So, you want to start conversing in Korean. Good for you! Practicing what you learn by actually speaking or writing is the best way to retain knowledge. And having your first conversation starts by learning how to say “hello” in Korean!
As most language learners know, there are so many ways to say “hello” in different languages. It’s no different in the Korean language. How do you know which one to use in particular situations? Stick around and I’ll go through different ways to say “hello” in Korean as well as other common Korean greetings.
Korean speech levels or politeness levels
Before you learn how to say “hello” in Korean language, you must first bear in mind that Korean (한국어 or hangugeo) is a hierarchal language.
There is a hierarchy of formality and politeness based on who you’re talking to. Age, social status, and level of intimacy come into play and when you don’t use the correct level of politeness, you may come off as either rude or too formal.
There are seven speech levels in the Korean language, from high formality (language used for kings) to informal, casual speech. No need to panic though! We won’t go through all seven, but this is something worth looking into when you go deeper into learning Korean.
The most common levels of speech that you should be aware of are these three:
- Formal – This is the language you use to show respect to a person of authority (i.e. a government official or your boss), customers (if you’re working in the service industry), in a very formal business setting, or someone older who you’re not close with.
This form of speech is also used in 사극 (sageuk; historical drama), formal announcements or news broadcasts.
- Standard Polite – This is the most commonly used form of speech in Korea. You can use it in everyday speech, with people at work, or someone you don’t know very well.
- Informal or Casual – You should only use this if you’re among close friends, somebody younger than you, or to children.
If you’re just beginning to learn Korean or you have plans of traveling to Korea soon, knowing the standard speech will suffice because it has the proper politeness for everyday situations. However, it wouldn’t hurt to know formal speech if you’re applying for a job in Korea or doing a business transaction with a Korean.
Without further ado, let’s start learning how to say “hello” in Korean and other greetings in Korean language!
Ways to say hello in Korean + other Korean greetings
안녕하세요 (an-nyeong-ha-se-yo) – Hello or Good day
Whether you’re a Korean noob or advanced in your studies, I’m sure you already heard the phrase “annyeong haseyo.” It means “hello” in Korean and in Hangul (Korean alphabet), this is written as 안녕하세요. It can also mean “good day.”
안녕 (annyeong) means “well-being” or “peace” while 하세요 (haseyo) comes from the verb 하다 (hada). So 안녕하세요 literally means “to do peace” or “to have peace”. When 안녕하세요 is used in question form, it means “are you at peace?” to which you can reply “예 (ye) or “yes.”
There are three common ways of saying “hello” in Korean based on formality levels:
안녕 (annyeong) is the casual way to say “hello” in Korean and is only used when talking to someone you’re close with or someone who’s younger than you. Think of it as “hi” in Korean language. Additionally, annyeong is an informal way to say “goodbye.”
여보세요 (yeo-bo-se-yo) – Hello, when on the phone
How do you say “hello” on the phone in Korean? You say 여보세요 (yeoboseyo).
If you’ve read our article on Korean terms of endearment, you probably remember that yeobo used to mean “look here” or “hey, you” in Korean. Hence, 여보세요 is also be used to get someone’s attention, in an informal and negative way. It’s like saying “hello?!” in English but in a sarcastic way so unless you’re initiating an argument, stick to using this on the phone.
좋은아침이에요 (jo-eun-achim-i-e-yo) – Good morning
To say “good morning” in Korean, you can say its standard polite form, 좋은아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo). It is made of the adjective 좋다 (jota) which means “good”, 아침 (achim) which is the Korean word for “morning”, and the verb 이다 (ida) which means “to be.”
There is no way to say “good afternoon” in Korean, nor is there one for “good evening.” 좋은아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo) itself is not used as frequently as 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo), which can be used at all times of the day.
Here are four ways to say “good morning” in Korean:
- 좋은아침입니다 (joeun achim imnida) – formal
- 좋은아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo) – standard
- 좋은아침 (joeun achim) – informal
- 굿모닝 (gunmoning) – Konglish, informal
굿모닝 (gunmoning) is commonly used by younger people when addressing their close friends.
만나서 반갑습니다 (man-na-seo-ban-gap-seum-ni-da) – Nice to meet you
When you meet someone for the first time, you can greet him or her with 만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida). The phrase consists of 만나다 (mannada) which means “to meet” and 반갑다 (bangapda), which means “to be happy or pleased.”
I know I said earlier that the standard polite form is the most common speech in Korean. But for “nice to meet you,” you will more commonly hear its most polite “nida” form. This is because formal speech is more commonly used with people you meet for the first time.
There are so many ways to say “nice to meet you” in Korean!
- 만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida) – formal
- 반갑습니다 (bangapseumnida) – shortened, formal
- 만나서 반가워요 (mannaseo bangawoyo) – standard
- 만나서 반가워 (mannaseo bangawo) – informal
- 반가워 (bangawo) – informal
- 반갑다 (bangapda) – informal, use only with close friends
- 만나서 반갑습이에요 (mannaseo bangapseumieyo) – informal
- 처음 뵙겠습니다 (cheoeum boepgetseumnida) – formal, no informal version and used to greet elders or for a more formal setting
오랜만이에요 (o-raen-ma-ni-e-yo) – Long time no see
You can use 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo) to greet someone you haven’t seen in a long time. The word 오랜만 (oraenman) literally translates to “long time.”
