A simple “hello” is the easiest way to start a conversation in another language, so it is important to learn this simple introductory greeting when starting your first conversation in Korean.
In this guide, we will teach you how to say your first “hello” in Korean and will break down some other basic Koren greetings so you can start talking in Korean as quickly as possible!
As you may already know, there is a hierarchy of formality in the Korean language that you definitely need to understand in order to adapt your greetings depending on who you are talking to.
But don’t worry! We will walk you through the ins and outs of this hierarchy of formality so you can say hello in Korean in many different ways to many different people, no matter who they are!
But first, take a quick look at the below list that gives you a brief overview of the Korean greetings we will be learning in this guide.
Korean Greetings at a Glance
- “Hello” (polite): 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo)
- “Hi” / “Hello” (casual): 안녕 (annyeong)
- “Good day” / “Hello” (formal): 녕하십니까 (annyeong hasimnikka)
- “Hello” when answering the phone: 여보세요 (yeoboseyo)
- “Good morning”: 좋은아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo)
- “Long time no see” (polite): 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo)
- “Nice to meet you” (formal): 만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida)
- “What’s up?”: 무슨 일이야? (museun ir-iya?)
- “How are you?”: 어떻게 지내세요? (eotteoke jinaeseyo?)
- “Did you eat?”: 밥 먹었어? (bab meogeoss-eo?)
- “Yo!”: 야! (Ya!)
- “Please look after me”: 잘부탁드립니다 (jalbutag deurimnida)
The Basics of Korean Speech Levels
Before we get started, it is very important that you understand the hierarchy of Korean speech levels and when to use them.
Choosing the correct speech level in a conversation is how Koreans show their level of respect to the person they are talking to or the person/object that they are talking about.
This means, when you learn Korean, you need to use the proper speech level, to avoid causing offense by being too casual in a formal situation or even being too formal in an informal situation.
There are seven speech levels in Korean and each level shows a different level of politeness and formality to the audience.
However, some of these levels are not used regularly and are even dying out in daily conversation.
Unless you are going to be addressing a king, reading an old religious text, or watching a Korean historical drama, you will only really need to know the main speech levels to start a conversation in Korean.
These are: casual, polite, and formal/honorific. Much simpler!
Polite speech will be the level that should be your go-to in most situations, just to be safe.
You would use polite speech when speaking to people you know but do not know well.
This level is quite neutral as it indicates a level of distance in a conversation without implying that you think you are above or below someone in the social hierarchy.
Casual speech is pretty self-explanatory and is used when you are speaking with friends or family and people younger than you or those who are lower in the social hierarchy.
The formal speech level is also a straightforward speech level to understand as you would use it in formal situations and with people who are older than you or have a higher seniority than you.
You would also use formal speech when talking to, or introducing yourself to strangers.
Basically, before you speak to someone or about someone in Korean, take a moment to think about the situation you are in, who you are talking to (their age and seniority in relation to you) and who you are talking about.
Once you have understood these simple speech levels you will be able to correctly use each of the different greetings listed below depending on the context of the situation you are in.
Now you have gotten to grips with Korean levels of formality, it should be easier to understand the different variations of basic greetings and easier to use them in real life!
Right, let us get into learning how to say some greetings in Korean.
How to Say Hello in Korean
The greetings below are written in Korean characters (Hangul) as well as in romanized English letters to help you read them. You do not need to know Hangul to read the words but if you are planning on learning more Korean, learning Hangul will give you the best pronunciation.
안녕하세요 (Annyeong Haseyo) – “Hello”
As mentioned above the polite speech level is the best one to opt for in most situations which is why “안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo” is the most commonly used way to greet someone in Korean.
“안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo” uses the familiar, polite speech pattern. The addition of 하세요 (haseyo) is what shows an extra bit of respect.
“안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo” is a great phrase for most situations and is perfect to use if you are unsure of the formality of the situation or which speech level to use in a situation.
There are many situations where you would use this phrase, for example when introducing yourself, when speaking to someone older than you to show respect, or when in a work/office setting between co-workers.
As this is a polite phrase, it is normal to bow slightly when you are greeting someone with “안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo”.
Also, adding a question mark to your speech by changing the intonation when you talk turns this greeting into a question.
As a question “안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo?” directly translates to “are you at peace?” and is used basically as a “how are you?” greeting.
