How to say “why” in Korean – Wae (왜)?

How to say why in Korean

Why in Korean

“Why?” is one of the most important questions in any language. To express “why” in Korean, you use the word “wae” (왜), which you can then make more formal by adding the suffix “yo” (요) . But  let’s take a closer look shall we?



In Hangul:왜?


Pretty simple right? Everytime you just want to ask “why?” in Korean, just say “wae?” Be careful though! Make sure you only use this expression when talking to a close friend or someone younger than you. As an example, let’s look at how you would use this in a conversation:

(Two close friends)

Person A:

나는 그 사람이 싫어.

[ naneun geu saram-i shireo]

= I don’t like that person.

Person B:



= Why?



In Hangul:왜요?


The suffix yo (요) makes this expression more polite and makes it proper to use with people who are older than you or people you don’t know that well, or at all. (or if you are unsure, just use this one). Again, let’s take a look at how you would use this in a sentence.

(Two people who just met, they don’t know each other’s ages)

Person A:

저는 페이스북이 없어요.

[jeoneun peseu buki eobseoyo]

= I don’t have facebook.

Person B:



= Why?


How do I use it in a sentence?

While just simply asking “Why?” in Korean is pretty simple, you will often want to be able to use it in a sentence, asking questions like “Why do you…?” or making statements like “I don’t know why…”

In these cases, you only use wae (왜) and not wae-yo (왜요) (since yo (요) is only used at the end of a sentence). Since we already know the word, the best way is to look at some examples.


Ex 1:

왜 안가요? ?

[wae angayo?]

= Why aren’t you going?

Ex 2:

왜 사는지 모르겠다.

[wae saneunji moreugetta]

= I don’t know why I live.

Ex 3:

왜 그래?

[wae geurae?]

= What’s the problem (why are you like that?)

Ex 4:

왜 마음에 안들어?

[wae maeume andeureo?]

= Why don’t you like it?

Ex 5:



= Because… (lit. if you ask why…), used at a beginning of a sentence and followed by an explanation.


As you can see, you start the sentence (or the clause) with wae (왜), kind of like you would in English when asking “why…?” But even when you make a statement saying “I don’t know why…” you will still begin with “wae”(왜). Also, don’t worry if you feel like the examples are too complicated. Just take notice of how, and where, wae (왜) is used.

마음에 들다 – to like (something you encounter or experience for the first time)


This is pretty much all you need to know about how to  say ‘why’ in Korean. For more lessons like this one, please check out our Everyday Korean Archive. If you found this lesson helpful, please like or share! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below and we will do our best to help you out!

By: Kimchi Cloud

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