Episode 9
Lesson Recap

How To Say What Something is NOT, How To Express Surprise, & How To Say Congratulations In Korean

Key Points &
  • 다녀왔습니다 is the expression which corresponds to “I’m home” or “I’m back” in English.

  • You can use one of the three phrases, namely 그래요, 진짜요 (more casual), and 정말요 with a rising intonation, to express surprise.

  • 정말 and 진짜 have a common meaning which is ‘real’ but they also differ in that 정말 is used to mean ‘real’ as opposed to untrue and 진짜 is used to mean ‘real’ as opposed to fake.

  • You can use 그럼 to move on to the consequential topic.

  • 정말 : real; really

  • 진짜 : authentic (not fake); really (casual)

  • 그럼 ~ : then ~; in that case

  • 생신 : birthday (honorific)

  • 생일 : birthday (neutral)

  • 다녀왔습니다 : I’m home (Lit. I’ve returned having gone around)

  • 그래요? : Is that so?

  • 정말요? : Really?; For real?

  • 진짜요? : Really: For real? (sounds more casual than 정말요?)

  • 축하드립니다 : Congratulations (humble)

  • 축하합니다 : Congratulations (neutral)

  • 생신이에요 :  It’s (someone’s) birthday (neutral)

  • 생일이에요 : It’s (someone’s) birthday (honorific)

  • (noun) 아니에요 : It’s not (noun)

  • 정말이에요? : Is it really?

  • 진짜예요? : Is it really (sounds more casual than 정말이에요?; Is it authentic (not fake)?


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

1. You’ve returned to your office where your colleagues are still working from a visit to your client’s site.

2. Your colleague just told you an unexpected, surprising news.

3. Your colleague walks into the office with a bundle of flowers which you can’t tell if they’re real or fake.

4. Your colleague asks if today is your boss’s birthday when you know it is not.

5. Your colleague asks if today is your birthday when it is not.

6. Just after learning that today is your boss’s birthday, you run into him in the hallway.

Episode 9

안녕하세요 여러분! 반갑습니다

Hello, This is Kay from EssentialKorean.com.

It’s been a while since the last episode so it feels great to be back and connect with you again.

If you’re listening to this as your first Essential Korean Podcast, welcome or I should use our learned expression, 어서 오세요! The first time listeners, if you find something you learn about Korean from this episode and you like the content, please start from Episode 1 as I often refer to lessons from previous episodes.

Ok without further due, let’s get started with today’s lesson!

Key Lesson Points

In this episode, you’ll learn 8 new phrases:

1) the daily expression which corresponds to I’m home or I’m back in English;

2) how to say what something or someone is NOT; (there are two ways we can identify something: one, by telling what something is AND two by telling what something is NOT. We learned how to say what something is in Episode 2. In this episode, Episode 9, we’ll learn how to say what something is NOT.

3) the phrase that means if that’s the case and acts as a transitional phrase;

4) the phrases that express surprise ( help smoothly link separate parts of the conversation); and

5) how to say congratulations


Lesson - Korean Residence

Now, moving into our lesson, let's assume the role of the exchange student from America that we got to know from the previous episodes!

Imagine yourself getting home from school. Your host family, like many other families in Seoul, lives in a big apartment complex. Around the complex, all the necessities for daily life such as supermarkets, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, restaurants, and other shops are in a walking vicinity. On a side note, in both Seoul and the province that surrounds Seoul, namely Gyeonggi Province, more than 50% of the population live in apartments and more than 80% live in non-detached homes, like high rise apartment buildings, multi-unit dwellings, or row houses. Very few people carry physical keys as units in most apartment buildings have an electronic door lock system.

Lesson - I’m home in Korean

Back to our situation. You enter the house after punching in the key code. As you take off your shoes at the foyer, you say this:


Can you guess what this expression would correspond to in English from the context?  Yes, it’s I’m home or I’m back which lets others know your return and your presence.  The Korean phrase 다녀왔습니다 serves the same purpose. The literal meaning of 다녀왔습니다  is returned after having gone to somewhere  and is in the polite and formal speech style. 

This probably explains why 다녀왔습니다 is used only by younger members of the group. You, the exchange student, have noticed that your host family brother in high school and sister in elementary school always say 다녀왔습니다 as they return home from school and extracurricular activities. That’s how you picked up the expression and started using it yourself! Great job!  You are exercising one of the best ways to learn the target language -- whenever you’re present in the culture where the language is spoken, first be an attentive observer and then be a courageous imitater in real life situations. This way, you can internalize the language and make it your own over time.