This is a great initial phrase to get a conversation started and encourage a response. For example, a basic conversation using this phrase would go something like this:
“안녕하세요?” “Annyeong haseyo?” – (Hi, how are you?)
“예. 안녕하세요?” “Ye. Annyeong haseyo?”- (I’m well. How are you?)
안녕 (Annyeong) – “Hi”
When you want to greet someone you are close to you can use the informal “안녕 Annyeong”.
This is a casual way to say hello as it is like saying “Hi” and is used when you are speaking to friends and family members.
“안녕 Annyeong” is a very useful phrase since it can be said in many different circumstances.
For instance, you can say “안녕 Annyeong” instead of “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening” since in Korean you don’t tend to modify your greeting depending on the time of day.
Not only can you say “안녕 Annyeong” at any time of the day but it can even be used to say goodbye (like how the Italians use “Ciao”) making it an even more useful phrase to learn.
“안녕 Annyeong” is great to learn as well as it creates the foundation to build other formal phrases. For example, as you may have noticed, adding 하세요 (haseyo) onto the end 안녕 (annyeong) forms the polite “Hello” greeting – “안녕하세요?” “Annyeong haseyo?”
안녕하십니까 (Annyeong Hasimnikka) – “Hello” (Very Formal)
Even though “안녕하십니까 Annyeong Hasimnikka” is literally translated as “hello” in Korean, this phrase is more similar to saying “good day” since it is very formal.
When you think of “안녕하십니까 Annyeong Hasimnikka” as saying “good day” you can imagine how overly formal it is since you probably would not use “good day” as a greeting in your own life.
As I am sure you can imagine, this is one of the most formal ways to say “hello” in Korean and although it is still used in Korea, you probably won’t need to use it much yourself.
As of today, “안녕하십니까 Annyeong Hasimnikka” is only really used by news anchors or when people want to treat their customers with a high level of respect when greeting them.
While you may not actually ever need to say “안녕하십니까 Annyeong Hasimnikka”, it is nevertheless a good greeting to be aware of as you might come across the phrase.
여보세요 (Yeoboseyo) – “Hello”
The phrase “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” is another version of the Korean “hello” greeting. However, this greeting doesn’t differ from the other versions of “hello” based on formality or politeness.
In fact, you would only say “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” when you answer the phone.
You can use this greeting when answering the phone to anybody, including friends and family, and even when you do not know who is calling.
Using “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” is similar to the way Japanese people would use the phrase “もしもし “moshi moshi” when answering the telephone.
But, be careful! “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” is a greeting to be used primarily when answering the phone and not in other in-person conversations.
When “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” is used in other contexts, the phrase is very informal and can come across as being sarcastic. For example, you could use “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” when trying to get someone’s attention if they are ignoring you, but you wouldn’t want to greet someone in this way!
Knowing how to say “여보세요 Yeoboseyo” will be very useful since it is absolutely clear when you need to say it and when you don’t have to.
좋은아침이에요 (Joeun Achimieyo) – “Good Morning”
A polite way to wish someone a good morning is to say “좋은아침이에요 Joeun Achimieyo”.
If you do not wish to say good morning in its polite form you can say “좋은아침 joeun achim” instead, this is the casual version of the phrase that you would use for greeting people you are close with.
However, as mentioned previously, Koreans do not tend to alter their greetings based on the time of the day and therefore “좋은아침이에요 Joeun Achimieyo” is not actually a very commonly used phrase.
Throughout the day most Koreans would still use “안녕하세요 Annyeong Haseyo” to greet people, (the first greeting we learned at the top of the guide).
오랜만이에요 (Oraenmanieyo) – “Long Time No See”
Just like in English, if it has been a long time since you have seen someone, you can use the phrase “long time no see” as a greeting.
“오랜만이에요 Oraenmanieyo” is the Korean language version of “long time no see”.
However, just like with “hello” the phrase changes depending on who you are greeting.
“오랜만이에요 Oraenmanieyo” is the standard polite way of saying “long time no see” but if you were talking to a close friend you would say “오랜만에 oraenman-e”.
Similarly, if you were addressing someone more senior to yourself, for example, your boss, you would use the formal version of the phrase which is “오랜만입니다 oraenmanimnida”.
It is easy to understand the differences between these different speech levels if you remember the following
- Ending in “e” is informal, for close friends
- Ending in “ieyo” is polite, the standard usage
- Ending in “nida” is the most formal for conversations
만나서 반갑습니다 (Mannaseo Bangapseumnida) – “Nice to Meet You”
When you first meet someone, you might not want to simply greet them with a “hello” but might want to say “nice to meet you”.
