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Korean Pronouns: The 3+ Easy Types

Korean Pronouns

Are you interested in learning Korean pronouns and their conjugations? Fortunately, you can learn Korean pronouns quickly, as it is not as complicated as the rules in other foreign languages. This blog has all the information that you need about Korean pronouns, so let’s dive in!

Mastering the Korean language? It takes effort and daily practice to memorize the grammar rules and vocabulary. Yet, it’s also essential to go through parts of speeches, especially Korean pronouns. This blog will walk you through all the types of pronouns in the Korean language and teach you how to use each of them to spice up your language skills.

Korean Grammar

Pronouns play a massive role in Korean grammar since they are used to talking about someone without knowing much about them. However, the role is limited because in grammar (colloquial and oral mostly), Koreans tend to form sentences without using pronouns. They do not always need pronouns to refer to someone.

Shocking right? And you might wonder, “How do they know what/ whom the people are talking about?” Well, the answer is short and straightforward: “context.” The context of a sentence helps Korean people know who/ what they are talking about.

For example, when we say “she did that” in a group of people, everyone gets whom we are talking about, right? That’s all because of the context. Context is the situation that occurs at a certain time and can be used as a reference to get the entire story/ picture. The Korean language is majorly based on context. There are many things that they omit or add to their sentences based solely on the context. Nevertheless, it is equally important to know and use Korean pronouns where needed.

Polite Form

Before diving into the complexities of the Korean language, it is important to know that, unlike the English language, there are different ways to address people. Polite ways and non-polite ways are a part of spoken Korean culture. Native speakers use polite speech (formal language) while speaking to individuals of a higher position professionally (boss, lawyer, etc.) and culturally (mother, grandfather, etc.). These are present in both written form and spoken form.

Korean Personal Pronouns

There are three main types of Korean personal pronouns: first-person, second-person, and third-person. These three types have both singular and plural forms. The first-person pronouns give an idea about the person talking in a particular conversation: “I” a person is talking about people with them, then they can use “we.”

Second-person pronoun means the pronoun which is used to refer to the person that one is talking to, which is “you” in English for both singular and plural. The third-person pronoun is used to talk about someone or something which is not present at the moment. For instance, he, she, it, etc.

Here are a few of the personal pronouns in Korean:

  • I – 나 (na)
  • You – 너 (neo)
  • He – 그 (geu)
  • She – 그녀 (geu nyeo)
  • We – 우리 (uri)
  • They – 그들 (geu deul)

Let’s learn more in details below.

Korean Pronouns First Person

First Person Pronouns

There are two ways to talk about oneself in singular pronouns first-person, 저 (jeo) and 나 (na). These are the two most commonly used words. The first one, 저 (jeo), is a formal tone pronoun. This means that while talking to anyone with whom you are supposed to use honorifics and polite manners, then you should use 저 (jeo).

나 (an), on the other hand, needs to be used while talking to someone who is close to you, younger than you, or the same age as you. This informal pronoun should never be used with older people and strangers (especially your age or older) since it can offend them.

In first-person plural pronouns, two words are used 저희 (jeo hui) and 우리 (u ri). The first pronoun 저희 (jeohui) is the polite form of the pronoun, while the second 우리 (uri) is the informal form.

Second Person Pronouns

In the second-person form, there are two words in Korean: 당신 (dang sin) and 그대 (geudae). It refers to the person/ persons spoken to and has different forms (both formal and informal).

To talk to someone in a polite way or formal tone in Korean, 당신 (dangsin) is the most common word used by Korean speakers. Another formal word for “you” is 그대 (geudae). This word is not as common as 당신 (dangsin), and there are very few people who use this word. Mainly the use of 그대 (geudae) can only be found in songs or poetry.

While talking informally to someone, 그쪽(geujjog) and 너 (neo) are used. There are different arguments about which one to use in what situations. The other Korean pronoun for second-person 너 (neo) is usually widely accepted and generally heard while talking to someone informally in Korean.

However, if you do not know someone and are unsure if you can already use the informal tone, then 그쪽(geujjog) is the best option for you. Since it is polite and can be used for people around your age or even younger, these are the second-person singular forms.

To make the second person plural form of each word, you can add 들 (deul) for formal and 희/ 네 (hui/ ne) for informal. So according to this rule 당신 (dangsin) and 그대 (geudae) will become 당신들 (dangsin-deul) and 그대들 (geudae-deul).

With the same rule applied, 너 (neo) becomes 너네 (neo ne) and 너희(neo hui) and both can be used for informal. These can be roughly translated to you guys or ya’ll. All of these have the same meaning but different use.

Note* Among married couples, it is seen that the pronoun 당신 (dangsin) is used to be polite with each other and show a nice, kind, and loving gesture. So if you plan to marry a Korean person, make sure to learn all about this pronoun.