Lesson - How To Tell What Something or Someone is NOT

Returning to the situation, To your 다녀왔습니다, everyone welcomes you from the living room. You proceed to where they are, and before anything, you notice an Asian orchid and a basket of flowers on the coffee table. You ask, 뭐예요? what is it?, suspecting it to be a gift for a celebratory occasion. Before hearing an answer, you ask another question: 생일이에요?

생일 means, as you learned in Episode 8, birthday and 이에요 means be, as we learned in Episode 2 on How to tell what something Is. So with the question, 생일이에요? you ask if it’s someone’s birthday.  Please repeat after me:

생일이에요?   생일이에요?   생일이에요?

If it were someone’s birthday, they would have said, 네, so-and-so 생일이에요. But the host family mom says this: 생일 아니에요

아니에요 is derived from the infinitive verb 아니다 which means to not be. It follows a noun and indicates when something or someone is NOT the noun it follows. So 생일 아니에요 means it’s not a birthday. Please repeat after me:

아니에요. 생일 아니에요

아니에요. 생일 아니에요

아니에요. 생일 아니에요

Let’s step aside from the situation for a minute and practice using this verb in dialogue with what we’ve learned in previous episodes. Imagine yourself entering a cafe. Your party, already having ordered, are having their drinks. Here are a few conversations that could take place in the situation where you ask about their drinks:

커피예요? 아니요, 커피 아니에요. 티예요.
Is that coffee? No, it’s not coffee. It’s tea.

아메리카노예요? 아니요, 아메리카노 아니에요. 드립커피예요.

Is that Americano? No, it’s not americano. It’s drip-coffee.

아이스티예요? 아니요, 아이스티 아니에요. 에이드예요.

Is that ice tea? No, it’s not ice tea. It’s ade.

We’ve learned short phrases; but as you’ve just witnessed, you can hold a conversation in Korea with what you’ve learned after a few episodes! Excellent!

Now, there’s one thing I’d like to note.  Don’t get confused between 아니요  and 아니에요. The 3-syllable word 아니요 means No in English; and the 4-syllable word 아니에요 is a verb to tell what something or someone is NOT.

Lesson - How To Link Conversational Sections / How To Say Really?

Ok, let’s get back to our original situation. This is where we were:

You’ve just returned home from school. You say:

다녀왔습니다 I’m back.

(Upon seeing an Asian orchid and a basket of flowers, you ask)

생일이에요? Is it someone’s birthday?

(Host family mom responds,)

생일 아니에요. It’s not a birthday.

Then you have another question: 그럼 뭐예요?

You must remember 뭐예요 from Episode 3 on WH-word Questions: what is it? 뭐예요?

The word  그럼 before 뭐예요 means then or if that’s the case.

So upon hearing that it’s not anyone’s birthday, you say, 그럼 뭐예요, meaning If so, then what is it? If that’s the case, what is it? Please repeat after me:

뭐예요? 그럼 뭐예요?

뭐예요? 그럼 뭐예요?

뭐예요? 그럼 뭐예요?

You can use 그럼 to smoothly follow up questions or ensuing thoughts. For example, say your travel agent presented you an Itinerary B after Itinerary A got cancelled, adding you’d get a full refund for the first itinerary. If this arrangement is agreeable to you, you can say, 그럼  괜찮습니다 If that’s the case, it’s fine.

Alright. Back to the situation. To your  question, 그럼 뭐예요? If so, then what is it?,  your host family father says a short phrase of which you do not know the meaning. You can easily look up the word in the dictionary on your phone but somehow you’ve come to enjoy the process of getting the meaning of unknown words or phrases in conversations with your host family in Konglish often accompanied by colorful body language. It’s fun as it is like solving a riddle. This time, it didn’t take too long to figure out that the orchid and the flowers were for his promotion at work!  To this news, you say,

아, 그래요? - Wow, is that so?

그래요 is the polite form derived from the verb 그렇다 which means to be so or to be that way. In the form of a question 그래요?, which is marked with the rising intonation, means, is that right? Is that so?, or it functions as Really? in English in that you express surprise at an unexpected situation and confirm the new information received to be true.

Please repeat after each 그래요? which again means, Is that so? or  Really?.

Here we go:  그래요?   그래요?   그래요?

Beside 그래요?, I’ll introduce two other frequently used phrases that share a similar meaning. One is 정말이에요? or its shorter version 정말요?

