Episode 7
Lesson Recap

How To Get Someone's Attention In Korean & Tell What You Want In The Simplest Form

Key Points &
  • You can simply add ‘-요' to a noun to mean ‘(noun), please.’

  • You can get the servers' attention at a restaurant with 여기요, which literally means ‘here.’

  • You can get someone’s attention with 저기요, which literally means ‘over there,’ and avoid sounding too aggressive or abrupt.

  • Approaching passersby to ask for directions 저기요

  • Making your way out from subway 실례합니다

  • Getting people's attention when passing them by at a crowded place 잠시만요

  • Ordering food and drinks at a restaurant  (noun)+요

  • 여기요 : Excuse me (Lit. Here)

  • 저기요 : Excuse me (Lit. Over there)

  • 실례합니다 : Excuse me (Lit. I’m committing rudeness)

  • 잠시만요 : Just a moment

  • (noun)+요 : N, please


Directions: Assume the role in the situation and utilize one of the phrases learned in this episode.

1. You’re at a busy restaurant during lunch hour and want to call the server to order.

2. The server at a cafe comes to your table to take your order. You want iced tea.

3. You haven’t been able to find the building you have an appointment at, and you see someone coming toward you that may be familiar with the area.

4. You answer the office phone, and the caller asks for your colleague whom you need to get from the meeting room.

5. You’re in the back of the crowded elevator, and the floor you need to get off at is the next stop.

Episode 7


반갑습니다 여러분!

This is KAY from essentialkorean.com

- - - - -

In today’s episode, you will learn how to get someone’s attention in Korean. The expressions you learn today will come in handy when you travel in Korea, like at restaurants, crowded markets, theaters, and when you want to ask for directions on the street.

Then in the second part of today’s lesson, we will learn how to ask for something in the simplest form possible!

Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Imagine yourself in Seoul, going around for sightseeing. After fulfilling your AM plan, it’s time for lunch! You are at a restaurant, waiting for a server to take your order, but everyone seems to be too busy to notice your table. You can say this to get one of the server’s attention:  “여기요 ~~.”

여기 means here, and the 요 marks politeness. 여기요 literally means, here, please, and functionally it directs someone’s attention to you. It’s spelled 여.기.요. But colloquially, people say  [여기여] --  여 rather than 요 at the end, so say [여기여] rather than 여기요 to sound more natural.

Repeat after me: 여기요  여기요  여기요.

Please note that people might also elongate the 요, or 여 at the end to get attention for sure.

여기요 ~~~~~  여기요 ~~~~~  여기요 ~~~~~

Now, thanks to 여기요, you were able to order and had your lunch—time to pay before heading out to get on with your afternoon plan. ( By the way, one useful tip here: Don’t wait for your server to come to your table to take your payment. In most restaurants in Korea, when patrons are eating, the patrons themselves take the receipt that their server leaves at the table and proceed to the cashier, usually near the entrance door, and pay there. )

Ok, back to our restaurant. With your receipt, you proceed to the cashier, but no one’s there -- All the restaurant people are busy serving their lunch crowd. No worries, though. 여기요 is here! You say 여기요 to get someone’s attention and have them come so that you can pay.

One more cultural note:  There is a food delivery app called 요기요 in Korea, which merged with what used to be the biggest food delivery app, 배달의 민족, aka 배민, in a $4billion deal in 2019. 요기요 is a very catchy and clever name for a delivery app because,

1) 요기 is a variation of the word 여기, with a small, cute feel to the word; and

2) as we’ve just learned, [여기요] is a phrase used to get servers’ attention at places serving foods, and

3) the word 요기 is a homonym that can also mean snack in Korean.

Back to our situation. Have we left the restaurant? No, not quite yet. After paying, you walk towards the door and see a few people talking in front of the door. What would you say in English in this situation where you need to get people’s attention and make your way out? Excuse me, right?

The Korean equivalent of excuse me is --  실례합니다.  실례 refers to a behavior or an act that is considered rude or bad mannered and 합니다 is the formal, polite form of the verb 하다 which means to do.  So 실례 and 합니다 together gives the literal meaning, I’m bad-mannered, but of course, Koreans functionally use this in situations where you’d use the English phrase excuse me, for an act that can inconvenience others.

Please repeat after me. I’ll do the back build-up:

합니다 실례합니다   합니다 실례합니다    합니다 실례합니다  실례합니다

Please note that you should not equate the use of 실례합니다 with all uses of Excuse me though. Here’s a good example of what I mean: In English we say excuse me? when you didn’t understand what the other person just said. In this situation, Excuse me basically means, 'What did you say? Can you say what you just said again?'.

On the other hand,  실례합니다? is NOT a phrase to use when you want the other person to repeat what he or she just said. This is another reminder that it’s best to learn these ritual expressions in terms of their functions and the purpose they serve and use the literal meaning for a reference only.

Back to our situation again. After getting out of the restaurant, imagine taking the subway to get to your next destination. You are on the subway and want to get closer to the door to get ready to get off. How would you get through the crowd? Yes! Say 실례합니다 ~

But there’s one other phrase you can use in place of 실례합니다. It’s  잠시만요

잠시 means  a short while ;

만 is a particle which means only; and

The 요  at the end, just like the 요 in 여기요, marks politeness of the utterance.

