Greetings and farewells in Korean are quite interesting thanks to the common root of “annyeong” or 안녕. Because 안녕 literally means peace, when it combines with -haseyo, it means “Are you at peace?” While informal greetings and goodbyes usually consist of quick “안녕~”s without -haseyo’s and -hi-gaseyo’s and -hi-gyeseyo’s, it’s a must to learn the difference between them.
안녕 + 하세요 = peace + you do/please do
안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) is usually translated as “Hello” or just “Hi” but it is informal and 안녕 alone might be more suited for meaning an informal “Hi”. And if you’ve watched any k-dramas or know anything about Korean culture, you’ll know that bows often accompany greetings. Bow and say annyeonghaseyo! It’s all about respect. Be respectful and you’ll be respected.
안녕 + 히 가세요 = peace + you go
안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi-gaseyo) is what you say when you are staying and the other person is leaving. In Korean, the verb for “to go” is 가다 (kada). Thus, “go” is 가 (ka). Look at this goodbye again: 아녕히 가세요. Can you guess what it means? Go in peace. Annyeong-hi-gaseyo.
안녕 + 히 계세요 = peace + you stay
안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi-gyeseyo) is what you say when you are leaving and the other person is staying. What does it mean? Stay in peace.
알았어요? Just remember. Ka/ga for go. Annyeonghi-GAseyo. 안녕히 가세요. But do you remember “hello”? What are the two formal farewells? Let’s use a story to put things into perspective.
안녕하세요. Annyeonghaseyo – because you were walking through a huge grocery store looking determinedly for brussel sprouts so that you could burn them to release stress, and when you found them you shouted, “HA! 안녕하세요. AnnyeongHAseyo, you little sprouts!” Then you saw me running in the opposite direction because I was unnerved by the weird actions of a person speaking Korean to vegetables. What did you say to me? 안녕히 가세요! “Annyeonghi-GAseyo!” You said, because I was going (ka/ga = go) and you were staying. “안녕히 계세요! Annyeonghi-GYEseyo!” I shouted back to you over my shoulder, hoping desperately that you would STAY and not follow me home to burn brussel sprouts in my front yard.
Please check out Talk To Me In Korean’s lessons on the 3 annyeong’s:
And for a bit more learning, look at Greetings in Korean, courtesy of Rocket Languages.
Note: Informal Korean doesn’t necessarily use 안녕 all the time for greetings and farewells. While an always safe and natural fallback, 안녕 is just the tip of the ice berg. Do you always tell your friends “Bye” when you’re leaving and “Hello” when you’re arriving? No. You say things like “What’s up”, “Catcha later,” “Hey,” “See ya,” “Hallooooo~” and any other variation. Once you get the 3 annyeong’s down, learn some other ways of greeting and goodbye-ing – it’ll be great for your vocabulary and make you sound more natural when speaking informally with friends.