40. What Questions : 무엇 / 뭐

In this lesson, you will learn how make to make what questions with ‘what’ 무엇 or .

Korean What Questions img

What is -? : – 뭐예요?

뭐 means ‘what’ in Korean. 뭐예요 question uses ‘뭐’ as an object and native Koreans use 뭐예요 question when the subject is not identified or they really don’t know what the hell it is. You have to use 뭐예요 question especially with pronouns such as ‘this, ‘that’, ‘it’.

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Basic 해요 style Who Question
이건 토마토예요 이건 예요?
This is tomato What is this?


이건 예요?
This is what?
= What is this?


저 차는 예요?
That car is what?
= What is that car?


감자가 영어로 예요?
Potato is what in English?
= What’s potato in English?


가 이거야? (Wrong)
What is this? (Wrong)
= Sound unnatural or very aggressive.

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What Questions with 하다 Verb

하다 What question is used to say ‘What + do’ or ‘What + be + adjective’. But, you should use 뭐 as an adjective to say ‘be + adjective’.


Basic 해요 style Who Question
준씨는 한국어 가르쳐요 준씨는 가르쳐요?
Jun teaches Korean What does Jun teach?


준씨는 했어요?
Jun did what?
= Verb


What did (you) eat?
= Verb


가 이뻐요?
What’s beautiful?
= Be + Adjective

무엇 vs 뭐

무엇 and 뭐 are a same word. 뭐 is a shortened form of 무어 which means imperative ‘what’. 무엇 is more formal. 뭐 is more informal and native Koreans use it usually in a daily conversation.


Sometimes 뭐 sounds like a bit bitching because replying someone else ‘what’ can be rude in Korean. It’s similar to ‘Why’ can sound rude sometimes in English (but replying why isn’t rude much in Korean)


What Questions with 이다 Verb

무엇 + 이다 question means ‘What is something?’. However, it can also mean ‘which one is something’ too. Sometimes it sounds aggressive so it would be better to use 뭐예요 question for what question in Korean.


Basic 해요 style Who Question
우유예요 가 우유예요?
It’s milk What’s milk?


가 장난감이에요?
What is a toy?
= Be + Noun


가 효율적이에요?
What’s efficient?
= Be + Adjective


를 늘려야돼요?
What should (we/I/you) extend?
= Verb

뭐 as Which One

When you use 무엇(뭐) as a subject, it often means ‘which one’ although Korean language has an vocabulary for ‘which(어느)’ or ‘which one(어느것)’. You must be aware of this to avoid confusion in a conversation with native Koreans.


가 좋아요?
Which one is good?
= Be + Adjective (하다)


가 장난감이에요?
Which one is a toy?
= Be + Noun (이다)


가 효율적이에요?
Which one is efficient?
= Be + Adjective (이다)

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What Questions with 있다 Verb

있다 What questions are used to ask what’s in some place or what someone has something. When you use 뭐 with 있다, 뭐 is normally placed before a verb.


Basic 해요 style Who Question
감자는 여기 있어요 거기 있어요?
Here is potato What’s there?


거기에는 있어요?
What is in there?
= Location


준씨는 있어요?
What do you have, Jun?
= Possession


거기 있어요?
Is there something?
= 뭐 as something