In the movie Mr Bean’s Holiday, Mr Bean travels to France but only knows the French word for ‘yes’. His inability to say ‘no’ causes all sorts of mishaps. To make sure that your stay in Korea doesn’t end up like Mr. Bean’s trip to France, make sure you know how to say ‘no’ in Korean!
Like the word ‘yes’, there are ways of saying ‘no’ without using the actual word for ‘no’. Read the bonus section at the end of this article to learn some of these ways of saying ‘no’.
Here we go!
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Formal & Standard ‘No’ in Korean
1. 아니요 (a-ni-yo)
This word can be used in both formal and standard Korean. The word can be used by itself.
Some alternate spellings that you might see are 아니오 and 아뇨. These mean the same thing but the correct spelling is 아니요. Therefore, use this spelling when you use the word.
김치를 좋아해요? (gim-chi-reul joh-a-hae-yo?)
Do you like gimchi?
아니요, 싫어해요. (a-ni-yo, shi-reo-hae-yo)
No, I don’t [literally – no, I don’t like it]
Informal ‘No’ in Korean
1. 아니 (a-ni)
If you want to speak informally, you can drop the 요 from the end of the word. You can use this when speaking to somebody who is very close to you and is of a similar or younger age to you.
김치를 좋아해? (gim-chi-reul joh-a-hae?)
Do you like gimchi?
아니, 싫어! (a-ni, shi-reo-hae!)
No, I don’t [literally – no, I hate it]
Bonus: ‘It is not’
A word that sounds very similar to 아니요 is the word 아니에요 (a-ni-e-yo). 아니에요 means ‘it is not’, but many people get these two words confused when learning Korean.
The word 아니에요 changes to 아니야 (a-ni-ya) when speaking informally. It changes to 아닙니다 (a-nim-ni-da) when speaking formally.
Are you Japanese?
아니요, 일본사람 아닙니다. (a-ni-yo, il-bon-sa-ram a-nim-ni-da)
No, I’m not Japanese.
Are you British?
아니요, 영국사람 아니에요. (a-ni-yo, yeong-guk-sa-ram a-ni-e-yo)
No, I’m not British.
Are you Chinese?
아니, 중국사람 아니야 (a-ni, jung-guk-sa-ram a-ni-ya)
No, I’m not Chinese.
A Word of Caution About Romanization
Romanization means to sound out Korean words using English letters, and writing them in this form. This works well if you only need to know a few Korean words.
However, the English representation of Korean words can be quite confusing! It often leads to frustration for Korean learners since there are so many interpretations of how to pronounce Romanized words.
The sooner you can get past Romanization and reading Hangul, the faster you’ll be able to learn Korean!
Bonus: Other Ways of Saying ‘No’ in Korean
By now, you should know how to say ‘no’ in Korean. However, in the Korean language, there are lots of other words and phrases that would be written as ‘no’ if they were translated into English. Below are some of the more common examples. All of the examples are in the standard politeness level.
안돼요 (It isn’t allowed)
맥주를 주세요 (maek-ju-reul ju-se-yo)
No [literally – it’s not allowed]
못해요 (I can’t do it)
수영할 수 있어요? (su-yeong-hal su iss-eo-yo?)
Can you swim?
못해요 (mot hae-yo)
No [literally – I can’t]
없어요 (It doesn’t exist)
현금이 있어요? (hyeon-geum-i iss-eo-yo?)
Do you have any cash?
No [literally – it doesn’t exist]
Different Ways of Saying ‘No’ in Korean
There are 3 versions of “no” in Korean. Here’s a brief summary:
This is the old style of saying “no”, often used in traditional Korean dramas. It’s part of an older style of speaking.
A: 바쁘시오? (are you busy?)
You may hear the “오” endings in examples like “기다려 주십시오”.
This is the current style of saying “no”. This is the one you should use.
A: 저녁 먹었어요? (did you eat dinner?)
This is also a current style of saying no. It’s used to convey modesty.
A: 예쁘네요! (you’re pretty!)
B: 아니에요 (modestly saying ‘I’m not pretty’)
Case #1 and case #2 are commonly confused. If you look in Naver, there are lots of sentences and examples using 아니오. If you used 아니오 instead of 아니요, many Koreans likely wouldn’t notice. However, 아니요 is correct.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to use the word ‘no’ in Korean. Keep listening to how Koreans answer questions negatively to help you understand how to say ‘no’ in different situations.