‘What’ is always a keyword in a language, and important to growing your vocab and skills but there are actually multiple ways to say ‘What’ in Korean! Which one you use depends on the information and the words’ location in a sentence. Don’t worry though, I’ll run through all this simply and give examples to help you master what you need to know.


5 Different Ways to Say What in Korean - 무엇/뭐

1. 무엇/뭐

뭐 and 무엇 are probably the ‘What’ you’ll hear the most when starting to learn Korean. But 뭐 is a shortened version and casual form of 무엇. 무엇/뭐 can be used when the subject is unidentified, and should not be used in front of nouns. So for example you cant say “뭐 노래”.

Examples of 무엇/뭐:

이거 예요?: What is this?
이름이 예요?: What’s your name?
좋아해요?: What do you like?
무엇을 먹을까?: What should we eat?


2. 어떤

어떤 comes from 어떻다 and can be used for questions about both objects and people. It’s used more when you want more information or to specify; from a name, type/genre, description, and more. It’s similar to asking “What kind of —?” where the possible answers are more limited and specific.

Examples for 어떤:

친구는 어떤 사람이에요?: What kind of person is your friend?
어떤 영화를 보고 싶어요?: What type of movie do you want to watch?
어떤 노래를 좋아해요?: what kind of songs do you like?


3. 무슨

무슨 is similar to 어떤 and is used before a noun in a question. 무슨 is used for clarification, typically when you don’t have an idea. Compared to 어떤, the options for the answer are more limited.

When to use 무슨:

무슨 생각해?: What are you thinking about?
오늘 무슨 요일이에요?: What day is it today?
무슨 일이에요: What’s the matter?
무슨 노래를 좋아해요?: What song do you like?


So you can see in my examples for “— 노래를 좋아해요” adding 무슨 vs 어떤 has different nuances to it! If you compare “— 영화를 보고 싶어요” adding 무슨 has the meaning more directly asking for a movie title, while 어떤 is asking for a genre or type of movie.


4. 어느

어느 mostly means which but is used to mean ‘What’ in Korean as well. If you’re using 어느 you already have options in mind and are asking between them.


어느 Usage Examples:

어느 나라 사람이에요?: What country are you from? (Which country person are you?)
어느 색깔이 더 좋으세요: Which color do you like better?
둘 중에 어느 게 더 좋아요? Between the two, which one do you like more?
어느 쪽으로 가요?: What way are you going?


5. 몇

Finally, 몇 is just used with numbers and counting. While it doesn’t always mean ‘What’ in Korean, it’s used like ‘What’ in certain cases.

Examples for 몇:

시가 가장 좋으세요?: What time works best for you?
지금 시예요?: What time is it?
분이세요?: How many people? (for example: it’s used a lot at restaurants, asking how many people in your group)


Getting to know the right way to say ‘What’ and asking questions is a big step and part of leveling up your Korean! I Hope I helped you better understand 뭐 vs 어떤 vs 무슨 vs 어느 vs 몇, and the examples set you on track to asking questions yourself.




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