Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Idiom: Hang in there! 화이팅!

Kermit hang


Hang in there! is a great translation for *some uses of Fighting! (화이팅!)

In case you don’t already know this, Fighting! is Konglish. It is not used by native English speakers…unless they are super cool and learned it from a Korean!

Hang in there!

We say Hang in there! when we want to encourage someone when they are having difficulty with something. We could also say, Don’t give up! You can do it! However, Hang in there! is more common.

The message is: persevere, keep trying, continue and things will get better or easier.

Fighting! ≠ Cheer up!

Some people translate Fighting! to Cheer up! but this is inaccurate (not correct) in most cases.

We only use Cheer up! if someone is sad.

Being sad is different than struggling with something difficult or having to take a test. We wouldn’t say Cheer up! in these cases. However, Fighting! works well. If someone took a test and was sad because they did not do well, then you could say Cheer up! HoweverI rarely hear native speakers say Cheer up!

Also, telling someone to Cheer up! when they are sad can be annoying and insensitive. Sometimes people need time to feel sad without being told to Cheer up! They need encouragement and support, not a command to stop being sad.

snail hang

Hang in there! can be used as encouragement in both physical and mental situations.

It can be used during:

  • a difficult semester or during midterms and finals
  • a difficult hike or tiring walk up a hill or up many stairs
  • a marathon someone is struggling to complete
  • the final reps (repetitions) of a weight training session or a cardio workout
  • other strenuous exercise
  • a difficult time in a relationship or a breakup (end of a relationship)

It can be used when someone:

suneung fighting sign

  • is having a difficult time finding a job
  • is trying to complete a difficult task
  • failed to complete a goal, like getting a certain score on an important test →
  • feels overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do
  • is going through an emotionally challenging time
  • is waiting for something that will make them happier than they are

A quick Google Image search will show you how popular Hang in there! is in English.

Another Google Image search will show you that Fighting does not have the same meaning in English. It will also show you that Keep fighting! does have a similar meaning!

Our next idiom goes hand in hand with hang in there: The end is in sight!

I bee leaf in you! by Chibird

I just discovered this adorable artwork by Chibird! So cute! I love it!

Do you get it? I bee leaf in you! = I believe in you! 

*화이팅! seems to have many different meanings. When Koreans have said it to me, the context has always seemed to be the same as Hang in there!, but there are other ways it can be used. Here is a video with some other things you can say depending on the situation (explained in Korean).


Never stop learning!