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How to Say "Happy Birthday" in Korean

In this article, we'll explore the various ways to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean. Learning how to wish someone a happy birthday in their native language is a thoughtful gesture that can make their day...

In this article, we'll explore the various ways to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean. Learning how to wish someone a happy birthday in their native language is a thoughtful gesture that can make their day even more special. Additionally, we'll also teach you how to sing the famous Happy Birthday song in Korean.

Three male friends celebrating a birthday Image: Three male friends celebrating a birthday

"Happy Birthday" in Korean

Maybe you have Korean friends or a Korean significant other, or perhaps you're planning a trip to Korea and want to make a good impression by learning some basic vocabulary. Regardless of the reason, knowing how to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean is a valuable skill.

Before we delve into the different ways to express "Happy Birthday" in Korean, let's watch this video to learn the pronunciation:

Click here to watch the video

"Birthday" in Korean

The word for "birthday" in Korean is 생일 (saengil). You can use this word when referring to your own birthday or the birthday of someone who is of a similar or younger age than you. However, when referring to the birthday of someone who is significantly older than you, you should use the word 생신 (saengsin) instead. This honorific version of "birthday" is used to show respect to elders, such as grandparents or older relatives.

Some other nouns and verbs also have honorific forms in the Korean language, including "age," "house," "to exist," "to eat," and "to sleep." Familiarizing yourself with these honorifics will further enhance your Korean language skills.

Now, let's move on to the fun part - learning how to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean.

How to Say "Happy Birthday" in Korean

Here are three ways to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean:

  • 생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsineul chukadeurimnida): This is the formal way to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean. It is used to show respect to someone who is much older than you.

  • 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida): This is the standard polite version of "Happy Birthday" in Korean. It can be used in most situations and is commonly seen on birthday cards.

  • 생일 축하해 (saengil chukahae): This is the informal/casual version of "Happy Birthday" in Korean. It is used among friends of the same age or with close family members.

Each phrase has a different level of formality, so it's important to use the appropriate version depending on who you are speaking to. Let's take a moment to appreciate the significance of these phrases with the help of this image:

Happy Birthday in Korean Explanation Image: Happy Birthday in Korean Explanation

"Happy Birthday" in Korean (formal)

If you want to convey your well wishes to someone who is significantly older than you, you should use the formal phrase 생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsineul chukadeurimnida). This phrase demonstrates utmost respect and uses the formal word for "birthday" in Korean.

Listen here: 생신을 축하드립니다! (saengsineul chukadeurimnida)

The verb used in this phrase is 축하하다 (chukahada), which means "to celebrate" or "to congratulate." It is combined with the verb 드리다 (deurida), which is the formal version of "to give." Using this formal version of "Happy Birthday" in Korean is a wonderful way to show respect to someone, such as your grandparents or university professor.

However, if the person you're congratulating is close to you and/or of the same age, it is more appropriate to use a less formal version of "Happy Birthday".

"Happy Birthday" in Korean (standard)

There are two standard ways to say "Happy Birthday" in Korean: 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) and 생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo). These versions are considered polite and can be used in most situations.

Listen here: 생일 축하합니다! (saengil chukahamnida)

Listen here: 생일 축하해요! (saengil chukahaeyo)

생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) and 생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo) are set phrases commonly used in various birthday celebrations. The only difference between them is that 합니다 (hamnida) is slightly more formal.

The word 축하합니다 (chukahamnida) in 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) means "to congratulate." You can use this word independently to congratulate someone on their achievements. These phrases should be your go-to expressions when learning how to wish someone a happy birthday in Korean.

"Happy Birthday" in Korean (informal)

The informal/casual version of "Happy Birthday" in Korean is 생일 축하해 (saengil chukahae). This version is used among close friends, young children, spouses, or siblings.

Listen here: 생일 축하해! (saengil chukahae)

This version is very similar to 생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo), with the difference being the omission of the final 요 (yo), making it more informal. Despite its informal nature, using this version appropriately shows a level of closeness that is absent in the more formal versions.

How to Write "Happy Birthday" in Korean

Here's how to write "Happy Birthday" in Korean:

  • "Happy Birthday" in Korean (formal) → 생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsineul chukadeurimnida)
  • "Happy Birthday" in Korean (standard) → 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) or 생일 축하해요 (saengil chukahaeyo)
  • "Happy Birthday" in Korean (informal) → 생일 축하해 (saengil chukahae)

Writing these phrases in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, will help you improve your Korean writing skills. Practice writing these greetings and let us know how you did in the comments section!

Birthdays in Korea

Now that you know how to say and sing "Happy Birthday" in Korean, let's explore the different beliefs, practices, and traditions associated with birthdays in Korea.

A family of five celebrating the daughter Image: A family of five celebrating the daughter

Korean Birthday Food

In Korea, it is customary for friends or co-workers to buy a birthday cake for the person celebrating their birthday. The cake is then shared and enjoyed together. When purchasing a cake, you may be asked how many candles (양초 - yangcho) you need, as candles and matches are usually included with the cake.

On their birthdays, Koreans often consume seaweed soup (미역국 - miyeokguk), as this dish is traditionally associated with pregnancy and is known to be rich in nutrients.

Korean Birthday Party

In Korea, a child's first birthday, known as 돌잔치 (doljanchi), is of great significance due to high infant mortality rates in the past. Parents would throw a grand celebration, inviting numerous guests to commemorate this milestone. If you live in Korea, you may be fortunate enough to be invited to such a party.

Korean Birthday Song

The Korean birthday song follows the same tune as the English version, with the only difference being the language used in the lyrics. Let's take a look at the lyrics of the Korean birthday song:

How to Sing Happy Birthday in Korean Image: How to Sing Happy Birthday in Korean

♩ ♪ ♫
생일 축하합니다
생일 축하합니다
사랑하는 (insert name) 씨
생일 축하합니다
♪ ♫
saengil chukahamnida
saengil chukahamnida
saranghaneun (insert name) ssi
saengil chukahamnida

Wrap Up

Now that you know how to say and sing "Happy Birthday" in Korean, why not write a birthday greeting as well? Understanding Korean sentence structure will make creating your own greeting easier. Practice writing these phrases today and share your experience in the comments section below. It's time to celebrate!

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