How to Say “What to Eat” in Korean: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to say “What to eat” in Korean! Whether you’re planning to visit Korea or simply want to impress your Korean friends, knowing how to inquire about food options is essential. In this guide, you will learn both formal and informal ways to ask this question, as well as some useful tips and regional variations. Let’s dive right in!

Formal Ways to Say “What to Eat” in Korean

If you are in a formal setting or speaking to someone older or of higher status, it is important to use respectful language. Here are some ways to ask about what to eat formally:

1. 뭐 드시겠어요? (Mwo deu-si-ge-seo-yo?)

This is a polite and formal way to ask “What would you like to eat?” The verb 먹다 (meok-da) means “to eat,” but it is replaced with 드시다 (deu-si-da) to show respect. Use this when speaking to someone older or in a formal business context.

2. 뭐 먹고 싶으세요? (Mwo meok-go si-peo-se-yo?)

In this phrase, 싶다 (si-da) is attached to the verb 먹다 (meok-da) to express a desire. This sentence means “What do you want to eat?” and is a polite way to ask for food preferences in a formal context.

Informal Ways to Say “What to Eat” in Korean

When speaking to friends, family, or people of similar age or status, you can use informal language. Here are a few common phrases to ask about what to eat casually:

1. 뭐 먹을래? (Mwo meo-geul-lae?)

This informal question means “What do you want to eat?” It is commonly used among friends and is suitable for casual conversations or informal settings.

2. 뭐 먹을까? (Mwo meo-geul-kka?)

A slightly more casual way to ask “What should we eat?” or “What do you feel like eating?” which can be used among friends or people you are comfortable with.

Tips for Politeness and Cultural Considerations

While understanding the different ways to ask “What to eat” in Korean is useful, it is equally important to consider cultural nuances and show politeness in your conversations. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use honorifics: When speaking to someone older or in a formal setting, use the -세요 (se-yo) ending or the appropriate honorifics to show respect.
  2. Politeness matters: Koreans place high importance on politeness, so always remember to use polite speech endings such as -세요 (se-yo) or -십시오 (sip-si-o) when necessary.
  3. Non-verbal cues: In addition to your words, pay attention to your body language and gestures as they can contribute to the overall respectful tone of your conversation.
  4. Consider the occasion: If you are in a formal dining situation or at a restaurant, it is considered polite to defer to the opinions of older or higher-status individuals when choosing what to eat.

Regional Variations

The Korean language has some regional variations in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. However, when it comes to asking “What to eat,” the phrases mentioned earlier are widely understood across different regions in Korea. It is worth noting that some regional dialects may have alternate ways to express this question, but for general purposes, the phrases provided should suffice.


To help you better understand the usage of these phrases, here are a few examples:

  1. Friend 1: 점심에 뭐 먹을래? (Jeom-sim-e mwo meo-geul-lae?)
    Friend 2: 피자 먹자! (Pi-ja meok-ja!)
    Friend 1: What do you want to eat for lunch?
    Friend 2: Let’s eat pizza!
  2. Parent: 저녁에 뭐 드시고 싶으세요? (Jeo-nyeok-e mwo deu-si-go si-peo-se-yo?)
    Child: 제일 좋아하는 치킨 먹고 싶어요. (Je-il jo-a-ha-neun chi-kin meok-go si-peo-yo.)
    Parent: What would you like to eat for dinner?
    Child: I want to eat my favorite chicken.

Remember to use these examples as a reference to enhance your understanding of the phrases and their context. Feel free to adapt them to your specific situations!

Now armed with various ways to ask “What to eat” in Korean, you are ready to navigate culinary adventures in Korea or impress your Korean friends with your language skills. Enjoy exploring the delicious Korean cuisine!

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