Well, like in many languages, the Korean language also has a term for greeting someone when you are meeting them for the first time.
“만나서 반갑습니다 mannaseo bangapseumnida” is the formal and most common way to say “nice to meet you”.
“만나서 반갑습니다 mannaseo bangapseumnida” Is used much in the same way that Spanish people would use the greeting “mucho gusto”.
“만나서 반갑습니다 mannaseo bangapseumnida” is another useful phrase to know since it rarely changes based on situations, so you do not really need to remember other speech level variations.
That is because when you are meeting someone for the first time you will almost exclusively want to be polite to them and address them in the most formal way.
In a more casual setting, you might want to say the more informal phrase “만나서 반갑습이에요 mannaseo bangapseum-ieyo” which roughly translates as “it’s nice to meet you”.
However, it is more common to leave out the first part of “만나서 반갑습니다 mannaseo bangapseumnida” and simply say “반갑습니다 bangapseumnida” which is the equivalent of saying “nice to meet ya”
무슨 일이야? (Museun Ir-iya?) – “What’s up?”
A fun bit of slang to use when talking with your friends in Korean is “무슨 일이야? museun ir-iya?”
This greeting is used to ask your friends what they are up to, just like in English you would ask “what’s up?”
Remember, you shouldn’t use this phrase outside your friendship group as it is very informal.
Adding an 이게 (ige) to the beginning of the phrase will slightly change its meaning. “이게 무슨 일이야 ige museun ir-iya?” means “what’s happening?” and is simply another informal variation to add to your Korean vocabulary.
어떻게 지내세요? (Eotteoke Jinaeseyo?) – “How are you?”
Although you can use the first greeting we learnt “안녕하세요? annyeong haseyo?” as a way to ask “how are you”, it more accurately translates to “are you at peace” which is often answered with a simple “예 ye” (yes).
If you want to really find out how someone is actually doing you can ask them the more direct question “어떻게 지내세요? eotteoke jinaeseyo?” instead.
“어떻게 지내세요? eotteoke jinaeseyo?” is the polite way to ask “how are you” but of course, there are other versions of the question depending on who you are speaking to.
If you want to ask your friends how they are then you could say “요즘 어때? yojeum eottae?” which is similar to asking “how’s it going?”
You might hear the phrase “요즘 어때? yojeum eottae?” asked to you by close friends who are looking out for you, it translates as “did you eat?”
야! (Ya!) – “Yo!”
A very informal greeting is “야! ya!”
Used in a similar way to how English or American speakers would say “yo”, this one-syllable sound is useful for getting someone’s attention or calling your friend over.
Much like with “yo”, “야! ya!” is informal slang and slightly more masculine than other greetings.
Since it is very informal, it can only be used with close friends who are of the same age as you, definitely not one to say to someone more senior!
Alternatively, “야! ya!” can be used to say “wow!” or “hey!” as more of an exclamation.
잘부탁드립니다. (Jalbutag Deurimnida) – “Please look after me.”
A respectful greeting that is used often when introducing yourself is “잘부탁드립니다 jalbutag deurimnida”.
Often said with a bow, this greeting is a very polite and respectful way of greeting someone.
The general meaning of “잘부탁드립니다 jalbutag deurimnida” is “please look after me” or “please let’s have a good relationship”
It can also mean “Take good care of me/it” so when you are leaving someone or something precious in the hands of other people, you would use “잘부탁드립니다 jalbutag deurimnida”. For example when dropping your child off at kindergarten.
The literal translation of “잘부탁드립니다 jalbutag deurimnida” is actually closer to “thank you very much (for taking care of it)” and it can be used in this way to thank someone after they have done something for you, but it is more common to say the phrase as a greeting – effectively thanking them in advance!
How to Say Hello in Korean – Video Guide
Hello in Korean – Final Thoughts
Now you know the basic ways to say hello in Korean as well as some other greetings that you can use in different circumstances.
If you also understand the ins and outs of Korean speech levels, you will be able to ace your first Korean conversation no matter who you are talking to!
Remembering just a few different versions of hello and other basic greetings is the perfect way to start conversing in another language and open the doors to making many connections with people of different cultures.
Want an easier way to practice and learn Korean? Check out our comprehensive guide on the best app to learn Korean.
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