What Koreans Say Before Eating

If you know anything about Korea, you know that eating is a huge part of Korean culture and life in Korea. Eating is often a shared experience with family or friends where people would share a table and share food. Unlike in western culture where each person would just get a plate of food, in Korea, usually, there are lots of shared dishes and side dishes that people enjoy together.

Before eating, you will notice that Koreans often say certain things to each other to be polite. In this post, you’ll learn what Koreans say before eating and how to naturally use these expressions to sound polite while eating Korean food with your Korean friends and family.

So, What Do Koreans Say Before Eating?

잘 먹겠습니다.

The most common expression you will hear Koreans say before eating is 잘 먹겠습니다 (jal meo-kket-ssum-ni-da). 잘 먹겠습니다 translates as ‘I will enjoy this food.’ in English. Koreans say 잘 먹겠습니다 before eating to show appreciation to the person who made/bought/prepared the food and to show others they are eating with that they are happy to be eating together. Let’s look at how this expression is made.

= well
먹다= to eat
= an ending which expresses intention or will.
(스)ㅂ니다 = formal ending.
잘 먹겠습니다 = I will eat well / I will enjoy this food.

잘 먹겠습니다 uses the formal ending (스)ㅂ니다 and so this expression can be safely used in any situation before eating and you will sound polite and respectful.

잘 먹을게요.

잘 먹을게요 (jal meo-geul-ge-yo) is another way to say ‘I will eat well’ that Koreans say before eating. Let’s look at how this expression is made.

= well
먹다 = to eat
(으)ㄹ게요 = a future tense ending used in the first person to express the intention/will of the speaker
잘 먹을게요. = I will eat well. / I will enjoy this food.

As you can see, both of these expressions roughly translate as “I will enjoy this food.” and are said before Koreans eat a meal. 잘 먹을게요 includes the polite ending ‘‘, and so this is the polite way to say ‘I will enjoy my food.’ in Korean. 잘 먹겠습니다, on the other hand, is the formal way. Both expressions can safely be said before eating food in Korea and you will sound polite. The only difference is that 잘 먹겠습니다 sounds more polite, formal, and respectful.

맛있게 드세요.

Before eating, you may also hear some Koreans say 맛있게 드세요 (ma-sit-kke deu-se-yo). 맛있게 드세요 literally means “Please eat deliciously.” but roughly translates as “Please enjoy your food.”. It is similar to the French expression “Bon Appetit.”. Let’s look at how this expression is made.

맛있게 = adverb meaning ‘deliciously’
드세요 = please have / please eat

This expression is used a little differently than the previous two expressions. 잘 먹겠습니다 and 잘 먹을게요 are both first-person statements. 맛있게 드세요 on the other hand is an imperative sentence that you say to others to tell them to enjoy their food.

많이 드세요.

많이 드세요 (ma-ni deu-se-yo) is another expression you might hear Koreans say before eating and is similar to the previous expression. 많이 드세요 literally means “Please eat a lot.” but again roughly translates as “Please enjoy your food.”

많이 = adverb meaning ‘much’
드세요 = please have / please eat

What Do Koreans Say After Eating?

잘 먹었습니다.


After finishing a meal, you will often hear Koreans say 잘 먹었습니다 (jal-meo-geot-ssum-ni-da) which means “I ate well.” As you can see, this expression is the same as the one Koreans say before eating, but it is in the past tense. For a review of how to make the past tense, check out our lesson on the Korean past tense.


Pronunciation Practice

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