Third Person Pronouns

There are three most common third-person singular pronouns: 그 (geu), 그녀 (geunyeo), and 그것 (geugeos). The first on 그 (geu) is used to address a male third person i.e he. 그녀 (geunyeo) is used to talk about a female third-person singular i.e she. 그것 (geugeos) is used for any object/ animal that a person is talking about i.e it.

The terms for the plural of third-person forms are 그들 (geudeul) and 그녀들 (geunyeodeul). The first one, 그들 (geudeul), is used to refer to a group of males while the second one, 그녀들 (geunyeodeul), is used to refer to a group of females.

Korean Interrogative Pronouns

Different Korean interrogative pronouns can be used to ask questions. Here is a table that provides a guide to those pronouns. Here is a table with the most common Korean question words/ interrogative pronouns:

Interrogative English PronounsInterrogative Korean Pronouns
What뭐 (mwo)
Where어디 (eodi)
How many몇 (myeot)
How어떻게 (eotteoke)
Why왜 (wae)
What (kind of)무슨 (museun)
What kind of어떤 (eotteon)
How much얼마 (eolma)
Who누구 (nugu)
When언제 (eonje)
How many/ much/ long얼마나 (eolmana)
Which어느 (eoneu)

To learn more about them, please check out our blog on Korean question words.

Other Words

You might be wondering how you can talk politely about someone without taking their name and using the words you, he and she, etc. Here are some ways that you can do it.

씨 (Ssi)/ 님 (Nim)

In Korea, it is common to refer to someone by a certain title or name that they have. Two words can be used in this regard 씨 (ssi) and 님 (nim).

There is a difference in the usage of these two terms. The 씨 (ssi) is used when you are referring to someone (or talking about someone) using their name. For instance, if you know a person names 김남준 (gimnamjun), you can call them 김남준 씨 (gimnamjun ssi). This only shows that you are giving them some respect.

The second-word 님 (nim) is used when you are talking to someone (or talking about someone) using their job/ occupation title. For instance, you could be talking to a lawyer and use the words 변호사님(byeonhosanim). 님 (nim) is a level higher than 씨 (ssi) in honorifics.

It is important to use the formal tone/ polite tone with people while talking to them using 씨 (ssi) and 님 (nim) because these are two honorifics.

Using Kinship Terms

In Korea, people are connected to each other. They give extreme importance to the relations among each other, and this is an Asian phenomenon since most Asian countries tend to do this. While going to a market/ other places, people tend to address each other using various kinship terms, e.g., brother, uncle, aunt, etc.

Here is a table for you to remember some common kinship terms to refer to someone in an informal or even slightly formal setting:

Kinship TermsRomanized PronunciationsEnglish TranslationExplanations
언니eonniSisterThis is a term that usually the girls use to address women who are older than them.
오빠oppaBrotherThis is a term that usually the girls use to address men who are older than them.
누나nunaSisterThis is a term that usually the boys use to address women who are older than them.
hyeongBrotherThis is a term that usually the boys use to address men who are older than them.
아가씨agassiMissIf there is a complete stranger then you can use this term to address them. It can be used for any young girl.
아줌마ajummaMadameFor a middle aged woman, you can use this. This however might offend them so only use if you are sure that she is okay with being called like that.
아주머니ajumeoniMadamA good alternative for the middle aged women which might not offend them since it is relatively more polite.
아저씨ajeossiMisterFor a middle aged man, or older man this term should be used. Calling a young boy using this term can offend them so the use should only be for someone who is a lot older than you.
할머니halmeoniGrandmaTo refer to very old women, this can be used. This will not offend an extremely old woman since they usually have accepted the truth about their age.
할아버지hal-abeojiGrandfatherThis term can be used for a very old man.

Adding 님 (nim) to 형 (hyeong) makes it more formal.

 

Subject Pronouns

The subject pronouns in Korean are not the same as other pronouns. There are two ways to write each pronoun: in the form of subject and in the form of topic. Subject in a Korean sentence is written at the start of the sentence. It is usually marked with a topic marker “이/가” or a subject marker “은/는” with the nouns as subject to be specific.

