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I've come to understand 괜찮아요 to mean "it's OK" (and that's how it's translated in Google Translate). However, I hear it used to turn down an offer, say, an of food.

When do I use this, instead of a more direct refusal?

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  • A: Method M is not good, would you try using method N instead? – Incredibly HandSome Samuel Aug 2 '16 at 5:42
  • B: It's OK. (Can mean NO) – Incredibly HandSome Samuel Aug 2 '16 at 5:42
  • When I was teaching in Korea, my students, upon being given homework, would often (in English) say 'aaah, that's OK!' which I took as a polite refusal - maybe they were directly translating from 괜찮아요? – topo Reinstate Monica Aug 2 '16 at 6:51
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Direct refusal is not considered polite among many Koreans. Many Koreans find it polite to say 괜찮아요 instead of "No!" in such occasions. Some Koreans will eat the food offered to them in an effort to be polite.

괜찮아요. = It’s okay (even if you don’t offer it to me).

괜찮습니다 . (same as above but more formal)

저는 괜찮습니다. = I’m good. / I’m okay. / I’m fine without it.

Here are some expressions for refusing in Korean: LINK

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Basically, 괜찮은(adjective) is good or fine, and 괜찮다/괜찮아(verb) means to be fine or to be okay.

Ex.1) 커피한잔 할래요? [Do you want some coffee?]

-Affirmative : [Yeah, That's good idea!]

네, 괜찮네요/괜찮아요/좋아요! (커피를 먹는 것이 괜찮아요/좋아요) -> 좋아요 is more often used but 괜찮아요 is rarely said.

-Negative : [No thanks, I'm fine]

아니요, 괜찮아요 (나는 지금 (커피를 먹지 않는)상태가 괜찮아요)

Let's see another example.

Ex.2) 커피한잔 안 할래요? [Why don't we get some coffee?]

-Affirmative : [Yes, that's great idea]

네/無, 괜찮네요/좋아요 -> I recommend you not using 괜찮아요.

-Negative : [No, I'm fine]

네/아니요, 괜찮아요

These are actual conversations Korean really do, and some Korean never use some of expression above that they feel awkward.

But what I want to say is, in these cases, rather than the grammar, accent and pause are so important for understanding.

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