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How do you translate ‘eat’ into Korean?

Hi Hyunwoo here. I hope everybody is having a wonderful day and enjoying your Korean studies. Some might think there’s enough variety to the list of categories on this blog already, but I’ve just added one more category to it. And as you can see, it’s about how to translate certain words or phrases between English and Korean - sometimes from English to Korean, and other times, the other way around.

I’d like to start with a very basic word describing a very important behavior, which, however, is not translated very correctly all the time.


It’s  ‘to eat.’

What’s the Korean word for it? It’s very easy. 먹다.

But the thing is, when you use it in a sentence, you always need an object noun. So for example, if you want to say “I’m eating pizza.” you can say 피자 먹고 있어요. (I’ll write all the Korean sentences in the standard polite level) and if you want to say “I’m eating lunch.” you can say 점심 먹고 있어요.

But what if you want to say,

“I’m eating.”


“Don’t talk while you’re eating.”


“I eat slowly.”

how would you translate these sentences into Korean?

Most people would go,

저는 먹고 있어요.

먹을 때 이야기하지 마세요.

저는 천천히 먹어요.

While these sentences above are all correct grammatically, they are all missing something. When Korean people use the verb 먹다, they always like to add a noun - an object.  So it’s always “something + 을/를” 먹다. So the sentences above would become more natural by changing them to:

저는 밥(을) 먹고 있어요.

밥  먹을 때 이야기하지 마세요. or 음식 먹을 때 이야기 하지 마세요.

저는 밥을 천천히 먹어요. or 저는 음식을 천천히 먹어요.

So please remember not to use the verb ‘to eat’ on its own in a sentence in most cases, and add 음식, 밥, 점심, 저녁, 아침 or any other noun for food when you use the verb 먹다. And when you want to ask your friend “Have you eaten?” don’t ask “먹었어?” but please ask “밥 먹었어?”

Thanks for reading!

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