잠시 and 만 and 요 together literally means Just a moment, please; functionally used to get people’s attention, like the other phrase, 실례합니다.

Repeat after me:  잠시만요  잠시만요  잠시만요

After getting off the subway, you realize you need some help with directions. Looking around, you spot friendly and trustworthy-looking people coming toward you. How would you approach them? Yes!  You can say,  실례합니다.

Beside 실례합니다 and 잠시만요,  there is one more expression you can also use: 저기요.

We learned 여기요  which literally means here, please.

Change the first syllable 여 to 저 and you get, 저기요

Recall that 여기 means here. Now, 저기, on the other hand, refers to a place distant from both the speaker and the listener; and the 요 marks politeness. Although the literal meaning of this phrase is over there, please, functionally, it is used as a hesitant marker and serves the purpose of avoiding abruptness when used in a situation where you need someone’s attention.

Repeat after me:  저기요  저기요   저기요

If you want to appear less intrusive, consider using 저기요 rather than 여기요.

So when you approach a stranger and have to ask something, you can get their attention in one of the following ways:

실례합니다 / 저기요  / 저기요 실례합니다

After receiving the directions from the passersby, you’d thank them with 고맙습니다 or 감사합니다.  After a few more stops at different places, you enter a cafe for a break. How would you get the server’s attention if they’re not coming to take your order? That’s right! 여기요 ~~~

The server comes to your table and asks what you’d like.

Now, as I promised earlier, here comes the simplest form possible you can use to ask for something. Let’s say the drink you want is iced Americano. You’d say, 아이스아메리카노요 -- simply adding  요 to your selection.

You’re at a restaurant and would like 스파게티,

Add 요 to 스파게티, and say 스파케티요

You’re at a Korean restaurant and would like 비빔밥,

Add 요 to 비빔밥 and say 비빔밥요

After reenergizing yourself with some caffeine, you’re ready for your next destination, Kyungbok Palace or 경복궁. You decided to take a taxi. When you get in the taxi, you tell the driver, 경복궁요 and they’d know where to go.

On a side note, the admission to 경복궁 is free if you’re wearing 한복, Korean traditional clothing. Besides  not having to pay, it’s a fun cultural experience to spend a few hours at the royal palace dressed in 한복.

Several popular tourist attractions are nearby 경복궁 -- 한복 rental shops, 북촌한옥마을 or Bukchon Village of Korean Traditional Houses, 국립현대미술관 or the National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art, and 인사동, to name a few. A lesser known spot but one of my personal favorites in the vicinity is the cool annex structure of the 아라리오 Museum in Space.

If You want to go to 명동, which is one of the busiest shopping districts in Seoul and don’t feel like taking the subway, hop in a taxi and say to the driver,  명동요.

If you want to conclude your day with a spectacular panoramic night view of Seoul, I recommend  남산타워, literally Namsan Tower, also known a The N Seoul Tower. Taxis cannot go to the top of the hill where 남산타워 is located, so walking, cable car, and buses are your best options.  There’s no need to call a taxi and say 남산타워요.

QUIZ -------------

Ok, Your action-filled day in Seoul is over. Let’s check out how well you remember the new phrases in the form of a quiz:

Q1. You are at a restaurant and would like more napkins. How would you get the attention of the waiter who is not looking at your way?

Yes, 여기요 ~~  will get you his attention!

Q2. You would like to ask someone to take a photo of you with the panoramic view of Seoul at 남산타워. How would you approach a person and get his attention?

You’re right if you said, 저기요 or 저기요 실례합니다.

As mentioned before, 저기요 can be used to avoid sounding abrupt and get the person’s attention.

Q3. You are at a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn and a drink in your hand, and need to get to your seat in the middle of the row. What would you say to nudge the people who are seated in the row so you can pass by?

You’re correct if you said 실례합니다 or 잠시만요.

Q4. You’re at a cafe in Seoul and have decided on a tea to try. On a side note, I’d like to introduce a few options that are not easily found outside Korea. : 유자차, 율무차, 대추차

How would you order your tea? Whatever your choice was, you should have added 요 to it:   유자차요. 율무차요. 대추차요.

Great! We’re done with the quiz!

- - -

To sum up, in this episode, you learned in what situations you can use the expressions.

여기요  저기요   실례합니다  잠시만요, and  Noun+요.

Please think about these phrases whenever the situation calls for them.

Btw, If you ever become discouraged by the daunting task of learning a new language or feeling skeptical now and then about what good these short phrases could do, I would say please don’t. Even if you have to rely on English after using these simple ritual expressions to start a conversation, your attempt to communicate with Koreans in their language will be greatly appreciated by native speakers and, in turn, will help you better connect with the culture and the people. If nothing else, you still have fun trying out a new language in action.

OK, That’s it for this episode!  I look forward to connecting with you again next week.

안녕히 계세요! 고맙습니다!