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Beginner 1 > Lesson 21

Lesson 21. How to ask questions in Korean 

In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn how to ask questions in Korean. 


There are two main types of questions: 

  1. General Question (or yes/no questions). 
  2. Specific Questions (using wh-words like what, who, when, where, why, etc). 

In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn the first type of question, asking general questions (with Yes and No for an answer.) 


1. The most basic way to form general questions

Unlike in English, in Korean, we don’t change the word order in a sentence when asking a question. To make a question, you can put a “question mark” at the end of the same sentence and just raise the tone. 

For example, let’s look at the normal affirmative sentence: 

미국에서 왔어요. – I am from the USA. 

To make it into a question, you can simply say : 

미국에서 왔어요? – Are you from the USA?


Let’s look at some more examples: 

한국을 좋아해요. – I like Korea. 

한국을 좋아해요? – Do you like Korea? 


한국어 잘해요. – I am good at Korean. 

한국어 잘해요? – Are you good at Korean? 


점심 먹었어. – I had lunch. 

점심 먹었어? – Did you have lunch? 


피곤해. – I am tired. 

피곤해? – Are you tired? 


배고파. – I am hungry. 

배고파? – Are you hungry? 


To make a sentence, the only thing you need is to put a question mark at the end of the sentence and raise the tone.  

However, this is not the only way to ask a question in Korean. There are also different types of question endings, let’s look at them one by one.  


2. Formal Question Ending: ㅂ/습니까? 

We learned the formal sentence ending Verb-ㅂ/습니다, but to create a question with this ending, it’s not enough to put a question mark at the end of the sentence. The ending should change its form from Verb-ㅂ/습니다 to Verb-ㅂ/습니까? 


Let’s compare the 요 ending sentence with ㅂ/습니다 ending sentence. 

아침을 먹었어요. – I had breakfast. 

아침을 먹었어요? – Did you have breakfast? 

아침을 먹었습니다. – I had breakfast. 

아침을 먹었습니까? – Did you have breakfast? 


한국을 좋아해요. – I like Korea. 

한국을 좋아해요? – Do you like Korea? 

한국을 좋아합니다. – I like Korea. 

한국을 좋아합니까? – Do you like Korea? 


미국인이에요. I am from the US.

미국인이에요? Are you from the US?

미국인입니다. I am from the US.

미국인입니까? Are you from the US?

*Verb-ㅂ/습니까 question ending is rarely used in daily conversations. It’s usually used in a formal setting. 


3. More Question Endings

There are diverse question endings in Korean. Let’s look at the most common of them one by one.


 A. General Questions

1) -가(요) / 나(요)? – These question ending does not add particularly special nuance to the question and mean basically the same thing as the normal sentence ending questions.


존댓말 :  

Adjective / 이다 + ㄴ/은 가요? 

Verb (Present and Past Tense)/Adjective (Past Tense) + 나요? 



Adj/Verb(stem) + ~? 


For example: 

이다(to be) > 한국인인가요? = 한국인이에요? Are you Korean?

바쁘다 (to be busy – adj) > 요즘 바빠요? = 요즘 바쁜가요? Are you busy these days?

공부하다 (to study – verb) > 매일 공부해요? = 매일 공부하나요? Do you study every day?

왔다 (came) > 엄마가 왔나요? = 엄마가 왔어요? Did mom come?

 하다 (to do well) > 한국어 잘하니? = 한국어 잘해Are you good at Korean? 

배고프다 (to be hungry) > 배고픈가요? = 배고파요? Are you hungry? 

피곤하다 (to be tired) > 피곤한가요? =피곤해요? Are you tired? 

재미있다* (to be fun) >  한국어는 재미있나요? = 한국어는 재미있어요? (반말: 한국어는 재미있니?) Is Korean fun?

*the adjectives which contain “~있다/없다” follow the verb’s rule 

한국어를   있어? Can you speak Korean? (반말)
=한국어를 할 수 있니? 

 한국어를   있어요? Can you speak Korean? (존댓말)
=한국어를 할 수 있나요?


B. Wondering 

2) Verb/Adjective + ~/을까? 

3) Adjective + ㄴ/은 ? 

4) Verb + ~? 

When the above question endings are used, the speaker is wondering if something is the case (usually to oneself or not expecting a response necessarily.) In this case, these are usually used in 반말. 

By now, you can notice that Adj-ㄴ/은가? and Verb-나? have two meanings : 1) general question 2) wondering to oneself (in this case, 반말 form)


For example: 

제프는 한국어를 할까? – I’m wondering if Jeff is good at Korean. (= 제프는 한국어를 잘하나?)

학생들은 피곤할까? – I’m wondering if the students are tired. 

아빠는 자나? – I’m wondering if dad is sleeping. 

아이들은 지내나? – I’m wondering if the children are doing well. 

날씨가 좋은가? – I’m wondering if the weather is good. 


C. Confirmation

5) Verb/Adjective + ~()? : This question ending is used when the speaker is seeking confirmation of his question. It’s often translated as, “~, right?”


한국인이야. – You’re Korean. 

한국인이야?/ 한국인이니? – Are you Korean? 

한국인이지? – You’re Korean, right? 


피곤하니? – Are you tired? 

피곤하지()? – You’re tired, right? 


잘 지내니? – Are you doing well? 

잘 지내지()? – You’re doing well, right? 


한국어 재미있니? – Is Korean fun? 

한국어 재미있지()? – Korean is fun, right? 

지수 씨, 오늘은 쉴 거예요? Jisoo, will you take a rest today?

지수 씨, 오늘은 쉴 거죠*? Jisoo, you will take a rest today, right?

*~지요 can be abbreviated to ~ 



 D. Suggestion 

6) /을까(요)?, ~/을래(요)?  : These question endings can also be used as a suggestion, meaning “Shall we/I…?” 


Formal: Verb + ~/을까요?, ~/을래요? 

Informal: Verb+ㄹ/을까?, Verb + ~/을래? 

Whether the subject is I or We depends on the contex.

There are subtle differences between -ㄹ/을까 and -ㄹ/을래 endings, and we’ll learn more about this in the next coming courses.


공부할까? – Shall we study? 



갈까? – Shall we go? 



만날까? – Shall we meet? 



Let’s look at some more examples using all question endings we learned in this lesson. 


선물 받았니? – Did you receive a gift? 

나갈까? – Shall we go outside? 

제프는 왔나? – Did Jeff come? (or, I’m wondering if Jeff came?)

책을 읽었지? – You read this book, right? 

이거 가질래? – Do you want to have this? (suggestion) 

영화 재미없나요? – Is this movie boring? 


[Quick Summary] 

1. A regular sentence > A regular sentence?  

2. Question form of ㅂ/습니다 > -ㅂ/습니까? (a formal question) 

3. General question  

Adjective (Present Tense): ~ ㄴ/은가요? 

Verb (Present and Past Tense)/Adjective (Past Tense): ~나요? 

Informal: ~? 

*the adjectives which contain “~있다/없다” in it are conjugated as verbs 

4. Indirect question (I wonder if…) 

Verb/Adjective + ~/을까? 

Adjective + ㄴ/은~? 

Verb + ~? 

5.  Affirmative question (…, right?) 

Verb/Adjective + ~()? 

*~지요 can be abbreviated to ~ 

6. Suggestion, invitation (Shall we…?) 

Formal: Verb + ~/을까요, ~/을래요? 

Informal: Verb + ~/을까, Verb + ~/을래