While living in Korea for five years, I encountered many English mistakes made by my Korean friends and students. Thus, in this article, I will review four very common mistakes that Koreans make when speaking English. I will also review how to correct these mistakes, provide helpful examples sentences and define typically confusing words and expressions. Let’s take a look.


Mistake #1: Funny vs. Fun 재미있어요


Incorrect: I had a funny time. 재미있었어요.


Correct: I had a fun time.




  • Funny 웃기다: Someone or something that makes you laugh, such as a comedian or jokes.


Example sentences:


  • I think Yu Jae Seok is really funny. I laugh so much when I watch his show.
  • I couldn’t stop laughing. His jokes are so funny.
  • It was quiet. We were standing in an elevator. Suddenly, the man next to me farted very loudly! It was so funny!




  • Fun 재미있다: Anything that is enjoyable, such as traveling, playing games or spending time with friends.


Example sentences:


  • It was fun to go to Seoul.
  • The kids played outside all day. They had a lot of fun.
  • That was a good baseball game. Did you have fun?


Mistake #2: Are you okay? vs. Is it okay? (괜찮나요?)


Incorrect: Are you okay to meet at 7pm? 7시에 만나는 것 괜찮나요?


Correct: Is it okay to meet at 7pm?

Correct: Is it okay with you to meet at 7pm?

Correct: Yes, it’s okay with me.




  • Are you okay? 괜찮나요?: This phrase is used to ask about a person’s feelings or health condition, due to a bad situation.


Example sentences: bad situation + are you okay?


  • I heard your mom passed away. Are you okay?
  • I didn't see you at work yesterday. Are you okay?
  • You're coughing a lot. Are you okay?




  • Is it okay? 괜찮나요?: This phrase is used to ask if someone agrees or approves of something.


Example sentences: Is it okay + action?


  • Is it okay if I introduce my friend to you?
  • Is it okay if I see you before you leave Korea?
  • Is it okay if we have dinner tomorrow night at 6pm?


Mistake #3: Play vs. Hang out 놀다


Incorrect: I played with my friends. 나는 친구들과 놀았다.


Correct: I hung out with my friends.




  • Play 놀다: What children do when they spend time together. This can also refer to participating in games or sports.


Example sentences:


  • The children were playing Hide and Seek.
  • We play soccer every Saturday morning at the park.
  • Lee Se Dol played chess against AlphaGo.




  • Hang out 놀다: When adults spend time together.


Example sentences:


  • Do you want to hang out tonight?
  • What did you do last weekend? I hung out with my friends.
  • Every Sunday, I hang out with my family.


Mistake #4: Promise vs. Plans 약속


Incorrect: I made a promise. 나는 약속이 있어요.


Correct: I have plans.




  • Promise 맹세하다: To pledge, swear or vow.


Example sentences:


  • I promised my mom that I would get good grades this semester.
  • I promise to wash the dishes every night.
  • I won't tell anyone your secret. I promise.




  • Plans 약속: Your intentions to do something in the future. This can be used in place of telling the other person exactly what you intend to do.


Example sentences:


  • I can't see you tonight. I have plans.
  • Do you have plans this weekend?
  • I have plans this Friday, but I’m free on Saturday.


In English, there can be four different types of plans:


  • Hang out 놀다
  • Appointment 예약하다
  • Meeting 회의하다
  • Company get-together 회식하다




  • Hang out 놀다하다: Spending time with friends, such as watching a movie, going to dinner or shopping.


Examples sentences:


  • Come to my house for dinner tonight. Then we can hang out.
  • I need to buy a dress for my sister’s wedding. Want to hang out and go shopping with me?
  • We can hang out after going to the cinema.




  • Appointment 예약하다: Visiting the doctor, dentist or hair salon. Not with friends.


Examples sentences:


  • I have a dentist/doctor appointment today.
  • My hairdresser appointment is at 7pm tonight.




  • Meeting 회의하다: When employees, their boss and/or other people get together in order to talk about work related topics. Not with friends.


Example sentences:


  • I will be home late. I have a meeting with my boss.
  • Every Monday at 3pm, the teachers and parents have a meeting with the school principal.  




  • Company get-together 회식하다: When colleagues have dinner and/or drinks together at a restaurant, bar or KTV (1, 2, 3).


Example sentences:


  • I can't cook tonight. I have a company get-together.
  • I’m going to a company get-together tonight. I’ll be home late.
  • I love going to company get-togethers because I get free food and drinks all night.


Key Points to Remember


  • Funny: Makes you laugh.
  • Fun: Enjoyable.


  • Are you okay?: Used to ask about someone in a bad situation.
  • Is it okay?: Used to ask about doing something.


  • Play: For kids, sports and games.
  • Hang out: For adults.


  • Promise: To vow.
  • Plans: Your intention to do something.


  • Hang out: To spend time with friends.
  • Appointment: A time to go to the doctor, dentist or hairdresser.
  • Meeting: A time to meet with a boss or co-workers, or to conduct business.
  • Company get-together: A time to have dinner and drinks with co-workers.


Thus, while certain concepts can be expressed with only one word in Korean (such as 재미있어요), there may be two separate words in English that are used to say the same thing (fun and funny). These may be tricky to remember. However, by consistently engaging in conversation with native English speakers, you’ll soon be able to learn them.


Image Sources


Hero Image by Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0)