The Many Ways to Say How Are You in Korean

Elly Kim8 min
Created: May 23, 2024Last updated: May 27, 2024
How Are You in Korean

How are you today? This simple question, asked in different circumstances, can convey tons of meanings. And it works perfectly, not only in English. In fact, any language you speak or want to learn consists of numerous such expressions. Today, we’ll focus on learning to say how are you in Korean. So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and let’s start!

Understanding the Basics: Formality of Korean Greetings

Let’s say you want to ask three people how they are doing – your bestie, your grandmother, and your boss. In English, you can use one expression for all three scenarios. Yet, it doesn’t work the same in Korean. In this language, the phrase you should use depends on several factors that affect the formality level. Before telling you how to say how are you in Korean, we want to provide some insights on the main politeness levels of this language. There are two of them:

  • 존댓말 – Jondaemal – Formal Speech. This is the level Koreans use when communicating with elders, strangers, superiors, in professional environments, and in public announcements. Jondaemal is characterized by adding polite endings, as well as respectful terms and titles.

안녕하세요. (Annyeong haseyo.) – Hello.

감사합니다. (Gamsahamnida.) – Thank you.

  • 반말 – Banmal – Informal Speech. If you are among friends, close acquaintances, family members, or peers, you can switch from Jondaemal to Banmal. It is not that tricky – just drop polite endings and use simpler forms of the world. You can also omit subjects in some cases; it is also one of the characteristics of this level.

잘 지냈어? (Jal jinaesseo?) – How have you been?

고마워. (Gomawo.) – Thanks.

These are the two main levels typically used in daily interactions. There are more of them, but they are not as widespread as Jondaemal and Banmal. If you are studying Korean, it is essential for you to understand and use these speech levels because honorifics play a crucial role in the Korean language.

Hello How Are You in Korean: Formal Expressions

As usual, let’s start with Jondaemal and polite expressions. It is the safest choice. Knowing these phrases will help you easily communicate with other Korean-speaking people, whether strangers or superiors. Here is a list of some common how are you doing in Korean phrases.

  • 잘 지내셨어요? (Jal jinaesyeosseoyo?) – [t͡ɕal t͡ɕinɛʃʰjʌs͈ʌjo] – Have you been well?

If you are looking for the most formal phrases, here you go. It showcases the highest level of respect. Although its literal translation might look a bit odd (verbatim, it means either “Have you lived well?” or “Have you spent your time well?”), it is still widely used in formal and professional settings.

  • 어떻게 지내셨어요? (Eotteoke jinaesyeosseoyo?) – [ʌt͈ʰʌk̚t͡ɕinɛʃʰjʌs͈ʌjo] – How have you been?

Here is another popular phrase to ask someone how are you in Korea. Actually, we like this one even more because, unlike the previous one, it requires more than a simple yes or no answer. It is also formal. So don’t be afraid of using it in official settings.

  • 안녕히 계셨어요? (Annyeonghi gyesyeosseoyo?) – [aɲjʌŋhi ɡjɛʃʰjʌs͈ʌjo] – Have you been well?

Just like the two previous options, here’s another amazing formal phrase to ask someone about their well-being. It also works well when you want to ask someone about themselves when you haven’t seen them for a long time.

  • 뭐하고 지내셨어요? (Mwohago jinaesyeosseoyo?) – [mʷʌhaɡo t͡ɕinɛʃʰjʌs͈ʌjo] – What have you been up to?

The last expression on the list is also great for asking someone how they were. We would say that it is a very formal and polite way of asking, “What’s up?” in Korean. However, before using it, be aware of your surroundings and make sure that it will still be appropriate. 


How Are You Today in Korean: Informal and Casual Phrases 

If you are surprised by the number of formal phrases, it’s just the beginning! In fact, when it comes to casual expressions, there are even more of them. We’ve compiled the most widespread ones and hope you’ll easily find the ones you like the most.

  • 잘 지냈어? (Jal jinaesseo?) – [t͡ɕal t͡ɕinɛs͈ʌ] – Have you been well?

Starting strong with probably the most widespread informal expression. If you look and listen to it closer, you’ll notice how similar it is to the phrase 잘 지내셨어요? (Jal jinaesyeosseoyo?), which we’ve mentioned earlier. As you can see, the formal ending was omitted, and now it instantly becomes a part of Banmal instead of Jondaemal.

