When learning a language, a common goal is to be able to speak and converse with others.
If you want to have a conversation in Korean all you need to know is some common words and phrases that you can use in many different situations.
Memorizing practical phrases is the first step to being comfortable with conversations in Korean and being confident with the basics will provide you with a solid foundation for your learning journey.
This guide will break down common and useful Korean phrases that will help you get ready for your first Korean conversation.
Below we have listed the most important Korean phrases and separated them into categories for ease of learning.
The words are written in Korean Hangul as well as a romanized version to help with pronunciation for those that cannot read in Korean yet.
Basic Korean Words and Phrases
The first batch of Korean words and phrases that you should learn are the very basics needed for everyday interactions.
Learning these words and phrases will allow you to speak a bit of Korean in any situation.
A simple, “yes”, “no”, “please” and “thank you” can go a long way to showing courtesy and respect when visiting Korea.
- Hello: 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo)
- Yes: 네 (ne) or 예 (ye)
- No: 아니요 (aniyo)
- Maybe: 아마도 (amado)
- Please: 주세요 (juseyo)
- Thank you: 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida) or 고마워요 (gomawoyo)
- You’re welcome: 천만에요 (cheonmaneyo)
- Okay: 예 (ye) or 괜찮다 (gwaenchanhda)
- I’m sorry: 미안해요 (mianhaeyo)
- I don’t know: 몰라요 (mollayo)
- Excuse me (for apologies): 실례합니다 (sillyehamnida)
- Excuse me (for someone’s attention): 저기요 (jeogiyo)
- Good: 좋아요 (johayo) or 좋은 (joheun)
- Bad: 안좋아요 (anjohayo) or 나쁜 (nappeun)
- And: 과 (gwa) or 와 (wa)
Since there are many different ways to say “and” in Korean, we have listed the most common versions.
If the word before it ends in a consonant you would say “과 gwa” but if the word ends in a vowel you would say “와 wa”.
The next most important thing to learn in Korean is of course greetings.
Being polite and respectful is important in Korea and once you have learnt these common Korean greetings you will be able to begin an interaction in a polite manner which will certainly make a good impression.
Wishing someone well with a polite greeting is a great way to show your respect when in Korea and it may just make someone’s day a bit brighter.
- Hi: 안녕 (annyeong)
- Hello on the phone: 여보세요 (yeoboseyo)
- Good morning: 좋은아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo)
- How are you: 어떻게 지내세요? (eotteohge jinaeseyo) or 잘 지내요? (jal jinaeyo)
- Long time no see: 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo)
- Bye: 안녕 (annyeong)
- Goodbye (to the person leaving when you’re staying): 안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo)
- Goodbye (when you’re leaving and the other person is staying): 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo)
- Take care: 잘가요 (jalgayo)
- Welcome (to a store or place): 환영합니다 (hwanyeonghamnida)
Be careful not to get mixed up between the different versions of “goodbye” which vary depending on if you are leaving a situation or if someone else is leaving and you are staying.
Common Korean Phrases for Everyday Life
Going beyond the basics, the below phrases are very useful and will allow you to use your Korean in even more situations.
Knowing phrases that can be said often is a good method for learning Korean because the more likely you are to use the words the more practice you will get with them.
- Good luck: 화이팅 (hwaiting) or 행운을 빕니다 (haengun-eul bimnida)
- Cheers: 건배 (geonbae)
- Amazing: 대박 (daebak)
- Have you eaten?: 밥 먹었어요? (bab meogeosseoyo?)
- Bon appetit: 잘 먹겠습니다 (jal meokgetseumnida)
- Thank you for this meal: 잘 먹었습니다 (jal meogeotseuminda)
- Congratulations: 축하해요 (chukahaeyo)
- No problem: 문제 없어요 (munje eopseoyo)
- Of course: 당연하죠 (dangyeonhajyo)
- Just one moment, please: 잠시만 기다려 주세요 (jamsiman gidaryeo juseyo)
- Sleep well: 잘 자요 (jal jayo)
- Get home safely: 안전하게 집에 가다 (anjeonhage jib-e gada)
- Don’t worry: 걱정 하지마 (geokjeong hajimaseyo)
Survival Korean Phrases for Getting Around
Although the above phrases are useful for everyday conversations and expressing pleasantries, it is probably even more important to learn phrases that will help you in tricky situations.
