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Korean Drama Phrases For Learning Korean

One fun and interesting way to study Korean is by watching Korean dramas.

Certain phrases appear in dramas more often than in other formats. Also, certain slang words become popularized by their use in a drama and have since become a more common part of everyday Korean lexicon.

For example the word 미생 (incomplete-life) was originally a term used in the Korean game 바둑 (Go!). Now it has become a popular word to describe the Korean office environment due to the drama (and manhwa) of the same name.

This article looks at some of the more common Korean drama phrases, and how to use them outside of dramas.

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하지마 – Don’t do that

This phrases consists of the verb 하다 (to do) + 지마 (command to not do something). 하다 + 지마 = 하지마. It is a shortened version of 하지 마세요.

This phrase is heard in dramas a lot, along with 가지마 (don’t go). It is often said in a pleading tone by whichever character is getting dumped in that particular episode.


하지말라고 – I said ‘don’t do that’

If the other person doesn’t respond to the speaker’s ‘하지마’, then he or she will keep teasing the speaker. Then the next line out of the speaker’s mouth is often ‘하지말라고’.

The 라고 ending is one of the many ways to use reported (indirect) speech in Korean (along with 다고, 자고, and 냐고). Using these endings is a little bit tricky and requires some study, so just learn this phrase for now.


거짓말이야 – It’s a lie

Often part of the drama plot will involve somebody lying, and eventually being found out. The word 거짓말 means lie. 이야 is the standard informal ending for nouns.


거짓말 하지마 – Don’t lie

Combining the word ‘lie’ with the phrase ‘don’t do’ results in 거짓말 하지마. This expression is also very common in dramas.


죽을래? – Do you want to die?

Often this is said when somebody is really annoying the speaker. The ending -을래(요) means ‘to want’ and is often used as a question ‘do you want?’

In this phrase, it is added to the end of the verb 죽다 (to die). However, you can also use this ending in other situations such as 뭐 먹을래요? (‘What do you want to eat?’).


나 먼저 갈게 – I will leave first

Often in dramas, somebody will have to meet at a café with somebody they dislike. Usually, this person is an evil mom trying to bribe her in an attempt to stop her from seeing her son.

If one person is leaving first, then in informal situations he or she will sometimes say 나 먼저 가 or 나 먼저 갈게, both of which mean ‘I will leave first’.

Read about how to use this phrase properly here.


그래(요)? / 진짜? / 정말? – Really?

When somebody finds out some exciting gossip, then he or she will almost certainly say one of these three words.

All of these words mean ‘really?’ in English. They are all used with about the same regularity as the next so learn them all and use them to sound more natural.


세상에! – What in the world!?

This phrase is used to show disbelief. It is often used by the character playing the evil old man who is surprised that he hasn’t been shown the proper respect by the main character (despite his repeated attempts to ruin said character’s life).


안돼 – It can’t be (lit: it isn’t allowed)

When used in normal Korean, 안 돼(요) means that something is not allowed.

For example, you could say 수영하면 안 돼요 ‘Swimming is not allowed’. However, in dramas, it is often said by the female character (speaking to herself while crying) just after being dumped. She is literally saying ‘he is not allowed to leave me’ as she can’t believe that she got dumped.


사과해 / 사과하세요 – Apologize! (informal / formal)

In dramas, people are constantly asking each other to apologize for trifling things. The other person then refuses to apologize for those things, leading to the two people ending the episode apart.

The verb ‘to apologize’ is 사과하다. The ending -세요 in this context shows that you are asking somebody to do something. The fact that the word is a homonym for the Korean word for ‘apple’ hasn’t been lost on the cheesy Korean scriptwriters who use this terrible pun on a regular basis (for example, in 꽃보다남자).


너 미쳤어? – Are you crazy?

From the verb 미치다 (to be crazy), this phrase is used on a regular basis in dramas, As this is one of the more rude Korean drama phrases that you will hear, be careful in real life as people will find you very rude if you say this phrase to them.


미친놈 – Crazy guy

Often said under someone’s breath, this word is made up of 미친 (crazy) and 놈 which means ‘person’. However, it has negative connotations. It can be used with other adjectives such as ‘나쁜놈’ too.


오빠 – Older brother

Watching dramas is a really great way to get the hang of the Korean pronouns and their proper usage. Instead of the word ‘you’, Koreans use a variety of different words based on people’s position in society. The most common are:

한국어 (Korean) English Explanation
오빠 a slightly older male who you are close to (used by females)
a slightly older male who you are close to (used by males)
누나 a slightly older female who you are close to (used by males)
언니 a slightly older female who you are close to (used by females)
이모 a middle aged women (lit. – aunt) who you are slightly close to (for example the shopkeeper in a shop that you frequently visit)
아줌마 a middle aged women (not as close to you as an 이모)
아저씨 a middle aged man
선배 a school friend from a year that is above you
후배 a school friend from a year that is below you


사 줘 – Buy this for me

Often used by the whiny rich girl who is a love rival of the main female character. 줘 comes from the verb 주다 (to give), and is the informal way of saying 주세요. If you use this expression, be sure to use your most whiny voice possible.

Learning these Korean drama phrases will help with your understanding of Korean dramas. As a bonus, it will help you remember some Korean grammar too!

What is your favorite Korean drama phrase?