It is always good to know a few conversation starters when learning a new language. Knowing how to say ‘What are you doing?’ in Korean will help you start conversations. Not only will this help you get more practice at speaking Korean, but it will also help you strengthen your friendships with Koreans!
‘What Are You Doing?’ in Korean
Using ‘What’ and ‘To Do’
There are lots of different ways to say ‘What are you doing?’ in Korean, but they all have two things in common. The first is the use of the word 뭐 (mwo), which means ‘what’. The second thing that they have in common is the use of the verb 하다 (hada), which means ‘to do’.
Formal ‘What Are You Doing?’ in Korean
1. 뭐 하십니까? (mwo hasimnikka)
Formal Korean should be used when making announcements, doing presentations, or during an interview.
In these situations, you are unlikely to want to ask somebody what they are doing. However, if you do want to ask them then be very polite about it. Use 하십니까 rather than 합니까 in order to make your question sound politer.
죄송합니다, 그런데 뭐 하십니까? (joesonghamnida, geureonde mwo hasimnikka)
Sorry, but what are you doing?
Standard ‘What Are You Doing?’ in Korean
1. 뭐 하세요? (mwo haseyo)
2. 뭐 해요? (mwo haeyo)
You can use these expressions when talking to people who are older or not particularly close to you.
Using 하세요 is a more polite way of asking questions than using 해요. This form can be used when asking other questions too, such as 어디에 사세요? (eodie saseyo), which means ‘Where do you live?’
You should only use the ‘세’ form when referring to others, never when referring to yourself. Therefore, you should answer the question ‘what are you doing?’ by using the simple ‘해요’ form of 하다.
A: 지금 뭐 하세요? (jigeum mwo haseyo)
What are you doing now?
B: 일본어를 공부해요. (ilboneoreul gongbuhaeyo)
I’m studying Japanese.
Informal ‘What Are You Doing?’ in Korean
1. 뭐 해? (mwo hae)
2. 뭐 하니? (mwo hani)
You can use these expressions with people who are close to you and who are of a similar or younger age.
A: 뭐 해? (mwo hae)
What are you doing?
B: 수영해 (suyeonghae)
Bonus Ways to Say ‘What Are You Doing?’ in Korean
If you are just starting out, then learning the above phrases will be fine. If you want to know some other ways of saying ‘What are you doing?’ in Korean then keep reading!
Note that the following phrases have all been written in the ‘standard’ politeness level first, and the ‘informal’ politeness level second.
1. 뭐 하시는 거예요? (mwo hasineun geoyeyo)
2. 뭐 하는 거야? (mwo haneun geoya)
This is a common way of saying ‘What are you doing?’ in Korean.
3. 뭐 하고 있어요? (mwo hago isseoyo)
4. 뭐 하고 있어? (mwo hago isseo)
This uses the ‘present progressive’ tense, so literally means ‘what are you doing (right now)?’
5. 뭐 하는 중이에요? (mwo haneun jungieyo)
6. 뭐 하는 중이야? (mwo haneun jungiya)
This literally means ‘What are you in the middle of doing?’
A Word of Caution About Romanization
If you only intend on learning one or two words in Korean, then you can get away with just reading the romanization of Korean words. However, if you want to go deeper, then the first step is to learn the Korean alphabet, known as Hangul. This will help you understand the structure of the language and notice patterns, as well as improve your pronunciation and reading.
Take our full Korean course to get all the help you need while studying Korean. This will help you move from just knowing a few words and phrases, to being able to actually converse in the language.
Now that you know how to say ‘What are you doing?’ in Korean, use this phrase to start conversations with your Korean friends!