Here are various ways to say “long time no see” in Korean:
- 오랜만입니다 (oraenmanimnida) – formal
- 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo) – standard
- 오랜만이야 (oraenmaniya) – informal
- 오랜만에 (oraenmane) – informal, use only with close friends
얼굴 보니까 좋다 (eol-gul-bo-ni-gga-jo-ta) – It’s good to see your face
It sounds weird to say “it’s good to see your face” to your friends in English. But 얼굴 보니까 좋다 (eolgul bonigga jota) is just another way to say “hello” in Korean. Be careful, however, as this is a colloquial, informal greeting used only among teenagers and close adult friends.
무슨 일이야? (mu-seun-ir-i-ya?) – What’s up?
무슨 일이야? (museum iriya?) is a Korean greeting that you can use exclusively for close friends. It means “what’s up” or an informal way of saying “how are you doing?” and like in English, you don’t say this in formal situations.
야! (Ya!) – Hey!
Want to know how to say “hey” in Korean? You can simply say 야! or ya! Easy to remember, right?
But like 무슨 일이야? (mu-seun-ir-i-ya?), you can only use this Korean greeting with close friends. It’s informal and if you use it to call people older than you or people you’re not close with, you will no doubt come off as rude.
잘 지냈어요? (jal-ji-nae-sseo-yo?) – How are you?
After you’ve said “hello” in Korean, what commonly follows is asking how they are or how they’ve been. To do that, you can ask 잘 지냈어요? (jaljinaesseoyo?)
잘 (jal) means “well” and 지냈어요 (jinaesseoyo) means “to spend time or live”. 잘 지냈어요? (jaljinaesseoyo?) is the standard form of “how are you” in Korean but there are other ways to say it:
- 잘 지내셨어요? (jal jinaesyeosseoyo?) – formal
- 어떻게 지내셨어요? (eotteoke jinaesyeosseoyo?) – formal
- 잘 있었어요? (jal isseosseoyo?) – standard
- 어떻게 지냈어요? (eotteoke jinaesseoyo?) – standard
- 잘 지냈어? (jal jinaesseo?) – informal
- 잘 있었어? (jal isseosseo?) – informal
- 어떻게 지냈어? (eotteoke jinaesseo?) – informal
Also Read: 24 Ways to Say “How Are You” in Korean
밥 먹었어요? (bap-meo-geo-sseo-yo?) – Did you eat?
It probably sounds strange to ask “did you eat?” as a way of greeting someone, but this is common in Korea and other Asian countries.
밥 (bap) means rice or food and 먹었어요 (meogeosseoyo) means to eat. 밥 먹었어요? (bap-meo-geo-sseo-yo?) doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re asking if they’ve literally eaten. Instead, it’s a way of showing concern or interest in the person’s well-being. Still, you can answer this with a simple 네 (ne, or yes) or 괜찮아요 (gwaenchanhayo, or I’m fine).
잘 잤어요? (jal-ja-sseo-yo?) – Did you sleep well?
잘 잤어요? (jaljasseoyo?) stems from 잘 (jal), which, as explained above, means “well” and the verb 자다 (jada) which means “to sleep.” This is just another way of asking the person you’re talking to how she or he is, and a way to show concern.
잘부탁드립니다 (jal-bu-tag-deu-rim-ni-da) – Please look after me
잘부탁드립니다 (jalbutag deurimnida) is another Korean greeting that may sound strange to non-native speakers. It is often translated as “please look after me” or “please take care of me.” But its meaning, when used in context, is closer to “let’s have a good relationship” or I look forward to working with you.”
This common Korean greeting is used when a new employee starts his or her new job. The phrase comes after his or her self-introduction. This is not limited to corporate settings though. I’ve seen a lot of behind-the-scenes clips of Korean celebrities saying this phrase to directors or filming crews before starting a new project.
This phrase is very polite and often said with a bow. The informal way of saying it is 잘 부탁해 (jal butakhae). You may only use this casual form with people of the same age or younger than you, and people you know you are close with.
환영해요 (hwan-yeong-hae-yo) – Welcome
How do you say “hello” in Korean when you’re working in a store or restaurant? While you can still say the standard 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo), you can also say 환영해요 (hwanyeong haeyo) which means “welcome.” The formal way of saying this is 환영합니다 or hwanyeong hamnida.
안녕히 가세요 (an-nyeong-hi-ga-se-yo) or 안녕히 계세요 (an-nyeong-hi-gye-se-yo) – Goodbye
You now know how to say “hello” in Korean, as well as other common greetings. But when it’s time to say goodbye, what should you say?
It depends on who is leaving.
안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo) is the standard form of “goodbye” in Korean and it is used when the person you are talking to is leaving. 가세요 (gaseyo) is the polite way of telling somebody to go.
안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo), on the other hand, is used when you are the one who’s leaving. 계세요 (gyeseyo) is the polite form of 있으세요 (isseuseyo), from the verb 있다 (itda), which means “to exist.” So 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo) literally means “to peacefully exist.”
The pronunciation may sound confusing at first but with enough practice, you’ll be able to say either phrase with ease. If it’s any consolation, if you say it fast enough (which is how most Koreans say it), no one will notice it even if you interchange the two.
Like “hello” and other greetings in Korean, “goodbye” also has other forms:
- 안녕히 가십시오 (annyeonghi gasipsio) – formal
- 안녕히 계십시오 (annyeonghi gyesipsio) – formal
- 가세요 (gaseyo) – standard
- 잘 가요 (jal gayo) – standard
- 안녕 (annyeong) – informal
- 잘 가 (jal ga) – informal
- 나 먼저 갈게 (na meonjeo galge) – informal
- 다음에 봐 (daeume bwa) – informal
- 내일 봐 (naeil bwa) – informal
And that’s it! Congratulations, you now know how to say “hello” in Korean, plus other basic Korean greetings!