How to Say “How Are You” in Korean

Last Updated on June 25, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
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Imagine suddenly running into a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

You’ll probably want to know how’s it going for them or even show good manners and ask them about their well-being.

More specifically, you’ll want to know how they are doing!

Today, we’ll show you the different ways to say “how are you?’ in Korean! The way you ask this question isn’t an exact translation of its english counterpart, but you’ll notice that with many phrases as you learn Korean. Don’t worry, we’ll explain the nuances so you can understand how to speak appropriately using these Korean phrases in a conversation.

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As usual, we’ll cover the formal, standard, and informal versions of the question. Then we’ll give you some bonus Korean phrases at the end of this post. We also have a FREE PDF guide that you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:

If you can’t read Korean yet, go here to get your free guide. Let’s jump right in!

Formal “How Are You?” in Korean

The formal phrases below are the different ways to ask “How are you?” when you speak to people higher in the social rank than you, or people you’ve just met

You could use the formal version with professors, teachers, bosses, the president, people much older than you, or someone you don’t know well that is similar in age to you.

If someone asks you a question using the formal, make sure you reply with the standard form. It’s okay to ask questions in the formal, but using the formal about you would sound strange!

1. How to Say How Are You in Korean formal

잘  = jal | well

지내셨어요 = jinaesyeosseoyo | to spend time or live (formal past tense)

This means “have you spent your time well?” or “have you lived well?” You can answer with a yes/no.

2.

어떻게 = eotteoke | how

지내셨어요  = jinaesyeosseoyo | spend time or live (formal past tense)

This question is more similar to “how have you been?” It’s a great question to ask after you greet someone. Some ways to answer this would be by providing an explanation rather than a yes/no reply.

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Standard “How Are You?” in Korean

If you were going to learn one version of how to say “how are you” in Korean, then the standard would be the way to go!

That is because it is the most versatile and can be used with the largest group of people. Normally, you’d use this level of formality with people that are similar in age/rank as you, but you may not be on close terms with.

You can use this with people below you in the social hierarchy, but you’d be being unnecessarily polite. You can also use it in a conversation with people higher in the social hierarchy. However, it wouldn’t be as polite as using the formal.

Since you’re learning Korean as a second language, most Koreans would forgive you using the standard form if you’re supposed to use the formal.

Learn the standard version first, and then make it a point to learn the formal next. You’ll be sure to make a good impression on the people you run into again and again.

1.

잘 = jal | well

지냈어요  = jinaesseoyo | to spend time or live (standard past tense)

Use this phrase to ask “how are you” in standard form.  

2.

잘  = jal | well

있었어요  = isseosseoyo | to be (standard past tense)

This is the same as asking, “have you been well?” Use this with coworkers or acquaintances in your hiking club.

3. How to Say How Are You in Korean standard

어떻게  = eotteoke | how

지냈어요  = jinaesseoyo | to spend time or live (standard past tense)

To find out how’s it going lately for your next-door neighbor, ask “어떻게 지냈어요 (eotteoke jinaesseoyo)?”

You may start to notice that some of these words are the same or similar. That’s why it pays to learn the most common Korean words first, they’ll keep appearing over and over. This is what you should start with

Informal “How Are You?” in Korean

The informal version of “how are you” in Korean is used with people who are lower in the social rank than you. An example might be a small child or someone much younger than you who you’re on familiar terms with.

You can also use the informal during a conversation with close friends that are similar in age, or with spouses/significant others. If you’re unsure as to whether or not to use the informal, ask the other person if it’s ok to use 반말 (banmal), which is the word for informal Korean.

1. How to Say How Are You in Korean informal

잘  = jal | well

지냈어  = jinaesseo | to spend time or live (informal past tense)

If you meet a close friend who you haven’t seen in a while, ask “잘 지냈어 (jal jinaesseo)?”

2.

잘  = jal | well

있었어  = isseosseo | to be (informal past tense)

If you’re a university professor, you might use this with students who used to be in your class that you run into.

3.

어떻게  = eotteoke | how

지냈어  = jinaesseo | to spend time or live (informal past tense)

Use ‘어떻게 지냈어 (eotteoke jinaesseo)?’ to ask your hometown friend how he or she has been.

Bonus Ways to Say “How Are You”

1. How to Say How Are You in Korean - Have you eaten

밥  = bap | rice or food/meal

먹었어요  = meogeosseoyo | to eat (standard past tense)

Koreans will often greet each other by asking if the other person has eaten. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re asking if they’ve literally eaten food. It’s more often used to show that you’re interested in the well-being of the other person. Therefore, you can use this phrase to ask “how are you?” in Korean.

Since this is in standard form, you can use it with people who are on the same level or lower than you in the social hierarchy.

Here are some examples of how you might use this in conversation:

A: 밥 먹었어요? (bap meogeosseoyo)

B: 네, 먹었어요. (ne, meogeosseoyo)

OR

A: 밥 먹었어요? (bap meogeosseoyo)

B: 아니요, 아직 안 먹었어요. (aniyo, ajik an meogeosseoyo)

You wouldn’t use these phrases with someone you met for the first time—it would sound a bit strange! Make sure to use them with people you’ve already met, such as friends, classmates, or coworkers.

Now that you know the different ways to say “how are you” in Korean, it’s a great time to get out there and get some practice! And pick up some other Korean phrases while you’re at it! With these phrases, you can also practice and create your sentences. Make sure to check out the article on Korean sentence structure to learn its basics!

    38 replies to "How to Say “How Are You” in Korean"

    • Avatar for lix lix

      if someone was asking you how you are doing how would you say that you are good?

    • Avatar for Ciara Ciara

      There are often customers who speak Korean at my job, so how would I greet them?

    • Avatar for Bryanna Bryanna

      How would you say in response to 잘 지냈어요?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Bryanna! You can say “네, 저는 잘 지냈어요.” ^^

    • Avatar for Deepika Deepika

      How to say how are you to elder people

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Deepika! You can use the formal greetings written in the post, “잘 지내셨어요?” ^^

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