Let's start off with a small tidbit. The word 안녕 (Annyeong) is derived from the base verb 안녕하다 (Annyeonghada), meaning a state of peacefulness, or a state of wellness. So essentially, all greetings that contain the word 안녕 (Annyeong) are all well-wishes of peacefulness and wellness in themselves. Beautiful, right?
You'd do well to remember that Korean is a language that emphasizes on formality. Knowing how to express yourself in both formal and informal settings is crucial, especially when it comes to greetings because making a good first impression will go a long way!
안녕하세요 (Annyeonghaseyo) is probably one of the most common form of greeting that people come across. It is a safe, formal way to say "Hello". Literally, the phrase means "Be well" or "Please be well". You will hear this often when entering a restaurant, a hotel, or other service establishments in Korea. You can't go wrong in using this greeting when meeting someone for the first time, or when greeting your employer, teacher, or anyone who is supposedly older or in a more superior position than you are in an organization.
This greeting is done with a slight bow. A full 90-degree bow isn't necessary; a slight bow when saying this greeting will suffice. Foreigners may get a free pass for not bowing, but if you're already saying the greeting, might as well do a little bowing, right?
Annyeonghi gyeseyo (안녕히 계세요)
You say 안녕히 계세요 (Annyeonghi gyeseyo) when you are leaving, but the other person is staying. This phrase literally means "Please stay well".
Annyeonghi kaseyo (안녕히 가세요)
Use 안녕히 가세요 (Annyeonghi kaseyo) when you are staying, and the other person is leaving. The word 가세요 (kaseyo) means "Please go", and the phrase 안녕히 가세요 (Annyeonghi kaseyo) means "Please go well".
Annyeong (안녕) is a casual, informal way of saying "Hello". It is typically used among close friends and not people you have just met. There is no need to bow when you are greeting someone informally, though you could if you want to. Annyeong (안녕) can also be used to say "Goodbye".
Jalgayo / Jalga (잘가요 / 잘가)
New Korean learners often use the formal form of saying goodbye in formal Korean, namely 안녕히 계세요 (Annyeonghi gyeseyo) and 안녕히 가세요 (Annyeonghi kaseyo), but these are awkward to use in informal settings. It's more appropriate to use 잘가요 (Jalgayo) or 잘가 (Jalga) when saying goodbye as it gives off a more casual vibe. The word 잘 (Jal) in Korean also means "Well", and so 잘가 (Jalga) basically means "Go well". 잘가요 (Jalgayo) is a slightly more polite form of 잘가 (Jalga), use it when you want to remain casual but polite.
Want More Practice in Korean?
- Basic Korean (Grammar Workbook) by Professor Andrew Sangpil Byon (변상필) is a useful workbook that you can use to practice your skills in basic Korean grammar points such as forming present and past tense sentences.
- Check out KoreanClass101.com, a website where you can learn Korean guided by native speakers through audio lessons. You can start learning anywhere from Beginner, Upper Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels to practice on listening, vocabulary lists, and grammar pointers to fast track your goal in becoming a pro in Korean!
- Talk To Me In Korean Level 1 is a useful self-study book designed for absolute beginners to embark on their self-study journey in learning Korean.
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