  • 어떻게 지내? (Eotteoke jinae?) – [ʌt͈ʰʌk̚t͡ɕinɛ] – How are you?

Once again, we omit the formal ending and receive a completely different phrase that can now only be used in casual settings. It is only appropriate to say to friends, peers, or people of the same age or younger than you.

  • 오랜만이야 (Oraenmaniya.) – [oɾɛnmani.a] – Long time no see.

Although it is not actually a question, this phrase is still used as a Korean how are you phrase. Typically, you can address it to your friend or close acquaintance you haven’t seen for a while to ask about their well-being.

  • 밥 먹었어요? (Bap meogeosseoyo?) – [pap mʌɡʌs͈ʌjo] – Have you eaten?

Do you know that when you are hungry, you might be a bit more irritated than after you’ve eaten? We definitely do, and apparently, Koreans do, too. They even have this specific phrase, which, by the way, is a very common way to ask how are you in Korean.

  • 잘 있었어? (Jal isseosseo?) – [t͡ɕal is͈ʌs͈ʌ] – Have you been well?

The last expression on this list is another outstanding way to ask “How are you?” in Korean, in both informal and semiformal settings. It is quite polite yet neutral, so it works wonders in interactions with friends, peers, people younger than you, etc.

How Are You Feeling in Korean: Popular Responses

Finally, after learning how to ask the question, you need to know how to answer it as well. And, as always, we’re here for you! Here is a list of different expressions for various circumstances you can use when someone asks you how you are.

  • 괜찮아요. 어떻게 지내? (Gwaenchanayo. Eotteoke jinae?) – [kwɛnt͡ɕʰa.najo. ʌt͈ʰʌk̚.t͡ɕi.nɛ] – I’m okay. How are you?
  • 물어봐 줘서 고마워요. (Mureobwa jwoseo gomawoyo.) – [muɾʌbʷa t͡ɕwʌsʰʌ ɡʌ.jo] – Thank you for asking.
  • 잘 지냈습니다. (Jal jinaetseumnida.) – [t͡ɕal t͡ɕi.nɛt͈.s͈ʰɯ] – I have been well.
  • 나는 바쁘게 지냈어. (Naneun bappeuge jinaesseo.) – [na.nɯn pap͈ɯ.ɡe t͡ɕi.nɛs͈ʌ] – I have been busy.
  • 나쁘지 않아요. (Nappeuji anayo.) – [na.p͈ɯ.t͈͡ɕi] – Not bad.
  • 그저 그래요. (Geujeo geuraeyo.) – [kɯ.t͡ɕʌ kɯ.ɾɛ.jo] – So-so.

Of course, this is not an ultimate list. There are many more responses you can use, depending on your well-being, relationships with your interlocutor, etc. However, these will be enough to maintain a polite conversation or engage in small talk.

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Sometimes, even a simple question like How are you can become the beginning of a great friendship or something even more important. Therefore, it is always good to be prepared to ask it, whether in Korean or any other language. We hope that with today’s article, you will be fully equipped for different occasions. And that’s it for today! As always, we’re looking forward to seeing you in the next article.


How do you ask How are you in Korean if you’re addressing a group of people?

If you are approaching a group of people, like, for example, at the beginning of a meeting, you can use the phrase 여러분, 어떻게 지내세요? (Yeoreobun, eotteoke jinaeseyo?). It is basically a Korean way of saying, “How are you doing, everyone?”

Is there a specific phrase to ask How are you in Korean formal language in a business setting?

Of course, there is always a specific phrase. In this situation, you can use the expression 요즘 업무는 어떠세요? (Yojeum eommuneun eotteoseyo?), which translates to, “How’s work going these days?” It is polite and formal, so you can definitely use it in official circumstances.

Why is it important to understand the formality levels in Korean?

It is crucial because of the strong emphasis on respect and social hierarchy in Korean culture. The language reflects these cultural values through different speech levels, ranging from very formal to highly informal, each appropriate for different contexts and relationships.

What are some common mistakes non-native speakers make when asking How are you in Korean?

The most widespread one is probably using the wrong formality level. For non-native speakers, this might be very unfamiliar and difficult to navigate. The best advice is to memorize different expressions and learn to understand the context. And with constant practice, you’ll be able to nail it soon.