정말 refers to real things or true information and, with the verb 이에요, which means to be in the question form, means is it true?

Please repeat after each phrase, the first batch in the non-contracted form and the second batch in the shorter version:

정말이에요?  정말이에요?  정말이에요?

정말요?  정말요?  정말요?

The other phrase is 진짜예요.

Compared to 그래요? and 정말요?, 진짜요 can sound informal when used to mean really? or is that true? Please repeat after me:

진짜예요?  진짜예요?  진짜예요?

And you can also use the short form which is more colloquially used:

진짜요?  진짜요?  진짜요?

In summary, you can use one of the three phrases to mean is that so?” or really? to express your surprise at the new information you’ve just received in a conversation:

그래요? Is that so? Really?

정말요? Is that true? Really?

진짜요? For real? Really?

You will hear these used a lot in daily conversations among Koreans. People use them as a link to smoothly move to an ensuing conversational section such as asking for details.

Lesson - Two Similar Yet Different Words 정말 and 진짜 on Focus

Are you sure?

Before returning to our situation, let me go one step further and zero in on the uses and the difference between 정말 and 진짜. Besides the functions mentioned before, both 정말요 and 진짜요 can be used to mean Are you sure?

For example, let’s say your Korean colleague promises to help you with your presentation, you might say, 정말요? or 진짜요? which functionally corresponds to are you sure? in English, gently confirms the other’s intention, and then smoothly moves to accepting the offer:

아, 정말요? 감사합니다! Wow, are you sure? Thank you!

와, 진짜요? 고맙습니다! Wow, for real? Thank you!

The primary meaning of  정말 and 진짜

As discussed, 정말요 or 진짜요 can be used interchangeably to mean Is that true? or Really? But please note the fine print that 진짜요 will sound more casual and informal compared to 정말요.

Also, staying on the topic of the difference between the two, they each carry a different meaning as well. Think of the primary meaning of 정말 as being true or being void of lies.

And think of the primary meaning of the term 진짜 as being original, not fake or being authentic and not a copy or an imitation. Do you see the difference?

Here’s an example. You can ask if something you’re looking at is original and not a knockoff, with this question: 진짜예요? You cannot do that with 정말이에요?

One more example. If someone admires your fake gold jewelry and the hefty price you must’ve paid for it, you can let them know it’s not authentic gold using the verb we learned earlier in this episode, 아니에요, to not be. You can say, 진짜 아니예요.  In this situation, you CANNOT say 정말 아니에요 because 정말 아니에요 would mean it’s not true or it’s not void of lies. So you can ask 정말이에요? to confirm, for example, if the news you just heard is true.

One other thing to remember. If you want to ask whether something is real as opposed to being fake or knock off, you MUST use the non-contracted form 진짜예요 (4 syllables), NOT 진짜요 (3 syllables). So, here you go: 진짜예요? Is that real? Is that original? Is it authentic? 진짜예요?  진짜예요?

Very Much

정말 and 진짜 can also be used as an adverb to mean very much and to emphasize the verb. Thus, when 감사합니다 or 고맙습니다 alone does not do justice to your sincere gratitude, you can say, 정말 감사합니다  정말 고맙습니다; or  진짜 감사합니다  진짜 고맙습니다.

When 미안합니다 or 죄송합니다 alone does not do justice to how sorry you are for your mistakes, you can say, 정말 죄송합니다 or 진짜 미안합니다.

You learned 괜찮습니다 it’s ok  to be a response to an apology in Episode 4. When someone repeatedly apologize for a mistake with which you are totally OK, you can say, 정말 괜찮습니다 or  진짜 괜찮습니다.

Either way, just remember that the phrases with 진짜 sound more casual and informal than the phrases with 정말 when they are used as an adverb to mean very much.

Lesson - How To Say Congratulations in Korean

Ok, back to our situation once more. Upon receiving the news of your host family father’s promotion, you exclaim and say, 와, 그래요? 정말요? which smoothly links to your next phrase of a congratulatory remark. This is what you’d say to congratulate him:  축하드립니다!

축하 means congratulations and 드립니다 is the formal style of the humble verb 드리다 which means to give to a higher person.  So 축하드립니다 literally means I humbly give you congratulations. This humble expression is used to congratulate someone of a higher rank, the rank being determined by several factors including age, professional hierarchy, and kinship relations. Repeat after me:

축하드립니다   축하드립니다   축하드립니다

There is the neutral form which doesn’t imply any hierarchy. It’s 축하합니다.

