So You Want To Learn Korean: Learning from KDramas II

As you learn Korean, you will often start to recognize familiar phrases or wonder about certain conversations that you hear. Even when you sit down to watch your favorite KDrama, you may find yourself paying more attention to the way sentences are formed, or noting which word was used when.

Engaging in this kind of active listening can encourage your studies and be a fun way for you to measure your own progress. Although you can certainly do this on your own, I started this series to provide an opportunity to learn together by highlighting some of the Korean words and phrases that I have heard while watching dramas, and to walk you through their meanings.

If you haven’t yet, please check out Part I before continuing on, as you will see some of the phrases from that post mentioned again below.

Let’s Eat!

When three single adults living in neighboring apartments realize they have a love of food in common, they begin to connect. Right from Episode 1, this drama has a lot of fun and easy phrases to learn!

lets eat one

When Soo Kyung hears someone attempting to enter her door passcode, she is understandably cautious. She calls out, “누구세요?” (nu-gu-seh-yo?) – “Who’s there?” as she approaches the door. 누구 simply means who, and by adding 세요? it creates a polite question.

It turns out that Jin Yi has had too much to drink and is confused as to which door is hers, and although Soo Kyung is reluctant to get involved, she suddenly remembers what happened to the previous tenant. Her imagination begins to soar, and she says “혹시… 도?” (hok-shee… do?) to herself. The word 혹시 has a fairly broad usage, as it can mean what if, maybe, possibly, perhaps, or anything similar. I find that it often comes at the beginning of a sentence, is said tentatively, and may have a pause following – these aspects all help to deliver the meaning of the word. In this case, by adding 도 (which gives the meaning of “also” or “too”) she is asking herself – what if what happened before, happens again?

With that in mind, Soo Kyung decides to go back to check on Jin Yi, only to see her being carried by Dae Young. “저기요!” (jeo-gi-yo!) she cries, and runs over to confront him. This is a fundamental phrase in Korean, as 저 is used to refer to something in the same way that we would use “that” in English when referring to a thing that is in our sight but not right next to us (such as, “Can you pass me that book?”). When you see it as 저기, it means “there” in the same way (such as, “Do you see the book over there?”). You will often hear 저기요! when one person is calling out to another to get their attention, and it essentially translates to “Excuse me!” Since the polite 요 is added, it is fine to use this phrase with someone you don’t know, such as a server in a restaurant.

As the scene progresses, there are two phrases that Soo Kyung uses to scold her dog Vara. When she is shocked and horrified by what Vara is eating, she says “안돼!” (an-dwae!) – “No!” or “Don’t!” You can use 안돼 in situations where there is some sense of ability or permission – such as if someone asks if they can come into your room and you want to refuse – and it is often said emphatically.

In the morning, Soo Kyung sleepily tells Vara to stop licking her by saying “그만해” (geu-man-hae) – “Don’t do that” or “Stop that”. This phrase is similar to 하지마, which we looked at last time; if you want to separate them, you can say based on their literal translations that 하지마 is “Don’t do that” and 그만해 is “Stop that”, although they are often (but not always) used in comparable situations.

lets eat two

When Dae Young accompanies Jin Yi on her furniture shopping trip, she is eager to hear his opinion. As they spot a beautiful bed, he tries it out and she asks him “어때요?” (eo-ddae-yo?). This prolific phrase can be used to ask someone “How is it?” or “What do you think?” in reference to something they are doing or trying.

Dae Young, who has some unique views on owning furniture, tells her that the bed is too big. She replies with another broad term – “그래요?” (geu-rae-yo?). When used as a question, this usually means “Is that so?” or “Really?”, and in comparison to 진짜 which we looked at last time, it is softer and more reflective. For example, if your friend mentions they are going to be five minutes late you could say “그래요?” to express “Oh really?” and then say “No problem”, whereas if they are going to be three hours late you might exclaim “진짜?!” and this could be followed by some words of frustration.

To attempt to convince Jin Yi that she should also adopt his furniture-less lifestyle, Dae Young describes his methods and then says “나 처럼” (na cheo-reom) – “Like me”. Since he is older than Jin Yi, he uses the informal word for me (나), and 처럼 is a word for comparison which means “like” in the sense of “similar to”. It is used in the same way as this definition of like in English (such as, “He is acting like a child”).

After receiving a phone call, Dae Young announces “먼저 갈게” (meon-jeo kal-keh) to let Jin Yi know that he has to leave. Here the simple verb 가다 (to go) is conjugated into the future tense to become 갈게, and in this case you are seeing a common contraction as the full conjugation would be 갈거예요. By adding 먼저, which means first, Dae Young is saying that he is leaving before Jin Yi. In practice, this has a casual feeling such as the phrases “I’m heading out” or “I’m off” might convey in English.


