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Lesson 10. Question Words 어떤, 무슨, 어느

In this lesson, we’re going to learn how to use question words 무슨, 어느 and 어떤, and the differences between them.


First, let’s review how we use the question word “뭐” in a sentence.

읽고 있어요? / 읽어요? – What are you reading?

좋아해요? – What do you like?

보고 있어요? / 봐요? – What are you watching?

뭐 is a question word that can be used on its own to mean “what” and is considered a noun.


If you want to ask more specifically, you can use 무슨, 어느, and 어떤.

  1. 무슨: what (adjective)

무슨 also means “what,” but unlike 뭐, 무슨 is considered an adjective, which means there should be a following noun that is modified by “무슨.”

무슨 + Noun = What noun

For example:

무슨  읽고 있어? / 무슨 책 읽어요? – What book are you reading?

무슨 음식 좋아해? – What food do you like?

무슨 영화 보고 있어? / 무슨 영화 봐? – What movie are you watching?

무슨 노래 듣고 있어요? / 무슨 노래 들어요? – What song are you listening to?

무슨 이에요? / 무슨 색이야? – What color is it?

오늘 무슨 요일이에요? – What day is it today? *asking about a day of the week (Monday[월요일], Tuesday[화요일], etc)

오늘 무슨 이에요? – What day is it today? *asking about a specific day/occasion (like birthday[생일], anniversary[기념일] etc)

무슨 이에요? / 무슨 소리예요? – What do you mean? / What are you saying? / What nonsense is it? 

무슨 생각해? – What are you thinking? 


A: 둘이 무슨 사이야? / 너희 무슨 사이야? – What kind of relationship do you have? (= Are you dating?)

B: a) 그냥 친구 사이예요. – We’re just friends.

b) 커플이에요. – We’re a couple.

c) 연인 사이예요. – We’re dating.

d) 남매예요. – We’re siblings.


우리는 친한 사이에요. – We are close.

우리는 사이가 좋아요. – We get along well.

사이 좋게 지내자. – Let’s get along well.


  1. 어느

1) 어느 is used when there are a limited amount of options to choose from and a speaker asks “which one”. 어느 is also an adjective(modifier), so a noun has to follow. 

어느  멀을래? – Which one would you like to eat? 

어느  살래? – Which one would you like to buy? 

어느  읽을래? – Which book do you want to read? 

어느 노래 들을래? – What song would you like to listen to?

어느 나라 사람이 에요? – Which county are you from? (= Where are you from?). = 어느 나라에서 왔어요? 


2) 어느 can also be used to talk about unspecified or unidentified things.

어느 날 – One day (some unspecified day).

어느 여자가 울고 있어요. – Some woman is crying. (an unidentified woman I don’t know).


  1. 어떤 different meanings

“어떤” is also an adjective (modifier.) It has three following meanings.

1) When a speaker wants to ask “What kind of ~?”, asking about traits or personality of a thing/person.

A: 어떤 책 좋아해요? – What kind of book do you like?

B: 소설책 좋아해요. – I like novels.


A: 어떤 노래 좋아해요? – What kind of song do you like?

B: 잔잔한 노래 좋아해요. – I like calm songs. > 신나는 노래 좋아해요. – I like upbeat songs. > BTS의 노래를 좋아해요. – I like BTS’ songs.


A: 제프 씨는 어떤 사람이에요? – What kind of person is Jeff?

B: 부지런한 사람이에요. – He is a diligent person.


※What’s the difference between “무슨” and “어떤”?

A: 무슨  읽어요? – What book are you reading? (asking about the title)

B: ‘어린 왕자를 읽어요. – I’m reading “The Little Prince”. 


A: 어떤  읽어요? – What kind of book are you reading? (asking about the traits the book has)

B: 소설 책 읽어요. – I’m reading a novel.


무슨 영화 좋아해요? – What movie do you like? (asking about the specific name of the movie)

어떤 영화 좋아해요? – What kind of movie do you like? (asking about traits of the movie)


2) 어떤: which (= 어느)

어떤 선물이 좋아? = 어느 선물이 좋아? – Which gift do you like?

어떤 과일 먹을까? = 어느 과일 먹을까? – Which fruit shall we eat?



3) 어떤 = 어느: unspecified or unidentified thing

어느 여자가 울고 있어요. = 어떤 여자가 울고 있어요. – Some woman is crying.

어느 남자가 전화했어요. = 어떤 남자가 전화했어요. – Some guy called me. 

*어떤 is more commonly used in speech/spoken Korean


Let’s look at more examples:

무슨 색깔 좋아해요? – What color do you like?

무슨 이에요? – What flavor is it?

어느/어떤 사람이 좋아요?* – Which person do you like?

*어떤 can also have the meaning of “what kind of.”


목요일이랑 금요일에 시간 돼요. 어떤/어느 이 (요일) 괜찮아요? – I’m free on Thursday and Friday. Which day is okay with you?


평소에 어떤 영화 봐요? – What kind of movie do you usually watch?


A: 이거 누가 줬어? – Who gave it to you?

B: 어느/어떤 사람이 줬어요. – Some person gave it to me.


[Quick Summary]:


무슨 + Noun = what Noun (asking for a more specific answer)


  1. 어느 + Noun = which one Noun (choice)
  2. 어느 + Noun = some Noun (unspecified/unidentified noun)


  1. 어떤 + Noun = what kind of Noun (trait, personality)
  2. 어떤 = 어느 = which one Noun
  3. 어떤 = 어느 = unspecified or unidentified Noun