean ancestry in your family, then you’re in the clear! You can get by with the standard forms of the language and you’ll still be considered polite. That way you can learn some simple phrases without having to know all of the intracacies of the language.

Since there are different forms of Korean, you may occasionally hear more formal versions of the phrases below. However, we’ll give you the 20% of the phrases you’ll hear 80% of the time so you can learn Korean fast.

Let’s get to it!

Essential Korean Phrases

English 한국어 (Korean)
Thank You 고맙습니다
Sorry 미안합니다
Hello 안녕하세요?
Hello (on phone) 여보세요
Good morning 안녕하세요?
Good evening 안녕하세요?
Sleep well 잘 자요
Goodbye (to person leaving) 안녕히 가세요
Goodbye (to person staying) 안녕히 계셰요
Get home safely 잘 가요
Have a nice day 좋은 하루 보내세요

Everyday Korean Phrases

English 한국어 (Korean)
Where is the bathroom? 화장실 어디에 있어요?
Please repeat that 다시 말해 주세요
I understand 이해해요
I don’t understand 이해 못해요
I don’t know 몰라요
I know 알아요
Can you speak Korean? 한국말 할 수 있어요?
I can speak a little Korean 조금 한국말 할 수 있어요
I can’t speak Korean 한국말 못해요
Happy Birthday 생일 축하해요

Dinner Table Korean Phrases

English 한국어 (Korean)
Bon appétit 맛있게 드세요
Eat up! 많이 먹어요
This looks great! 잘 먹겠습니다

Getting to Know You Korean Phrases

English Korean 한국어
What is your name? 이름 뭐예요?
My name is _______ 제 이름 _______이에요
Where are you from? 어디에서 왔어요?
I’m from _______ 저는 _______에서 왔어요
How old are you? 몇 살이에요?
I’m _______ years old 저는 _______살예요
I can’t speak Korean well 한국말 잘 못해요
I’m learning Korean these days 요즘 한국말 배워요

Meeting Friends Korean Phrases

English 한국어 (Korean)
Long time no see 오랜만이에요
Have you eaten? (showing concern) 밥 먹었어요?
How are you? 잘 지내요?
How have you been? 잘 지냈어요?
What have you been up to? 어떻게 지냈어요?


What are your favorite Korean phrases?

Photo credit: hojusaram

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