How to Say “I Don’t Understand” in Korean

Last Updated on October 24, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
A girl with a confused expression and question marks above her head

When you’re uncertain about something while you’re learning Korean, saying “I don’t understand” in Korean can help. You might already know some Korean, but there might still be many situations where you can’t understand what the other person is saying.

It may be because they are talking too fast, they are really old or really young, or perhaps the vocabulary they are using is just that difficult. Wouldn’t it be nifty to know how to tell them you don’t understand what they just said?

A girl with a confused expression and question marks above her head

Let’s get into the different ways you can say this phrase. Here we go!

How to say “I understand” in Korean

Before we head on to the Korean word for “I don’t understand,” let’s first learn how to say “I understand” in Korean.” The most popular way to express understanding what someone’s saying is by using the verb 알아듣다 (aradeutda).

It combines the words 알다 (alda), which means “to know,” and 듣다 (deutda), which means “to hear” and “to listen,” making its literal meaning closer to “I couldn’t hear what you said.” This verb is often used in the past tense.

Another way to express understanding is 이해하다 (ihaehada). The usage of this verb isn’t limited to simply responding to whether you did or did not understand what someone said but can be used in a variety of situations.

Different ways to say “I don’t understand” in Korean

Now you know how to say “I understand” in Korean, how exactly can you say that you do not understand? Simply, add 못 (mot) in front of the verb 못 알아듣다 (mot aradeutda) or between the noun and verb 이해 못하다 (ihae motada).

This video shows How to say “I don’t understand” in Korean

How to Say "I DON'T UNDERSTAND" in Korean

Let’s get into more detail below. Here are the different ways to say it depending on who you are speaking with.

Formal “I Don’t Understand” in Korean

The formal version is usually used with people who are much older than you or several social/workplace statuses above you. Here are the different ways to say it.

1. 이해 못합니다 (ihae mothamnida)

2. 이해 못했습니다 (ihae mothaetseumnida)How to Say I Don’t Understand in Korean formal

3. 못 알아들었습니다 (mot aradeureotseumnida)

Example:

죄송하지만, 당신의 말씀을 이해 못했습니다. (joesonghajiman, dangsinui malsseumeul ihae mothaetseumnida)

I’m sorry, but I could not understand what you said.

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Standard “I Don’t Understand” in Korean

The standard version can be used with people who are older than you, but not necessarily complete strangers to you. It’s polite to use this with your peers as well if you’re not close or even with people younger than you if you’re not close.

1. 이해 못해요 (ihae mothaeyo)

2. 이해 못했어요 (ihae mothaesseoyo)

3. 못 알아들었어요 (mot aradeureosseoyo)How to Say I Don’t Understand in Korean standard

Example:

그 말을 다시 한번 해 주실래요? 뭘 말했는지 못 알아들었어요. (geu mareul dasi hanbeon hae jusillaeyo mwol malhaenneunji mot aradeureosseoyo)

Could you please repeat that one more time? I couldn’t understand what you said.

You can also use 줄래요 (jullaeyo) instead of 주실래요 (jusillaeyo) as the latter is a little bit more formal.

Informal “I Don’t Understand” in Korean

The informal version is used between people of the same age or younger than you who you are close with.

1. 이해 못해 (ihae mothae)

2. 이해 못했어 (ihae mothaesseo)

3. 못 알아들었어 (mot aradeureosseo)How to Say I Don’t Understand in Korean informal

Example:

우리 상황이 왜 이렇게 된 건지 이해 못하겠어 (uri sanghwangi wae ireoke doen geonji ihae mot hagesseo)

I don’t understand why our situation became like this.

너의 말이 무슨 뜻인지 모르겠어  (neoui mari museun tteusinji moreugesseo)

I don’t understand what you mean.

난 이해가 안돼 (nan ihaega andwae)

I don’t understand*

*Especially this one will be useful to know for informal situations regardless of what the topic is.

Now that you know how to say “I don’t understand” in Korean, you can use it to get clarification and keep your conversations running smoothly!

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    8 replies to "How to Say “I Don’t Understand” in Korean"

    • Avatar for Vishakha Vishakha

      Hi.
      I want to ask that how should I say do you understand I a formal way in korean??? Is it 이해합니까

    • Avatar for Sakura Sakura

      And in what situation would it be used (ie. formal/standard/informal)?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Sakura! You will use the standard version most often in daily lives! Use informal version only when you’re with your close friends. ^^

    • Avatar for Sakura Sakura

      Hi,

      I also learnt “나는 이해할 수 없습니다 ” from an online course, can this also be used?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Sure, Sakura! Please be aware that “이해할 수 없습니다” is more like the content is hard to understand! ^^

    • Avatar for Sakura Sakura

      Hi.
      When would 이해가 안되는 데요 be used please? I typed “I don’t understand” in translate on google and this is what comes up? Thank you.

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Sakura! You can use this sentence when you don’t understand something and ask for more explanations! Adding “다시 한 번 설명해주세요” (Please explain it one more time for me) would be perfect. ^^

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