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‘Yes’ is one of the most important words to learn in any language. By being able to say ‘yes’, you can give yourself many new exciting opportunities and experiences. This article will teach you how to say ‘yes’ in Korean. This will be the first step towards you having a great experience learning about Korea and the Korean language.
The first thing to remember is that ‘yes’ is used slightly differently in Korean than it is in English. In a lot of situations where you would usually say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in English, you would use a verb in Korean.
You would use ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Korean in either its regular (positive) form (if you are saying ‘yes’) or in its negative form (if you are saying ‘no’). See the bonus section at the end of this article for some examples of this. We’re also including a FREE PDF version of this lesson that you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:
Well then, let’s get to “yes”!
‘Yes’ in Korean
There is more than one way to say ‘yes’ in Korean. In fact, different words are used based on how polite you want to be. Let’s go over the main forms!
Formal ‘Yes in Korean
1. 예 (ye)
This one should be easy to remember; it sounds almost the same as the English word ‘yeah’, just a little bit shorter.
Iron your dress shirts and polish up your shoes, because this version of ‘yes’ in Korean is used in formal situations!
A: 미국사람입니까? (miguksaramimnikka)
Are you American?
B: 예, 미국사람입니다. (ye, miguksaramimnida)
Yes, I am American.
Standard ‘Yes’ in Korean
1. 네 (ne)
This one might be a bit more confusing as it sounds like a negative word in English. 네 (ne) and 예 (ye) are often used interchangeably regardless of politeness level. Since it is the standard form of ‘yes’ in Korean, you can use it in all situations and not have to worry about offending anyone.
Let’s take a look at an example situation:
A: 김치를 좋아하세요? (gimchireul joahaseyo)
Do you like gimchi?
B: 네, 좋아해요. (ne, joahaeyo)
Yes, I like gimchi.
Informal ‘Yes’ in Korean
1. 응 / 어 (eung / eo)
The standard informal word for ‘yes’ is 응 (eung), but males often say 어 (eo) instead. These words sound very informal so be careful about when to use them.
Since these are informal versions of how to say yes in Korean, make sure you use them with people who are lower in the social hierarchy than you are.
A: 나 예뻐? (na yeppeo)
Am I pretty?
B: 어, 너무 예뻐! (eo, neomu yeppeo)
Yes, very pretty.
A: 이거 좋아? (igeo joa)
Is this good?
B: 응, 좋아 (eung, joa)
Yes, it’s good.
Bonus Ways to Say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in Korean
Often, in Korean, you can respond using the verb from the question rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. (All the following examples are in the standard politeness level).
1. 있어요/없어요 (isseoyo / eopseoyo)
The verbs 있어요 (isseoyo | to have or exist) and 없어요 (eopseoyo | to not have or not exist) can be used to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in Korean. People may ask you if you have or don’t have something by using the verb 있어요/없어요 (isseoyo / eopseoyo) at the end of the question.
Rather than say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Koreans will often respond using the 있어요/없어요 (isseoyo / eopseoyo) verbs, depending on the situation. We’ll show you how it works.
A: 포인트 카드 있어요? (pointeu kadeu isseoyo)
Do you have a point card?
B1: 있어요 (isseoyo)
Yes, I do [literally – it exists]
B2: 없어요 (eopseoyo)
No, I don’t [literally – it doesn’t exist]
2. 알아요/몰라요 (arayo / mollayo)
The two verbs above mean:
알아요 = arayo | to know
몰라요 = mollayo | to not know
In Korean, people may ask you if you know some piece of information. Rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you can reply with the appropriate verb to indicate if you know or not. We’ll give you an example so you can see them in action!
A: 스티브의 휴대폰번호를 알아요? (seutibeuui hyudaeponbeonhoreul arayo)
Do you know Steve’s cell phone number?
B1: 알아요 (arayo)
Yes, I do [literally – I know]
B2: 몰라요 (mollayo)
No, I don’t [literally – I don’t know]
A Word of Caution About Romanization
We’ve added in the Romanization for all of these words to help with pronunciation. However, we recommend that you try to move onto reading comfortably in Hangul (the Korean alphabet), as this will improve your pronunciation and your reading skills. It will also help you notice patterns in words, which will lead you to improve the rate at which you learn new Korean words and grammar points.
You can download a free guide to learn the Korean alphabet in about an hour here.
Learning vocabulary words is a great way to help you learn the basics of a language, but your language learning will only really take off one you start attempting to have conversations in Korean. Take a look at our free list of Korean phrases or our full Korean course for all the help you will need when studying Korean.
Now that you know how to say ‘yes’ in Korean, start saying ‘yes’ and enjoy lots of new experiences!