‘Hello’ is often the first word that people learn when studying Korean. Learning how to say ‘hello’ in Korean helps you make friends, greet acquaintances, and seem like an overall friendly person!
It’s very likely one of the words that you will use most often when speaking Korean.
The Korean word for ‘hello’ changes based on who you are speaking to. This is because there there are different ways of speaking depending on where you fall in the social hierarchy. Generally speaking, the more formal versions of the words are longer whereas the informal versions are shorter and simpler.
Sound complicated? Not to worry! We’ll simplify it for you so you can learn the most common ways to say ‘hello’ in Korean first.
We’ll also explain some other greetings you might hear so you can be prepared to start speaking with Koreans–in Korean! We also have a free guide for how to say ‘hello’ in Korean that you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:
Get ready. This lesson is going to take you through some of the different ways to say ‘hello’ in Korean!
Informal ‘Hello’ in Korean
1. 안녕 (annyeong)
Usually people learn standard Korean before informal Korean. The reason is, standard Korean can be used with almost all people. You would only use informal Korean with people who are lower than you in the social rank.
Mainly, this means you would use the informal Korean ‘hello’ with people that are younger than you and/or who are close to you.
However, in the case of ‘hello’, learning the informal word first can help you. This is because the word serves as a building block for the other forms of Korean.
The informal way of saying ‘hello’ is 안녕 (annyeong). As this is the first word you are likely to learn, it is worth pointing out that the letters ‘eo’ are pronounced sort of like the ‘o’ in the word ‘song’.
TWEETABLEThe informal way of saying 'hello' in Korean is 안녕 (annyeong). Click To Tweet
Sometimes, students make the mistake of saying ‘eo’ as ‘ee-oh’ which is one of the reasons why it is best to learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet) right at the start of your Korean study. Learning the alphabet will help you pronounce words correctly. It only takes 60 minutes to learn to read Hangul, so it’s worth the effort!
‘Annyeong’ is used in a similar way to how the word ‘hi’ is used in English. Make sure to only use it with close friends or to children since it is informal.
It can also be used as an informal way of saying ‘bye’.
Once you can say ‘annyeong’ correctly, then it will help you with the other ways of how to say ‘hello’ in Korean.
Associations for Informal ‘Hello’
To remember 안녕 we’ll use a mnemonic device. This is just an association that will make remembering the word easier. It could be a person, place, object, anything you like!
For our example, we’ll use a person and name her “Ann Young“. Ann Young is a student with exemplary manners. She always greets her friends when she sees them and when they part ways. In other words:
Ann Young always says hello and goodbye
Use this association, or feel free to come up with your own!
Standard ‘Hello’ in Korean
1. 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)
This is the standard way of saying hello in Korean. If you are going to learn only one way to say hello, then this is the one you should learn!
If you ask somebody what ‘hello’ is in Korean, then they will most likely explain it this way: It is comprised of two parts.
1) The first part is our informal 안녕 (annyeong). This word means ‘well-being’ or ‘peace’.
2. The second part is 하세요 (haseyo), which comes from the verb 하다 (hada) meaning ‘to do’.
The ‘세’ part of the word comes from ‘시’ which is often inserted into words to show more respect. The ‘시’ character is used when speaking to somebody older than you, but it can also be used when asking a question.
Sometimes you will see the standard word for ‘hello’ written with a question mark after it. Technically it is a question (although it is often said with a standard intonation), and the correct reply is ‘네, 안녕하세요?’ (yes, hello?)
TWEETABLEThe standard way of saying 'hello' in Korean is 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo). Click To Tweet
Since this is the standard way to say ‘hello’ in Korean, you can use this phrase with anyone you meet and it will be considered polite.
Note that it’s possible that people higher up in the social rank may talk to you in informal Korean. For example, an older man or woman may say ‘hello’ to you by saying ‘안녕’.
