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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?
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 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.
But how exactly can you say that you do not understand? Simply, add 못 (mot) in front of the verb (못알아듣다) or between the noun and verb (이해 못하다).
Let’s get into the different ways you can say this phrase. Here we go!
Formal ‘I Don’t Understand’ in Korean
1. 이해 못합니다 (ihae mothamnida)
2. 이해 못했습니다 (ihae mothaetseumnida)
3. 못 알아들었습니다 (mot aradeureotseumnida)
Formal version is usually used with people who are much older than you or several social/workplace statuses above you.
죄송하지만, 당신의 말씀을 이해 못했습니다
(joesonghajiman, dangsinui malsseumeul ihae mothaetseumnida)
I’m sorry, but I could not understand what you said.
Standard ‘I Don’t Understand’ in Korean
1. 이해 못해요 (ihae mothaeyo)
2. 이해 못했어요 (ihae mothaesseoyo)
3. 못 알아들었어요 (mot aradeureosseoyo)
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.
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 instead of 주실래요 as the latter is a little bit more formal.
Informal ‘I Don’t Understand’ in Korean
1. 이해 못해 (ihae mothae)
2. 이해 못했어 (ihae mothaesseo)
3. 못 알아들었어 (mot aradeureosseo)
The informal version is used between people of the same age or younger than you who you are close with.
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 a useful one 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!