Hello guys! Nice meeting all of you who are learning Korean!


I'm Ji Hye, but you can call me Sophie. Today I am going to teach you (or let you know) the five most common words found in Korean books.


We use these words in conversations, books, articles, and even in advertisements! You should learn Korean from these essential words first!


사람 , 때 , 말 , 일 , 집


It's only five words, so it won't take that long. :)


Let's get started!


1. 사람 - Person


Definition in Korean:


  • 생각을 하고 언어를 사용하며, 도구를 만들어 쓰고 사회를 이루어 사는 동물 (animals who can think, use languages to communicate, make tools, and gather as a societal group)
  • 됨됨이나 성질 (personality or characteristics in human beings)


How to read: saram


Listen to me reading it here.


In English, you can think of saram as an individual human being, especially with reference to his or her social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by culture. Saram is also individual as a human being and as a character.


Let's see some example sentences. We say 사람 saram is a person who lives somewhere and stays in a specific region, meaning:


  • 어떤 지역이나 시기에 태어나거나 살고 있거나 살았던 자.


When saying:


  • 서울 사람이에요 (I'm from Seoul)


Notice that Seoul is located in the very front of the sentence. Literally it means, I am a Seoul person. This also works for:


  • 한국 사람이에요


This means “I am a Korea person,” “I'm Korean,” or “I'm from Korea.” You can use it when you introduce yourself to other people.


Regarding personality, saram means the actual self or individual personality.


  • 인격에서 드러나는 됨됨이나 성질.


You could say 그는 사람이 참 괜찮다, meaning, “He is quite a fine person.” This means he's a good guy. But in Korean you say 사람 instead of “guy” haha.


  • 사람이 괜찮다 (that person is good or okay)
  • 사람이 좋다 (that person is good or nice)
  • 사람이 착하다 (that person is nice, kind, gentle)


Try using this sentence today to describe your best friend or partner! Say 너는 참 좋은 사람이야 (You are quite a nice person) to your Korean friends! Then tell me what happens in Korean. :)


2. 때 - Time


Definition in Korean:


  • 시간의 어떤 순간이나 부분 (an instance or single occasion of indefinite period)
  • 좋은 기회나 알맞은 시기 (a period of time considered as a suitable moment)


How to read: ttae


Listen to me reading it here.


Our next most popular word of all is . Most of the time stands for “when,” unlike the definition saying it means for time. You can understand this concept easily with examples. For instance,


  • 나는 방학 때 아르바이트를 한다


When we break this sentence down into little word units:


나는 - I am, I do,

방학 - vacation

- time, which you already know,

아르바이트 - part-time job

한다 - do, does


So it means, “I do part-time jobs when I'm on vacation.” See that? That's where ttae or is used.


In the image, more example sentences are:


  • 어릴 때 기억이 난다
  • 때가 이르다


For 어릴 때 기억이 난다, you should know by now that it means “when.” 어릴 때 is from 어리다 + 그때. 어리다 means “young,” “being young,” or “being a child.” Just like , 그때 is time. Therefore 어릴 때 means “when I was young,” or “when I was a child.”


기억이 난다 = 기억 + 나다


기억: you will see this word from Word of the Day very soon! :)


It's memory. 나다 means “come to,” or “reminds (me) of.” So as a whole, 어릴 때 기억이 난다 could be, “I can think of the time when I was young,” or “It reminds me of my childhood.”


And for 때가 이르다, it's very common way to say, “It's too early!” Here, means “proper time, suitable moment.”


When you watch TV shows or Korean dramas, they say this a lot. Especially when the boss is in his chair and something comes up. And they might say, 아직은 때가 일러! This means, “It's still too early!”

3. 말 - Word


Definition in Korean:


  • 생각을 표현하고 전달하는 수단 (a tool used to express and deliver one's thoughts and opinions)


How to read: mal


Listen to me reading it here.


If I say this, everyone will get confused, but here I go! can be translated to speech, language, and word! Ta-da!


Okay, let's see what's happening here by using this example:


  • 그건 무슨 말이야?


Let's break it down into pieces:


그건 - it

무슨 - what

- word

이야 - be


Therefore it means, “What does it mean?” or “What do you mean?” Notice you cannot find any “word” in the English sentence, but it genuinely is asking “What are you talking about?”