If you are lost or confused when in Korea and need to talk to a local for help, knowing greetings and common expressions will not be of much use.
In a stressful situation, it is vital to know certain words and phrases so you can clearly communicate to others what help you need.
Learning these Korean phrases will make your travels much smoother if you ever need to know where something is when in Korea.
- Do you speak English? 영어하세요? (yeongeo haseyo)
- Do you speak Korean? 한국어하세요? (hangugeo haseyo)
- I understand: 이해해요 (ihae haeyo)
- I don’t understand: 이해 못 해요 (ihae mos haeyo)
- What did you say? 뭐라고 했어? (mworago haesseo)
- Can you speak slowly please?: 천천히 말 해주세요 cheoncheonhi mal hae juseyo)
- Please repeat: 반복하세요 (banbog haseyo)
- Please write it down: 적어주세요 (jeogeo juseyo)
- I speak a little Korean: 한국어를 조금한다 (hangugeo-leul jogeumhanda)
- What does this mean? 이것은 무엇을 의미 하는가? (igeoseun mueos-eul uimi haneunga)
- What is _ in Korean? _ 한국말로 뭐예요? (hangugmallo mwoyeyo)
- How much is it? 얼마에요? (eolmayeyo)
- Where is _?: _ 어디에 있어요 (eodie isseyo)
- Where is the bathroom?: 화장실은 어디에 있어요? (hwajangsireun eodie isseyo?)
- Over there: 저기 (jeogi)
- Straight: 직진 (jigjin)
- Right: 오른쪽 (oleunjjok)
- Left: 왼쪽 (oenjjok)
- Can you help me please?: 도와 줄수있으세요? (dowa julsu isseuseyo)
Basic Korean Phrases for Conversation
Now, of course, the reason you probably want to learn Korean is so you can talk with others and make meaningful connections.
Therefore, learning these basic Korean conversation starters and questions is a great place to start so you can feel comfortable conversing with others in Korean.
- What’s your name?: 이름이 뭐예요? (ireum-i mwoyeyo)
- My name is…: 제 이름은… (je ileum-eun)
- Nice to meet you: 반갑습니다 (bangapseubnida)
- Where are you from? 어디에서 왔어요? (eodieseo wasseoyo)
- I’m from…: …에서 왔어요 (eseo wasseoyo)
- How old are you?: 몇 살이에요? (myeot sarieyo)
- I’m _ years old: 살이에요 (sarieyo)
- What’s your job?: 직업이 뭐에요? (jigeobi mweoeyo)
- Where do you work?: 어디에서 일합니까? (eodieseo ilhamnikka)
- What are your hobbies?: 취미가 뭐니? (chwimiga mwoni)
- And you?: 그리고 너? (geuligo neo)
- Have a nice day: 좋은 하루 보내세요 (joheun haru bonaeseyo)
Practical Steps to Having Your First Conversation in Korean
The above lists of different Korean words and phrases will definitely come in useful as you start to learn Korean since they are basic but also commonly used.
However, the end goal of learning any language is to be able to converse with others and so it is important that you use these words as the foundation for future learning.
The above words and phrases will help you to prepare for your first conversation in Korean, but simply learning the vocabulary is not enough to be able to start a conversation with someone else confidently.
Therefore, if you want to ace your first Korean interaction you will need to prepare and practice and there are various methods you can use.
Below we will go over some of the best tips and tricks that will help you to reach your goal of conversing in Korean so you can put your vocab to good use.
Before you know it you will be engaging in a conversation in Korean and exchanging words with a Korean-speaking person!
Learn the Core 100 Korean Words
Much like with the words and phrases in this guide, learning common words is a great way to prepare for a conversation.
Although the phrases above are practical for everyday use and will certainly really help you when learning Korean, learning and practicing the 100 most commonly used words will really unlock the Korean language.