A modern classic, this story intertwines the lives of a Goblin, his intended bride, and a Grim Reaper as they face the realities of life and death. Although it may seem a surprising choice, I’m going to look at Episode 7 today, and while I will keep major plot points out, there may be small spoilers contained in this section – so please continue with caution.

goblin two

It’s the day of Eun Tak’s exam, and Kim Shin is seeing her off at the bus stop. When Kim Shin refuses to give Eun Tak any of the answers ahead of time, she proclaims “미워!” (mee-weo!) – “I hate you!” in protest. Right after this, she uses a familiar phrase, “들어가세요”; we saw 들어가 last time, so we know it means to go home or go back, and Eun Tak makes it a little more polite by adding 세요 since Kim Shin is older than her.

When the pair have a slightly awkward moment, they try to convince each other (and themselves) that the situation is fine by taking more normal actions. As they describe these actions, they both use the adverb “자연스럽게” (ja-yeon-seu-reob-geh), which means “naturally” – for example, Eun Tak says “I will naturally check what time it is” as she looks at Kim Shin’s watch.

Unfortunately, she realizes that she is going to be late, and cries out, “어떻게, 어떻게, 나 망했어!” (eo-tteo-keh, eo-tteo-keh, na mang-hae-sseo!). As you know from Part I of this series, 어떻게 can be used to express your dismay or uncertainty about what to do in a situation. She then goes on to say 나 망했어, and this past-tense phrase is similar to “I’m screwed!” in English. By combining these, Eun Tak is highlighting just how much trouble she is in – she has missed the bus and is worried that she will not be able to take her exam. You may notice that she uses the casual word 나 for her sentence here, even though you would think that she should be using the more polite 저 (jeo) since Kim Shin is older. This is likely because she is actually exclaiming this to herself more than to him, so no polite language is needed.

When Kim Shin finally sends Eun Tak off to write her test, he calls out, “시험 잘 봐!” (shee-heom jal bwa!) – “Good luck on your test!” Let’s break this down quickly. 시험 is the word for test or exam, and in Korean they use the verb 보다 (to see or to watch) when referring to the completion of a test instead of the English “to take”. 봐 is the present-tense conjugation of 보다, and 잘 means well. So, Kim Shin is essentially saying “Take your test well!” – but of course, the more natural translation is good luck.

goblin three

When Tae Hee and Eun Tak go out for ice cream, the last thing Eun Tak expects is for the Grim Reaper to show up – so much so, that when he arrives she says “미쳤어요?” (mee-chyeo-sseo-yo?) or “Are you crazy?” However, the Grim Reaper insists that Eun Tak answer his phone for him, and although she doesn’t want to at first, she eventually relents – with reluctance – by replying “알았어요”. Hopefully, you recognize this phrase from our look at Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. In that drama, Bong Soon used it to say “alright” in a sad but compliant way, while here Eun Tak is using it much more aggressively – akin to “fine!” in English – to show her displeasure.

Before she goes outside, Eun Tak excuses herself by telling Tae Hee, “잠깐만요” (jam-kkan-man-yo). This phrase has a broad application, much like “Excuse me” or “Pardon me”, to either politely remove yourself from a situation or get someone’s attention. You can also use it to express “Please wait a moment”. Interestingly, you may also see or hear the phrase 잠시만요 (jam-shee-man-yo) used in a similar context, and the two are in fact interchangeable.

Eun Tak takes a moment to contemplate the possible ramifications of answering the Grim Reaper’s phone, debating whether it will cause more harm or good. Ultimately, she says “몰라” and picks up. Although 몰라 means “I don’t know”, this casual phrase is a bit flexible, and in this case she is using it to say “Whatever” – in essence saying, I don’t know, so I will just move forward.

Instead of the hello you might be familiar with (안녕하세요 or 안녕), Eun Tak greets the person calling with “여보세요?” (yeo-bo-seh-yo?). This is a version of hello that is reserved exclusively for answering the phone, and it is important to know as Koreans do not say 안녕하세요 or 안녕 when picking up a phone call. However, you might hear more casual phone conversations that begin with words like 응 (eung, a very casual “yes”), or with no greeting at all.


Here is a review of the new words and phrases that we covered today:

누구세요? — Who is it?
혹시… — Maybe/Possibly/Perhaps/What if…
저기요 — Excuse me
안돼! — No! or Don’t!
그만해 — Stop (it/that) or Don’t do (it/that)

어때(요)? — How is it?
그래(요)? — Is that so? or Really?
나 처럼 / 처럼 — Like me / Like (similarity)
먼저 갈게(요) — I’m off or I’m heading out or I’m leaving first

미워(요) — I hate you
자연스럽게 — Naturally (adverb)
(나) 망했어 — I’m screwed
시험 잘 봐 — Good luck on your test/exam

미쳤어(요)? — Are you crazy?
잠깐만(요) / 잠시만(요) — Excuse me or Pardon me or Wait a moment or One moment
몰라(요) — I don’t know or Whatever
여보세요? — Hello? (for the phone)

What dramas would you like to learn from? Leave a comment below and I might include them in a future article!

All screenshots courtesy of http://www.dramafever.com and http://www.netflix.com

Learning from KDramas Part I

2 replies »

    • I’m glad it was helpful! :) If there is a specific drama you would like to learn from feel free to let me know and I might be able to include it in a future post.

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