축하 means, again, congratulations; and 합니다 means do in the formal style. Please repeat after me:

축하합니다    축하합니다   축하합니다

In the case where you, the exchange student, congratulate your host family father, the humble form 축하드립니다 would be more appropriate than 축하합니다.

Review of the Situation and the Expressions

OK, let’s run through the situation and review the expressions we learned along the way.

When you return home from outside, you say,
다녀왔습니다. I am back from having gone out.

Upon seeing the plant and flowers that look like congratulatory gifts, you ask,

뭐예요?  생일이에요? What are they? Is it a birthday?

It turns out It’s nobody’s birthday:

아니요, 생일 아니에요.

With that information, you ask a follow up question about the plant and flowers:

그럼, 뭐예요?  If so, what are they?

Upon learning that your host family father got promoted, you exclaim and express surprise:

와, 그래요? Or

와, 정말요? Or

와, 진짜요?

And you congratulate him:


Now, you can also say,

정말 축하드립니다!  This literally means "Really congratulations" which, in English, doesn’t sound natural, but the Korean version 정말 축하드립니다 sound perfectly natural and in fact many would add the adverb 정말 to express their heartfelt congratulations: 정말 축하드립니다!

Let’s also review the side notes mentioned earlier:

Side Note 1>

I highlighted the difference between 아니요 and 아니에요. The 3-syllable word 아니요  corresponds to the English No; and the 4-syllable word 아니에요, derived from the dictionary form verb 아니다, means to not be which is used to identify what something or someone is NOT: Here’s an example sentence. If you’re asked if what you’re listening to right now is Essential English podcast, you can say, 아니요, Essential English Podcast 아니에요. Essential Korean Podcast예요. No, it’s not Essential English Podcast. It’s Essential Korean Podcast.

Side Note 2>

 정말요? and 진짜요? can be used to mean Are you sure?

Side Note 3

정말 and 진짜 can be use as an adverb with a meaning very much or really

To say thank you very much say: 정말 감사합니다 or 진짜 고맙습니다

To say I am really sorry, say:  정말 죄송합니다. 진짜 미안합니다.

To say  it’s really ok, say: 정말 괜찮습니다 or 진짜 괜찮습니다.

Side Note 4> 

진짜예요 tells if something is original, authentic, or real as opposed to being fake or knock off.


So, in this episode, you’ve been introduced to 8 new phrases and learned when and how to use them. Let’s review again, this time in the form of a quiz:

Q1: You’re working at a Korean company. You’re coming back from a meeting with your client. As you walk into your office with your boss and colleagues who know that you were out for a meeting, what would you say?

  • Correct! You would say, 다녀왔습니다

Q2: Your colleague is holding what looks like a tablet so you ask if it is a tablet and she says no. You ask if it’s a notebook and she says it’s not that either. What would be your next question?

  • You’re correct if you said, 그럼 뭐예요?

Q3: Your junior at work just told you that she will have to miss work as her graduation ceremony for the executive MBA program is next week. How would you express your pleasant surprise and congratulate her?

  • Yes, you’d say, 아 그래요? 축하합니다!   아 정말요? 축하합니다!

Q4: Your boss just handed you an invitation to his son’s wedding. How would you congratulate your boss?

  • You’re correct if you said, 축하드립니다!  since you’re congratulating your boss who is higher than you, 축하합니다 wouldn’t be appropriate to use. You should use the humble form, 축하드립니다.

Q5:  Your colleague just offered to help you with your moving. Living alone in Korea, you know the extra helping hand will ease the burden greatly. How would you smoothly and graciously accept the offer?

  • Rather than just accepting the offer right away with a thank-you, you can say 정말요 or 진짜요 as a link to your acceptance of the offer and then thank him. So, you’d say, 정말요? 고맙습니다!  or 진짜요? 정말 고맙습니다!

Q6: Your colleague just walked in to the office saying  다녀왔습니다. He had gone out to get things to redecorate the office. One of the things he bought is a plant, which you can’t really tell if it’s real or fake. How would you find out if it’s real or not?

  • Correct if you asked, 진짜예요?

Q7: You just walked into your office with a fake plant. Your colleague just asked if it’s real. What would you tell him?

  • Yes, you can say, 진짜 아니에요.

Ok, we’re done with the quiz!

This concludes Episode 9. I’ll be back again, hopefully in a week, and reconnect with you all then.  고맙습니다! 안녕히 계세요!