안녕하세요! Koreanstudyjunkie입니다. A lot of my students have asked me before - what's the different between 무슨 and 뭐, so I decided it would probably help others to make a quick lesson explaining this.
What Does 무슨 even mean?
You've probably seen 무슨 be translated as "what", but it means a bit more than that. It's similar to "어떤", so the actual meaning is more along the lines of "what kind of" or "which".
It's usually used before a noun to say "what kind of NOUN" or "which NOUN".
무슨 음악을 들어요? = What (kind of) music are you listening to? / What (kind of) music do you listen to?
민수 씨는 무슨 음식을 좋아해요? = What kind of food does Minsu like?
팀 씨는 무슨 일을 해요? = What kind of job does Tim do?
타완 씨는 무슨 운동을 해요? = What kind of exercise does Tawan do?
그것은 무슨 책이에요? = What kind of book is this?
회화 - Dialogue:
A: 내일 우리 집에 저녁 먹으러 올래요?
B: 왜요, 무슨 날이에요?
A: 아뇨. 그냥 친한 사람들끼리 모이는 거예요.
A: Do you want to come over for dinner at my place tomorrow?
B: What's the occasion?
A: Nothing, just a get-together of close friends.
Literally 무슨 날 - what kind of day is it?
What's the difference between 뭐 and 무슨?
While they can both be translated as what, they are different. They can't be used interchangeably!
Difference Number One: FORM
뭐 is an adverb that is usually placed right before the verb in a sentence (OR it can be placed at the very beginning).
무슨 is called a "determiner" and as I said above, It's used before a noun. A noun is a person, place, or thing.
Difference Number Two: MEANING
As I said 무슨 means what (kind of) or which. Another way it could be translated is "whichever".
뭐 mainly means what. Although, you may see slightly different forms that have a different kind of meaning.
무엇 is the same as 뭐, except is just a longer version (usually regarded as more formal and often used in written Korean).
뭐 can also be translated as "something" or "anything" rather than just meaning "what". You may see or hear it as "뭔가".
Examples of 뭐:
뭐 들어요? = What are you listening to?
(More specific) 무슨 음악을 들어요? = What kind of music are you listening to?
뭐 먹어요? = What are you eating?
(More specific) 무슨 음식을 먹어요? = What kind of food are you eating?
뭐 마실래? = What do you wanna drink?
무슨 음료를 마실래요? = What kind of beverage do you wanna drink? / Which drink do you want?
오늘 오후에 뭐 할 거예요? = What will you do this afternoon?
이것은 뭐예요? = What is it?
뭐 때문에 그렇게 신났어? = What are you so excited?