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How To Ask Questions In Korean | korean question words

Updated: Sep 1, 2023


We’ll go over the most basic and easiest way to do it and then the most confusing, which is actually using the question words to form your own question. You should be familar with sentence structure first to understand this well. I have another post on it on my page.


The first way is to simply turn a normal sentence into a question by raising your intonation at the end of it. Like when you ask a question in English your voice goes up a little at the end of the sentence.


하교에 가요. (I am going to school.)


학교에 가요? (Are you going to school?)


The sentence doesn’t change, but the way you read it does. You can try it by reading these out loud or in your head above.


The Question Endings:

~ 입니까? / 습니까?

~니?

~ 나요?


The next way to ask questions is to simply attach one if these.


The formal high respect ~습니다 is never used as a question. When asking a question in this form, instead of using ~습니다 you must use ~ㅂ/습니까. ~ㅂ니까 gets added directly to stems ending in a vowel, and ~습니까 gets added after a stem ending in a consonant. You can do this with all tenses.


Past Tense: 았/었/했습니까

Present Tense: 았/었습니까 / 합니까

Future Tense: 겠습니까 | ㄹ 것입니까 / ㄹ 겁니까


When asking a question, instead of ending your sentences with ~아/어, you can end them with ~니. This is an informal way to ask a question, and you can do this in all tenses.


For example:

Past tense: 했니, 먹었니, 갔니, 이었니

Present tense: 하니, 먹니, 가니, 이니

Future tense (~겠): 하겠니, 먹겠니, 가겠니

Future tense (~ㄹ 것이다): 할 거니, 할 것이니, 먹을 거니, 먹을 것이니


You can use ~나(요) at the end of a sentence to ask a question also. It can be used to make a question sound slightly softer than the other ways to ask a question. However, ~나(요) is more often used with verbs and with 있다 and 없다.

It is possible to use this in the future tense, but it only sounds natural when applying it to the ~겠다 future conjugation. Adding ~나(요) to 이다 is typically not done, and therefore adding it to words that are conjugating using ~ㄹ/을 것이다 is unnatural.


The most confusing one:

I’ll only cover the very basics in this post, but it can become more complex. Incase you don’t know the question words here is a list of basic Korean question words (What, when, where, who and why)


뭐 - what

언제 - when

어디 - where

누구 - who

왜 - why

어떻게 - how


Depending on which question word you are using, building a question can be really easy or really confusing.


Most question words are adverbs, which means it can be used/placed as an adverb in sentences. Adverbs can be used almost freely in sentences and technically do not have any specific location that they need to be used.


The most common position for these adverb-question words is before the verb. If there are other adverbs in the sentence (including the negative “안”) the question word is usually placed first. You may see these question words put at the end of a sentence as well.


Examples:

왜 늦었어요?

Why are you late?

한국에 언제 왔어요?

When did you come to Korea?

내 신발이 어디 있어요?

Where are my shoes?


오늘 오후에 뭐할 거예요?

What are you going to do[your plans for] this afternoon?


어떻게 알았어요?

How did you find out?


In Korean, 누구 has the function of a pronoun. 누구 can be used in the place of a noun in a sentence – that is, it can be used to replace the object, the subject or as a noun before 이다.


This is the same in English – as you can see in the following three examples:

Who will study Korean tomorrow?

– ‘who’ is the subject of the sentence


Who will you meet tomorrow? –

'who’ is the object of the sentence -“you” is the subject


Who is that person? = ‘who’ is ‘that person’ in the sentence


Examples:

누구를 만났어요? - who did you see/meet?

승규 씨가 누구입니까? - Who is Seung Kyu?

Some question words can be used as pronouns instead which makes it more complicated. They can also bounce around a sentence and be placed pretty much anywhere.



 

Remember the rule: before a verb - if you ever get overwhelmed.


Theres’s another ending i didn’t cover in this post : ㄴ가요? | It functions the same as -나요?


That's all for this post and I hope it helped you at least a little bit. But if you had a hard time understanding my explanation, I always recommend you use multiple resources. So don't stop here! The internet is full of free resources for you to use.


Follow me on Instagram: @koreanstudyjunkie to see a lot more free content about stuff like this


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