Negative Question Usage

When asking questions in Korean, people use the negative form very often. For example, in Situation Dialogue 2, “ 고파?” (Bae angopa? = Are you not hungry?) is used where in English we would ask Are you hungry? (“ 고파? = Bae gopa? ”). When this is used, you should think of the question as if it were not in the negative form. Negative questions are used often because they are indirect and therefore less intimidating. Using the negative form often will make your Korean sound more natural.

Another aspect of negative questions that can be very confusing to non-native speakers of Korean is that when answering, the opposite occurs from what happens in English. If in English someone asks you Aren’t you hungry? You can respond by saying No, I’m not hungry but in Korean you would have to reply with Yes, I’m not hungry (, 고파 = Eo, bae angopa) because you are agreeing with the negation, i.e. agreeing that you are indeed not hungry. On the other hand, if you are hungry then you can reply with No, I’m hungry (아니, 고파 = Ani, bae gopa) which may sound very strange in English, but it is a correct and natural way to respond in Korean.

A good strategy for avoiding the “yes/no” problem is to just answer the question with a straight statement. For example, 고파 (Bae gopa = I’m hungry).

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  1. What do you mean by "Bab Meok Utseo?" in Korean?

  2. Anon> I assumed that you asked me "밥 먹었어?"=bab meogeosseo? which means "Have you eat?" or "did you eat?"