Since 100 words make up about half of all spoken Korean, learning a relatively small amount of Korean will enable you to converse comfortably in Korean.
Of course, a lot of these 100 words are not the practical words we have learnt today, that can be used on their own.
The 100 most common Korean words are mostly connecting words like “the” and “in” as well as common verbs, nouns and adjectives that form parts of many conversations.
Therefore, simply by learning 100 new words, you will be able to form many different sentences and say countless things by combining the words in different ways.
Of course, if you know you will not use some of the words on the list then they will not be useful to you or your conversation practice so keep that in mind.
Create a Korean Script
Memorizing certain words in Korean will only be useful if you actually need to use them.
Of course, some phrases, like asking for directions or ordering in a restaurant are likely to be useful to anyone who learns a new language.
However, learning words and phrases that aren’t relevant to you can be a waste of time especially if you want to have the most time-efficient route to speaking Korean.
For example, if you learn the word for “tennis” in Korean but don’t watch the sport or ever play it, then you are very unlikely to ever need to say the word.
In common situations where someone might ask you about your hobbies, you may not know what to say which is why it is important to create scripts in Korean.
Writing down, memorizing and practicing speaking a script you have made that is relevant to your life will really help accelerate your conversation skills.
Common conversation topics are well known and often you can ask the first question which will dictate what response you have to give.
Also, you already know everything about your own likes and interests so it is easy to prepare for a basic conversation in a foreign language as you already know what you will likely say anyway.
Write out how you think a conversation could go and script your answers so you know how to respond.
Preparing answers to follow-up questions will allow a conversation to go even further too.
Writing scripts will also highlight to you words that you use often as you will see them regularly when practicing and know to spend extra time learning these words that are specifically useful to you.
Start Speaking Korean From Day One
Of course, the best way to feel confident with conversing in Korean is to start speaking as soon as possible.
Ideally, you need to start speaking in Korean today, now, right now!
The earlier you start speaking in Korean the sooner you will feel confident conversing in the language.
Luckily you have a good starting point already, the above list of common phrases.
Start saying the above phrases out loud and repeat and practice them daily and you will be on your way to fluency in no time.
Getting your mouth used to making new sounds and pronouncing new words will really help you out when you have to converse in Korean.
Since Korean is quite different to English it can be a struggle at first to get used to the change but practice makes perfect.
Master Your Korean Pronunciation
Mastering your pronunciation will allow you to understand Korean better and also be understood when you speak the language.
It is no use speaking over and over again if you are saying the words wrong.
You need to not only practice your own pronunciation but also your listening so you can comprehend spoken Korean.
The best way to learn correct pronunciation is to simply listen to a native and repeat over and over.
Listening to podcasts, tv shows or youtube videos is a great place to start but make sure you are repeating the words spoken so you can master the pronunciation for yourself.
Your goal should be to be familiar with the sounds of the Korean language and understand what is being said as well as being comfortable with pronouncing the words yourself.
Learn How to Read Korean Hangul
Although you may think that learning how to read the Korean alphabet will in no way help you with speaking and conversing in Korean, it is actually vitally important.
Since the romanized pronunciation versions of Korean Hangul are often not the most accurate, the only way to be sure of a word’s proper pronunciation is to learn to read Hangul.
Even if your goal is simply to learn how to speak in Korean, learning how to read Korean characters will help you immeasurably in achieving your goals.
Learning Hangul means you are learning directly how a word is meant to sound and means you will not be speaking based on an interpretation that draws from a limited selection of English sounds.
Besides, learning how to read in Korean will help you with reading menus and signs as well as other amazing resources that can really improve your Korean with ease.
So take your language learning to the next level and start learning how to read Korean Hangul.
Ace Your First Conversation With These Korean Phrases
Once you have practiced the above basic words and practical phrases and then used our helpful tips to further your Korean learning, you will be able to have your first conversion in Korean.
Practice makes perfect but sometimes you also just need to get out there and start speaking with natives as soon as you can.
Immerse yourself in the language and culture and converse with others and you will soon see that your work has paid off.