How To Ask Essential Questions (Wh-Word Questions) in Korean
Key Points &
You can simply add -예요 to the WH-words, a.k.a. question words, and you have the questions in the polite form, asking what, where, when, who, and how much.
The verb form -예요 is pronounced [eh-yo]
뭐 : what
어디 : where
언제 : when
누구 : who
얼마 : how much
누구예요? : Who is it?
뭐예요? : What is it?
어디예요? : Where is it?
언제예요? : When is it?
얼마예요? : How much is it?
Directions: Assume the role in the situation and provide one of the questions learned in this episode.
1. You run into a colleague who’s carrying a huge plastic bag in the hallway, and you’re curious what it is.
2. Your colleague shows you some photos he took over the weekend, and you’re curious where it is.
3. Your colleague asks you if you’d be interested in going to a concert with her, but didn’t tell you the date.
4. Your colleague shows you a photo he took over the weekend, and you’re curious who the person is standing next to her.
5. Your colleague hands you the latte you asked her to get when she asked you if you’d like anything from the company cafe. You owe her the money for the cafe.
Hello! This is KAY from EK.com.
In this episode, you’ll learn to ask questions with “question words, ” namely who, what, where, when, and how much. In other words, by the end of this episode, you’ll be able to say: Who is it?; What is it?; Where is it?; When is it?; and How much is it? -- All In Korean!!
Let’s first think about when you’d say these phrases. Imagine yourself visiting Korea, having a guided tour. Even if the guide understands your native language, it’s more fun to speak Korean and hear responses in Korean. Also, you can use these simple phrases when asking for directions, ordering drinks and food, shopping, and in other day-to-day situations with native Koreans, which can serve as a gateway to memorable experiences with the locals.
Ok, so back to the guided tour.
Imagine you are on a walking tour with your group and see a big crowd chasing someone, seemingly a celebrity, and you’re curious to know who it is. You can say, 누구예요? Repeat after me. I’ll go slowly first, and then say it naturally: 누/구/예/요/? 누구예요? 누구예요? Who is it?
Imagine you’re looking at a flashy trinket in a souvenir shop or food items you’ve never seen at a restaurant, and you are curious. You can say this to ask your guide what they are: 뭐예요? Please repeat after me: 뭐/예/요/? 뭐예요? 뭐예요? What is it?
Imagine you have a place you’d like to visit in your free time and want to ask your guide for some directions. Showing him some photos of the place on your phone, you can say this to find out its location: 어디예요? Repeat after me: 어/디/예/요/? 어디예요? 어디예요? Where is it?
Imagine you spot a K-pop tour poster without a concert date visible in sight. You can say this to find out when it takes place: 언제예요? Repeat after me: 언/제/예/요/? 언제예요? 언제예요? When is it?
Imagine yourself shopping in 명동 [ myuhng-dohng ], a busy shopping district in Seoul. Btw, shopping can be really fun in Korea, with a wide range of shopping venue options and interesting products that are unique to Korea. In any case though, you’d probably want to know how much something is before you take it to the cashier, right? You can say this if you don’t see a price tag: 얼마예요? Repeat after me: 얼/마/예/요/? 얼마예요? 얼마예요? How much is it?
Let’s take a closer look at these five questions.
Did you notice the common part in the five phrases: 누구예요; 뭐예요; 어디에요; 언제예요; and 얼마예요? That’s right! The common component is 예요 at the end, in all of them.
The five question-words, 누구, 뭐, 어디, 언제, and 얼마, are followed by the verb be 예요, which is pronounced [ eh-yo ] with a rising intonation ⤴. Let’s practice again. Please repeat after each phrase:
For Who is it? 누구예요? 누구예요? 누구예요? [ noo-goo-eh-yo ]
For What is it? 뭐예요? 뭐예요? 뭐예요? [ mwuh-eh-yo ]
For Where is it? 어디예요? 어디예요? 어디예요? [ uh-dee-eh-yo ]
For When is it? 언제예요? 언제예요? 언제예요? [ uhn-jeh-eh-yo ]
For How much is it? 얼마예요? 얼마예요? 얼마예요? [ uhl-mah-eh-yo ]
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OK, before I let you go, let’s make sure you've mastered the 5 very useful question words!
Let’s put ourselves back to the guided tour situation.
1. You’re on a tour bus, looking out the window and noticing a unique looking building. You want to ask the guide what it is.
That’s right. You’d say, 뭐예요? 뭐예요? 뭐예요?
2. You’ve fallen asleep on the tour bus, on the way to the next stop. Your tour guide wakes you up. You open your eyes, not knowing where you are. How would you find out where you are?
Correct if you answered, 어디예요? 어디예요? 어디예요?
3. Imagine you are touring the Folk Village, which is one of the popular go-to places for tourists to visit when in Korea. Many historical K-dramas are filmed there, and you happen to arrive as something is actually being filmed. There’s a big crowd surrounding an actor, trying to get his autograph. How are you going to find out who it is?
Right again if you answered, 누구예요? 누구예요? 누구예요?
4. Imagine you’re still at the Folk Village. You hear they will showcase a traditional Korean wedding on site. Can you find out when it’ll take place?
Correct if you said, 언제예요? 언제예요? 언제예요?
5. Before you conclude the tour of the Folk Village, you want to get something at the souvenir shop. How would you find out the price of the item you’re interested in?
Correct if you answered, 얼마예요? 얼마예요? 얼마예요?
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Now, here’s some homework for you: After this episode concludes, practice utilizing these five phrases whenever you’re looking at pictures:
Whenever you see a photo of a person or people you’re curious about, ask 누구예요?
Whenever you see a photo of an object you’re curious about, ask 뭐예요?
Whenever you see a photo of a place you’re curious about, ask 어디예요?
Whenever you want to know when a photo was taken, ask 언제예요?
Whenever you see a photo of an object you envy, and if you think the other person wouldn't mind revealing how much he/she paid for it, ask 얼마예요?
OK, I think that’s it for today’s episode! 안녕히 계세요. 다음 에피소드에서 만나요!
See you next episode!