What is it? In Korean

In this lesson you will learn how to say “What is it?” – “It’s a (book)” in Korean. The key words and expressions you will learn are:

  • (mwo) – what
  • 뭐예요? (mwo-ye-yo?) – What is it?
  • 책이에요 (che-gi-e-yo) – It’s a book.

The Korean words in this lesson are written in both Hangul and English. If you’ve not yet learned how to read the Korean alphabet, check out our complete Korean alphabet guide to help you learn how to read in Korean.

Let’s look at these key words in more detail.

‘What is it?’ In Korean

(mwo) = what

The word for ‘what’ in Korean is . Click on the audio below to check how to pronounce this in Korean.

뭐 is not usually said on its own but rather forms part of a sentence such as ‘What is it?’

*You may hear it said on it’s own by Korean speakers or in K dramas but when 뭐 is said on it’s own it sounds quite rude and impolite.

뭐예요 (mwo-ye-yo?) – What is it?

To say ‘What is it?’ in Korean we say “뭐예요?

Click on the audio button below to check how to pronounce 뭐예요.

As you can see, 뭐예요 includes the polite ending ‘요’ (yo) so you can safely use this expression in most situations and you will sound polite.

뭐예요 is made up of 뭐 (what) + 예요 (is) = 뭐예요.

It’s A Book

To answer the question ‘What is it?’ in Korean you need to know how to say ‘It’s a

책이에요 (che-gi-e-yo) – It’s a book

First, listen to the audio below and try to say ‘It’s a book.’ in Korean.

This sentence is made up 책 (book) + 이에요 (is). As you can see, the sentence order in Korean is different to the sentence order in English.

In Korean the verb always comes at the end of the sentence. So, in Korean 책이에요 literally translates as ‘book is‘.

Another important thing to note is that in Korean there is no indefinite article (a/an). So, in English you say ‘It is a book.’, but in Korean there is no need to say ‘a’.

이에요 vs 예요

You may have noticed that in the sentences ‘뭐예요?‘ and ‘책이에요‘ 예요 and 이에요 look and sound very similar.

예요 and 이에요 are the same word and both mean ‘is’ in the sense of ‘is equal to’ in Korean. The one you use depends on whether or not the word that comes before 이에요 / 예요 is a vowel or a consonant.

예요

If the preceding syllable ends in a vowel then 예요 is used. In the question ‘뭐예요?’, 뭐 ends in a vowel (ㅝ) so 예요 is used. This is also the case when answering the question ‘What is it?’ in Korean by saying ‘It is ….’ If the syllable before 예요 / 이에요 ends in a vowel, then 예요 is used.

Here are some examples:

EnglishKoreanAudio
It’s a banana.바나나예요.
It’s an apple.사과예요.
It’s a school.학교예요.
It’s a T-shirt.티셔츠예요.

이에요

If the preceding syllable ends in a consonant then 이에요 is used. In the sentence ‘책이에요’, 책 ends in a consonant (ㄱ) so 이에요 is used.

Here are some more examples:

EnglishKoreanAudio
It’s a bag.가방이에요.
It’s a pencil.연필이에요.
It’s a cell phone휴대폰이에요.
It’s water.물이에요.

Review Quiz

Review what you have learned about how to ask and answer ‘What is it?’ in Korean with the review quiz below.