Here is a table for you to learn all the pronouns as the topic of the sentence as well as the subject of the sentence:

Pronouns as the subjectPronounsPronouns as the subjectPronouns as the topic
저 (jeo)I (Polite form)저는 (jeoneun)제가 (jega)
나( na)I (Informal form)나는 (naneun)내가 (naega)
저희 (jeohui)We (polite)저희는 (jeohuineun)저희가 (jeohuiga)
우리 (uri)We (informal)우리는 (urieun)우리가 (uriga)
당신들 (dangsindeul)You (Polite)당신들은 (dangsindeuleun)당신들이 (dangsindeuli)
그대들 (geudaedeul)You (Polite)그대들은 (geudaedeuleun)그대들이 (geudaedeuli)
너희 (neohui)You (Informal)너희는 (neohuineun)너희가 (neohuiga)
자네 (jane)You (Informal)자네는 (janeneun)자네가 (janega)
그 (geu)He (Neutral)그는 (geuneun)그가 (geuga)
그녀 (geunyeo)She (Neutral)그녀는 (geunyeoneun)그녀가 (geunyeoga)
Korean Pronouns Possessive

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are those pronouns that represent a sense of belonging. For instance, my, his her, etc in English. There are specific words that represent the state of belonging in Korean. In Korean grammar, possessive pronouns are called 소유 대명사 (soyu daemyeongsa).

There is a simple rule in Korean to turn all the pronouns into possessive pronouns. It is to add 것/ 꺼 (geos/ kkeo) after any pronoun. The word 것 (geos) roughly translates to “thing” in English. Adding 것 (geos) indicates that this thing is mine.

You have already learned how to use 씨 (ssi)/ 님 (nim), this step involved adding 것 (geos) to make that a possessive pronoun. Taking the previous example, 김남준 씨 것 (gimnamjun ssi geos) will mean “Mr. Kimnamjun’s”. Similarly 변호사님 것 (byeonhosanim geos) will mean “Lawyer’s”.

The difference between 것 and 꺼 (geos and kkeo) is that 것 (geos) is used at an informal level as compared to 꺼 (kkeo) which is used mostly for formal situations. Using these roughly translates the possession to “mine, yours, etc.)

Adding 의(ui) turns a prooun into its possessive form. But you would not always see some words written with 의(ui), like 내 (nae). The reason behind that is that those words are shortened to avoid having redundancy.

저의 (jeo-ui) is shortened to 제 (jae), 나의 (na-ui) is shortened to 내 (nae), 너의 (neo-ui) is shortened to 니 (ni), 저희의 becomes 저희 (jeo-hui) and finally, 우리의 (u-ri-ui) becomes 우리(uri)

Here is a table with all the Korean words that you need to know about while referring to something of someone:

PronounsKorean PronounsRomanized KoreanKorean SentencesEnglish Translations
My내 (Informal form)nae내 팔이 아파.
nae pal-i apa
My arm hurts.
My제 (Polite form)Jae제 친구가 죽었어요.
Jae chinguga jug-eoss-eoyo.
제 이름은 … 이에요.
je ileum-eun … ieyo.
My friend is dead.
My name is…
Your당신 (Polite form)dangsin당신 고양이는 어디에 있습니까?
dangsin goyang-ineun eodie issseubnikka?
Where is your cat?
Your니 (Informal form)Ni니 복사 줘
ni bogsa jwo
Give me your copy.
Our우리 (Informal form)uli우리 친구가 여기 있어요.
uli chinguga yeogi iss-eoyo.
Our friend is here.
His그의 (Neutral form)geuui그의 얼굴은 아름답습니다.
geuui eolgul-eun aleumdabseubnida.
His face is beautiful.
Her그녀의 (Neutral form)geunyeoui이것은 그녀의 상자입니다.
igeos-eun geunyeoui sangjaibnida.
This is her box.
Their그들의 (Neutral form)geudeul-ui그들의 차례가 오고 있습니다.
geudeul-ui chalyega ogo issseubnida.
Their turn is coming.

 

K-Pop Corner

Here is a table with some lines from K-pop for you to learn pronouns:

Lines from songsEnglish TranslationsSong NameArtist
난 내 얘길 들려줄게 들려줄게
nan nae yaegil deullyeojulge deullyeojulge
I’ll tell you my story, I’ll tell you.Magic ShopBTS
너의 하늘을 과연 어떻게 수놓을지
neoui haneul-eul gwayeon eotteohge sunoh-eulji
How will you embroider your sky?Magic ShopBTS
나의 절망 끝에
naui jeolmang kkeut-e
At the end of my despair.Magic ShopBTS
저 은하수를 올려다보며
jeo eunhasuleul ollyeodabomyeo
I am looking up that milky way.Magic ShopBTS
니 멋대로 살어 어차피 니 꺼야
ni meosdaelo sal-eo eochapi ni kkeoya
Live your way, it’s yours anywayFireBTS
내 피 땀 눈물 내 마지막 춤을
nae pi ttam nunmul nae majimag chum-eul
My blood sweat tears my last danceBlood Sweat and TearsBTS
왜 해보기도 전에 죽여 걔넨?
wae haebogido jeon-e jug-yeo gyaenen
Why kill them before they even try?DopeBTS
니가 클럽에서 놀 때.
niga keulleob-eseo nol ttae.
When you play in the clubDopeBTS

In songs, people tend to use the informal form of Korean pronouns.

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