In that case, you should still reply with 안녕하세요. It shows good manners, and you will be sure to maintain harmony in all of your interactions.
Associations for Standard ‘Hello’
Now we already have the association of “Ann Young” so we can create a little phrase that sounds similar to 하세요 to remember the full phrase. It sounds like “has say yo!” Imagine that when “Ann Young” says hello in most situations everyone quiets down and listens because she “has say yo!” (those people want to be hip I guess ^^;). Who knew that Ann was so important?
Formal ‘Hello’ in Korean
1. 안녕하십니까? (annyeonghasimnikka)
This form of ‘hello’ is often used in announcements, speeches, or on the news. It is the formal way of saying ‘hello’. You would use 안녕하십니까 when you want to show high levels of respect to the other person.
To ask a question in standard Korean, you just change your intonation. However in formal Korean, the ㅂ니다 ending changes to ㅂ니까, hence ‘하십니까?’
Watch out for the pronunciation: when followed by an ㄴ, the ㅂ letter sounds like an ‘m’ rather than a ‘b’.
Associations for Formal ‘Hello’
In this case, just imagine our character, “Ann Young“, giving a speech for a formal event. But she has a sneaker on her head! “Ann Young has a sneaker!” (associations don’t have to be exact, in this case we want a strong enough image to remind us of the correct phrase. 안녕하십니까?)
Telephone ‘Hello’ in Korean
1. 여보세요 (yeoboseyo)
If you’re excited about all the varieties of ‘hello’ in Korean, we’ve got one more in store for you! There is a special word for ‘hello’ that is used when answering the telephone. This word is ‘여보세요’.
It’s a polite way to answer the phone, even if you don’t know who the caller is. Be careful not to use this greeting in person—phone calls only!
Associations for Telephone ‘Hello’
This one is easy if you’re aware of one fact in Korean. A popular term for married couples to use for each other is 여보 (yeobo) which roughly translates to “honey” or “darling”. Who do you most often spend talking on the phone with? Your spouse! You want to hear what they have to say. Remember this to know how to say ‘hello’ on the telephone. 여보세요.
Bonus Ways to Say ‘Hello’ in Korean
Once you are familiar with the informal, standard, and informal ways of saying ‘hello’, you may want to add in some other greetings to the mix. You might use some of these on their own, while others you may combine with an 안녕하세요.
1. 좋은 아침이에요 (joeun achimieyo)
This phrase means ‘good morning’. It’s not used quite the same as it is in English, but it is similar. It is made up of the adjective 좋다 (jota) which means ‘good’, the word 아침 (achim) which means ‘morning’, and the verb 이다 (ida) which means ‘to be’.
2. 잘 잤어요? (jal jasseoyo)
This is the Korean equivalent of saying ‘did you sleep well?’ It’s made up of the word 잘 (jal) meaning ‘well’, and the verb 자다 (jada) meaning ‘to sleep’.
You can also use the formal version,안녕히 주무셨어요?, to ask if the other person slept well. Usually you’d use this phrase with people you don’t know well, or people that are much older than you and you want to show respect to.
3. 오랜만이에요 (oraenmanieyo)
This phrase means ‘long time no see’. You could use this that you’ve met before but haven’t seen in a while. You might use this with someone that you run into on the street.
If you want to be more formal, you can also say 오랜만입니다.
4. 안뇽 (annyong)
If you want to practice your aegyo, then this would be on one way to do it!
Use this informal and extremely cute version of hello in Korean with those you are close to.
5. 밥 먹었어요? (bap meogeosseoyo)
This phrase translates to ‘have you eaten?’. However, it’s a common way to say hello in Korean. Use it as a greeting with people you know well already.
Congratulations! You now know how to say ‘hello’ in Korean.
Since there are few ways to say it, take some time and practice to get them right. If you are unsure of which one to use, then just stick to ‘안녕하세요?’ as your go-to phrase since you can use it in all situations. Happy studying!