Korean Pronouns


In English, pronouns are used to refer to someone the speaker and listener talk about after the main subject has been mentioned as in Donghae is my friend. He is a soldier. It does not sound natural to repeat the name over and over again.

The pronouns are categorized into three- the first person (I, we), second person (you, you), and third person (he, she it, they). They are further categorized into singular and plural to determine what form of verb to use.

Korean has its own set of pronouns too but works strikingly different from English. Nevertheless, they are similar in the things discussed in the second paragraph- the three levels of person and the singular-plural distinction. However, Korean pronouns has three level of politeness- the casual, the low polite, and the high polite as seen in the chart below.

Korean pronouns work in a different way so I would like to point out some things I have observed so far. This, however, is subject to revision if errors are found in any way. So please join the discussion in the comment section to help improve the content if this post.

1. Some books refer to he as  and she as 그녀 but I rarely, if not never, heard them spoken by anyone. Perhaps, they are only used as a substitute for translation matters.

2. The casual pronouns are used to friends of the same age, close friends, younger people or children, and someone of lesser status.

3.  is categorized as low polite but it seems not polite at all. You can use it to people mentioned in #2.

3. Accordingly, 당신 is used among married couples and is also used when people argue or not in good terms. You better not use it to be safe.

4. We got used to refer to our teacher and other superiors as you without offending them, but in Korean, you have to call them by their titles with  to mean you.

5. Both 사람 and  mean person but  is more polite than 사람.

6. The plural marker  is enclosed to indicate that you may or may not used it. Korean language is not very particular with plural forms.


7. We often disregard pronouns when the context is understandable. For instance, you see a friend and you want to ask if he or she has eaten, then you say  먹었어?. There's no need to add .