How to Say ‘Life’ in Korean

What is the meaning of life? Depending on your beliefs, this could vary. But let’s not get into deep topics like that here 🙂

Today, we’re covering five words that convey ‘life’ in Korean. Each one has a slightly different nuance and is used differently from one another. If you mistakenly use one meaning when you were supposed to use another, most Koreans will understand what you’re saying. However, you want to be as accurate as possible in order to get better at the language.

So let’s get started with today’s words!

인생 (in-saeng)

This word for life can only refer to the life that humans live. It can’t be used when referring to animals or plants. So for our example above, if you were talking about the purpose or meaning of life, then 인생 would be used. Let’s take a look at some example sentences.

내 전체 인생은 엉망이야. (nae jeon-che in-saeng-eun eong-mangi-ya) = My entire life is a mess.

다시 니 인생을 책임져 (da-si ni in-saeng-eul chaek-im-jyeo) = Take charge of your life again.

그녀는 내 인생의 전부이다. (geu-nyeo-neun nae in-saeng-ui jeon-bu-i-da) = She’s my whole life.

나는 인생을 허비하고 있다. (na-neun in-saeng-eul heo-bi-ha-go i-tta) = I am wasting my life.

삶 (sam)

If you want to think of life as an idea or the act of being alive, then this version of the word would be appropriate. Here are some example sentences for this word:

누가 그런 을 살 수 있을까? (nu-ga geu-reon sam-eun sal su i-sseul-kka) = Who can live such a life?

나는 의 방관자가 되었다. (na-neun sam-ui bang-gwan-ja-ga dwi-eot-ta) = I became a spectator of life.

행복한 은 평범한 이다. (haeng-bok-han sam-eun pyeong-beom-han sam-i-da) = A happy life is a simple life.

나의 의 열정은 축구이다. (na-ui sam-ui yeol-jeong-eun chuk-ku-i-da) = My passion in life is football.

생활 (saeng-hwal) 

This word for life is related to the actions and what someone does while they are alive. So if you were training to be an Olympic athlete for swimming, and you practiced swimming every day, then you could say swimming is your 생활. Here are some example sentences:

결혼 생활은 어때? (gyeol-hon saeng-hwal-eun eo-ttae) = How is married life?

너무 바른 생활 했어요? (neo-mu ba-reun saeng-hwal hae-sseo-yo) = Do you lead a disciplined life?

저의 학교생활은 엄청 좋아요. (jeo-ui hak-gyo-saeng-hwal-eun eom-cheong jo-a-yo) = My school life is very good.

제가 생활을 할 수 있습니다. (je-ga saeng-hwal-eul hal su i-sseum-ni-da) = This is how I make my living.

생명 (saeng-myeong) 

Think of this word as more of a “life force” meaning. The reason or drive for someone to go on living, or the strength and power the drives a person or animal to live. Let’s take a look at some examples for this word.

생명력이 참 긴 사람이죠. (saeng-myeong-nyeok-i cham gin sa-ram-i-jyo) = He is full of vitality.

물이 생명에 엄청나게 중요한 거잖아요. (mul-i saeng-myeong-e eom-cheong-na-ge jung-yo-han geo-jan-a-yo) = Water is really important for our health.

지난 밤에 당신은 나의 생명을 구했어요. (ji-nan bam-e dang-sin-eun na-ui saeng-myeong-eul gu-hae-sseo-yo) = You saved my life last night.

그 상처는 생명에 위협적이지 않았다. (gue sang-che-neun saeng-myeong-e wui-hyeop-jeok-i-ji a-ntta) = The wound was not life-threatening.

목숨 (mok-sum) 

Our last and final word refers to the act of breathing and its importance to living. Think of it as referring to the basic function of living. Let’s look at some sentences for our last word.

나는 네 목숨을 구해주고 싶다. (na-neun mok-sum-eul gu-hae-ju-go sip-da) = I want to save your life.

사람들은 목숨을 잃을까봐 두려워하고 있다. (sa-ram-deul-eun mok-sum-eul il-eul-kka-bwa du-lyeo-weo-ha-go i-tta) = People are in fear of their lives.

내 아이들은 내 목숨과 같다. (nae a-i-deul-eun nae mok-sum-gwa ga-tta) = My children are my life.

목숨을 걸어. (mok-sum-eul geo-leo) = Risk your life.

Hope you enjoyed this post and learned something new! These may be confusing at first, and the usages may sound similar, but with practice, you will pick up when to use them easily.

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