No matter where you are in your Korean-language studies, a few key phrases can help you communicate and find your way around. Here, Paradise Valley, AZ Korean teacher Hannah V. shares 16 useful Korean phrases…
Here are some basic, useful Korean phrases you should know.
*Note: The following phrases are all in the polite Korean form.
1. ___ 있어요?
“Do you have?”
This literally means, “is there ____?”, but it sounds more like “do you have ___ ?” in English.
This is a very useful phrase when you’re looking for a specific item in a store. You can use this question if you’re unsure if the store has the item, otherwise, you can just ask them to get it for you.
For example, if you would like to buy apples but don’t see any, you could say “사과 있어요?” (Do you have apples?).
The vendor will tell you yes or no by saying “네, 있어요” (yes, I have) or “아니요, 없어요” (No, I don’t have).
By the way, in Korea, there are a lot of street vendors who sell fruit. Fruit is usually more expensive in Korea than it is in the United States.
“Please get me ___. “
Use this at a store or restaurant to ask for a specific item. If you’re in a store and you’re sure they have the item, you can just say “___주세요.”
For example, you see apples at a fruit vendor and you’d like to buy them. You can say “사과 주세요” (please get me apples).
You can also indicate the number of items you would like: “사과 한개 (두개 or 세개) 주세요” (Please get me one (two or three) apple(s)).
This phrase will also help you purchase tickets: “표 한개 주세요” (please get me one ticket). Usually, the noun doesn’t change regardless of if it’s singular or plural. Also, notice that the number comes after the noun in the sentence.
Try using this phrase at a restaurant. If you know the name of the food, you can say something like “김밥 주세요.” This translates literally to “Please get me Kim-bob,” but it’s more like saying “I’ll have Kim-bob.”
If you don’t know the names of the food, use the menu to ask for what you want. Point to the item on the menu and say “이거 주세요” (I’ll have this).
Use this phrase to get someone’s attention, usually a stranger.
Unlike “excuse me” in English, this phrase doesn’t indicate an apology.
With acquaintances and friends, just use names, you don’t need to preface your question by saying “Excuse me.”
4. 이거 얼마예요?
“How much is this?”
If you know the name of an item, you can use the name instead of 이거 (this).
For example, at the grocery store you’d like to know the price of the cherries. You can say “체리 얼마예요?” (How much are the cherries?)
Notice again that the noun doesn’t change from singular to plural. The verb will also remain the same regardless of the number of items you’re asking about.
5. (이거) ___ 가요?
“Is this going to ___?”
When I was visiting Japan for two weeks, there were many occasions where I wanted to confirm that the subway or bus was going to my desired destination. For peace of mind and to avoid taking the wrong ride, this is the question to ask.
Want to go to Seoul Station by bus? Ask the bus driver: “서울역 가요?” (Going to Seoul Station?) If you’re waiting at the bus stop before the bus arrives, you can ask someone nearby: 이거 서울역 가요? (Is this (bus) going to Seoul Station?)
By adding 이거, you indicate that the question pertains to this particular bus.
If you want to take a taxi, you add이요. (___, please). You can tell the taxi driver, “서울역이요” (Seoul Station, please).
As in English, it’s more polite to add 이요 (please) after the name of the location.
This is just like saying “Mr.” in English.
Be careful not to call an unmarried and relatively young looking woman, 아줌마 , as she will likely be offended.
9. ___ 어디에 있어요?
“Where is ___?”
If you’re looking for a location and have to ask for directions, this is the phrase you need.
For example: “서울역 어디에 있어요?” (where is Seoul Station?) Notice the subject, Seoul Station, comes before “where is”
The problem with asking for directions is that you may not be able to understand the reply. During a recent road trip in Guatemala, I was looking for a place to refill the propane tank on my RV. I ended up asking over 10 people for directions. I just didn’t understand the directions. I finally found the place thanks to a friendly local who drew the directions on a piece of paper.
When people give you directions, unless you’re fluent in their language or understand their body language, you will have a hard time understanding their response. Since my experience in Guatemala, I learned to use a map and ask the locals to point out the location.
10) 잘 먹겠습니다
“Thank you for the food (prior to the meal).”
In Korean, this literally means “I’ll enjoy eating the food; it’s delicious; I ate the delicious food.”
It’s polite to say these words when you’re invited to a meal or at a restaurant.
Use this phrase to let your host(s) know you’re enjoying your meal.
12. 맛있게 먹었습니다
“It was delicious.”
Finally, at the end of your meal, show your appreciation by saying “맛있게 먹었습니다.”
13. 이름이 뭐예요?
“What’s your name?”
14. 제 이름은 ___ (이)예요.
“My name is ___”.
15. 저는 ___ (이)예요
Here’s an example: If you want to say, “my name is Hannah”, you can say “제 이름은 해나예요”, or you can say, “저는 해나예요” (I’m Hannah).
The noun Hannah ends with a vowel sound, so you don’t add 이 before 예요.
If the noun ends with a consonant sound, however, such as Michael, you have to say, “제 이름은 마이클이예요” or “저는 마이클이예요.”
Add 이after the constant sound 클, to make everything sound more natural and smooth.
16. 한국말 잘 못해요.
“I don’t speak Korean (very well).”
If you want to say “I don’t speak Korean,” you can say 한국말 못해요.
If you speak a little, you can say, “한국말 잘 못해요 “(I don’t speak Korean, very well).
When you learn Korean, you will realize that the subject is omitted (for the most part) simply because the subject is too obvious. Additionally, the order of the subject, object, and verb in a sentence is completely different than it is in English.
Want to learn more useful Korean phrases? Find a private Korean teacher near you!