3 ways of expressing Korean phrases in everyday life

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If you are going to Korea, you might need to know some useful Korean phrases. By using these Korean expressions, you will sound more natural and you can fit in better.

Let’s take a look at the most commonly used expressions to best suit Korean etiquette.

1. Saying goodbye in Korean

One thing that may strike you is the way Koreans say “goodbye”. They do not always use the same Korean phrase, as it depends on whether the person they are saying goodbye to is leaving, or if the listener is staying and the speaker is leaving.

One uses annyeonghigaseyo (안녕히 가세요) if the listener is leaving, as this expression literally means ‘goodbye’. There is also the more colloquial expression 가요 (jal gayo), or (jal ga) in its more informal variant, which literally always means ‘go well’.

안녕히 가세요 / 가요 /
Annyeonghigaseyo / Jal gayo / Jal ga
Goodbye (when the speaker is staying and the listener is leaving).

On the other hand, annyeonghigyeseyo (안녕히 계세요) is used if the listener is staying and the person saying goodbye is leaving. In fact, the expression means “stay well”.

안녕히 계세요
Goodbye (when the speaker is leaving and the listener is staying).

However, the choice does not always fall on one of the two Korean phrases. In fact, very often, when leaving shops, one tends to simply say gamsahamnida (감사합니다), as a thank you, or manhi paseyo (많이 파세요), which literally means ‘sell a lot’, as a wish to the shopkeeper. Also, sugohaseyo (수고하세요) is a widely used expression to encourage the shopkeeper to keep up the good work.

When leaving restaurants, if you are satisfied, you can say,  jal meogeosseumnida ( 먹었습니다), which literally means ‘I ate well’. Here, we can also use gamsahamnida or sugohaseyo as alternatives.

So, to recap, as you leave a shop or restaurant, remember to say thank you by saying:

Thank you

You can also add an expression of encouragement, such as:

Good work (literally: ‘keep working hard’).

Good appetite - Korean phrases

2. Expressing “Enjoy your meal”

Another expression that varies depending on the role of the speaker is an expression that translates to “good appetite”. In fact, if you are about to eat food prepared or offered by someone, you will say jal meokgesseumnida ( 먹겠습니다), which literally means ‘I’m going to eat well’. It is a polite way of expressing gratitude to the person who is offering food.  Even when you are with a group of friends going out to eat, you can still use jal meokgesseumnida to express your happiness at sharing the meal with the others.

Conversely, when serving someone food, one says masittge deuseyo (맛있게 드세요), which literally means ‘eat with gusto’. It is an expression you will often hear waiters say in restaurants. Informal ways of saying it are 먹어 (jal meogeo) and 많이 먹어 (manhi meogeo), which literally mean ‘eat well’ and ‘eat a lot’.

So, to recap, there are two phrases you should remember when it comes to enjoying a meal. If you are about to eat, you should use:

Jal meokgesseumnida
I (humbly) receive this meal (literally: ‘I’m going to eat well’).

If, on the other hand,  you want someone else to enjoy their meal and you won’t share the meal, you can use:

맛있게 드세요
Masittge deuseyo
Enjoy your meal (formal, literally: ‘eat with gusto’)


먹어 / 많이 먹어
Jal meogeo / Manhi meogeo
Enjoy your meal (informal, literally: ‘eat well’ and ‘eat a lot’).

Korean phrases in the Korean subway

3. Korean phrases for asking permission

Among the various Korean phrases you may need, it is also useful to know how to ask for permission. The immediate translation of this expression is sillyehamnida (실례합니다). You can use this term when there are a lot of people and you need to pass by.

Excuse me!

However, in some situations, there are other Korean phrases that are more commonly used. For example, on the underground, when you need to make your way through the other passengers to get off at your station, you can say naerigesseumnida (내리겠습니다), which literally means ‘I’m getting off’. People will then know that they will have to step aside for a moment for you to stop at that station.

I have to get off!

When you have people in front of you but you’re not sure if they will get off or not, instead of asking for permission right away, it’s more polite to first ask if they will get off. The right expression to use in this case is naerisilgeoyeyo? (내리실 거예요?). If the answer is yes, they will probably just say yes (, ne). If not, they will most certainly take the hint and move aside so as to let you pass.

내리실 거예요?
Are you getting off?

These are some useful Korean phrases for everyday life that you may want to know. As you may have noticed, these expressions in Korean have more facets than those in English and their usage varies depending on the context. As you get deeper into the study of the Korean language, you will see more differences between Korean and English, and how the Korean terms vary according to social usage.

For more information on Korean language and culture, follow the Go! Go! Hanguk blog and do not hesitate to contact us about living and studying in Korea.

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