How To Say ‘What’ In Korean

Picture of a dimly lit hallway

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Going back to basics, there are a few words in any language that hold more importance than others.

‘What’ might one of those words be? The word ‘what’, of course! ㅋㅋ

It is integral in so many ways, and in so many questions.

So without further ado, let’s learn how to say ‘what’ in Korean!

Picture of a dimly lit hallway

‘What’ in Korean

There are multiple ways for how to say ‘what’ in Korean, depending on the context. However, the most basic way to say ‘what’ in Korean is 뭐 (mwo). 뭐 is what you would use when simply posing the question ‘What?’ It is shortened from the noun 무엇 (mueot), which also means ‘what’ in Korean.

So, what are some other words for ‘what’ in Korean?

뭐 (mwo) = used to ask what something is, or the expression 뭐라고 (mworago) when you did not hear what someone said, used to ask what someone would like to drink or eat or otherwise be served, used to ask what someone is doing or will be doing at a certain time

무엇 (mueot) = used often in more formal situations, for example when you have to use a higher level of politeness because the person is a stranger or older

어떤 (eotteon) = used to ask ‘what kind’ or ‘which’, for example what kind of movies someone likes

무슨 (museun) = used to ask ‘what’ as in to clarify something such as what someone’s words meant, used to ask ‘what kind of’ such as what kind of work someone does, used to ask ‘what is wrong’ or ‘what is going on’

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A word of caution about Romanization

While it is possible for you to study the words in this article simply by reading their romanized versions, it will come in handy for you to be able to read Hangeul if you ever wish to come to Korea. Hangeul is the Korean alphabet, and not difficult to learn. In fact, you can learn it in just 90 minutes.

After you’ve familiarized yourself with Hangeul, life in Korea will suddenly seem so much easier and the country won’t appear so foreign for you. So, if you’re serious about learning Korean, why not learn Hangeul today?

Sample Sentences

Man with tattoos, backwards hat, gold necklace, jeans, gold chain, and watch standing in a hallway


1. 직업이 무엇입니까? → What is your job?

 (jigeobi mueosimnikka?)


1. 무슨 일 있어요? → What’s going on?

(museun il isseoyo?)


1. 생일날에 할거야? → What will you do on your birthday?

 (saengillare mwohalgeoya?)

2. 그 파티에 어떤 옷을 입을거야? → Which clothes will you wear to that party?

 (geu patie eotteon oseul ibeulgeoya?)


Want more Korean phrases? Click here for a complete list!

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