In this case, Korean uses as language, or words you are speaking.


Using a second example, we can see another very common definition for :


  • 그 사람은 말이 많다


- that, the

사람 - We just learned this! Do you remember?

- be

말이 - word

많다 - many, much, a lot


Guess what? It means, “That person talks too much,” or “He's a talkative person.” This case also doesn't quite have the English meaning for word: 말. But in Korean, represents an idea, or any concept that expresses language or speech.


4. 일 - Work


Definition in Korean:


  • 대가를 위해 하는 활동 (any worthwhile activity that a person does)
  • 이루려고 하는 대상 (something that a person does to achieve something)


How to read: il


Listen to me reading it here.


This is a pretty easy one to understand; it's used like the word “work” in English!


Let's see some example sentences:


  • 일 끝나고 전화할게!
  • 일은 잘 진행되고 있지?


The first one 일 끝나고 전화할게 means, “I will call you after work.” The second one 일은 잘 진행되고 있지? means, “Is your project (work) going well?” or “How's your work (progress)?”


These sentences are often used when you actually go to work. When your friend, wife, or husband calls you while you are at work, you might say, 일 끝나고 전화할게 (I will call you after work).


In the first example, 일 끝나고 전화할게, you can see:


- work

끝나고 = 끝나다 (finish, end) + 그리고 (and)

전화 - call, calling, phone

할게 - will (do)


When I translate this sentence in literally, il kkeut-na-go jeon-hwa-hal-geI, it means,After work, I will call you.”


The second example, 일은 잘 진행되고 있어? could be used by your boss or your wife (haha, that's me).


When somebody is asking you 일은 잘 진행되고 있어? (il-eun jal jin-haeng-doe-go iss-eo),

he or she is curious how your project, or work, is going and how far you've come along.


() - work

- well, good

진행되고 = 진행되다 (be in progress, go) + 그리고 (and)

있어 - be


So this means, “How is your work going?” or “How are you doing with your work?” Note that you wouldn't really ask someone older or of a higher social status than you; it would be considered a bit odd and perhaps even rude.


5. 집 - Home


Definition in Korean:


  • 사람이 살기위해 (살려고) 지은 건물 (a building meant to be lived in by people)
  • 가정을 이루고, 생활하는 집안 (a place in which one's domestic affections are centered)


How to read: jib


Listen to me reading it here.


I love this word and how it sounds, both in English and Korean. It gives me a bit of nostalgic feelings.


Anyway, as in the description, is 사람이 살기위해 (살려고) 지은 건물. It's basically a house. :)


If your Korean friends ask you, “Isn't it late? You should get going (home).” You can say to your friends, 아냐, 우리 집은 이 근처야: No, my house is right there/No, my home is near here (so you can stay longer).


When it means home as a house, it's .


Secondly, it also means 가정을 이루고, 생활하는 집안 which is a place in which one's domestic affections are centered. It's home, like the home you live in with your family and pets. You can say 집이 그리워. Here, 집이 그립다 is translated as “I miss home.” I used to say this a lot when I was in South Korea because I missed home in the US so much.


Does this word mean anything to you? :)


Now, one more bonus word for you for finishing reading this article!


6. 사랑 - Love


Definition in Korean:


  • 어떤 사람을 몹시 좋아함 (a passionate affection for another person)
  • 아끼고 돌보며 이해하려는 마음 (a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection)


How to read: sa-rang


Listen to me reading it here.


Love, the most universal word in the world, is one thing you should definitely know!


As mentioned in the definition of 사랑 (sarang), it is love; it can also be affection when used as a noun.


You can say 나 그 사람과 사랑에 빠졌어, which means “I am deeply in love with him/her.” The person is 그 사람 in Korean.


And another example is 사랑은 평화의 밑거름이다. It means, “Love is the foundation of peace.”




Today we learned the five most popular and commonly used words in the Korean language. They are the very first words that you should study when you start reading Korean books. And it's a good start for beginners getting to know Korean words!


Well, that's it for today. Thank you so much for reading this article!


If this article helped you, help me help you too! How else can I help you learn Korean? :)


You can read all of them + more at dinophia.com.


Image Sources


Hero image by ROK (CC BY-SA 2.0)