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Beginner 1 > Lesson 27

Lesson 27. How to say “You” in Korean

As previously encountered, you can say “I/me” or “You” by using: 

 I/me You 
반말 (informal) 나 너 
존댓말 (formal) 저 

e.g., 너는 한국어를 공부해 – You study Korean 


However, we haven’t yet seen how to say “You” in formal language(존댓말).  

As Korean learners, the most commonly encountered way of saying “you” is by using 당신. 

This is as when using translators, since there are so many ways to say “you” and the translator doesn’t have enough context to be specific, 당신 is normally the result of many searches.   

However, 당신 is actually barely used in spoken Korean but can be used in specific contexts: 


1) Between married couples 

당신 is used to mean “you” between married couples when referring to your significant other 

Another commonly used word is 여보 which means “honey/dear” but this is closer to a term of endearment than 당신 

e.g., A: 미안해요, 여보 – I’m sorry honey  

        B: 당신이 뭐가 미안해요? – What are you sorry for? 


2) When using a negative tone 

The use of 당신 adds a hostile tone to your speech 

e.g., 당신 뭐야, 당신 의사 맞아? – What even are you, are you even a doctor? 

~This is used more in k-dramas/movies than in real life~ 


3) In writing when addressing an unspecific audience  

In books, ads and translations, 당신 is used as a way to address the audience universally as “You” 

This is useful since 당신 avoids adjusting the levels of formality when addressing different age groups which is normally necessary  

e.g., 당신은 뇌를 고칠 수 있다 – You Can Fix Your Brain (book title) 

You can think of this as saying “You” more generally than addressing a specific person 


4). When using a poetic/romantic tone  

Because of this, it is commonly seen in song lyrics and poetry.  


Outside of these specific contexts, the most commonly way to say “You” in is a Third-person form and there are 4 main ways to do this: 

All of these would be said directly to the person and thus by context come to mean “you.” 


  1. First name + /  

In Korean, it can be rude to only address someone by their first name especially when speaking in 존댓말 

Because of this, you can attach these endings to be more polite  

They act in a similar way to “Mr/Mrs” titles in English  

e.g., 내일 빅키님한테 전화 드릴게요 – I will give you (Vicky) a call tomorrow  

         내일 제프씨한테 전화 드릴게요 – I will give you (Jeff) a call tomorrow 

님 is higher in respect than 씨 and so normally used in cases when it is more relevant (e.g., with someone older or with a highly respected profession) 


NB: in cases where you want to use this, but you don’t know the person’s name you can ask by using: 

이름이 뭐예요? < 이름이 어떻게 되세요? < 성함이 어떻게 되세요? 

“What is your name?” (In order of increasing politeness) 

성함 is an honorific version of 이름 and so is the most polite form 

      2. 그쪽 

This is used with people you aren’t close to or in cases where you don’t know/are too shy to use the person’s name 

e.g., 그쪽 기다렸어요 – I waited for you  

However, this should NOT be used with people older than you  


     3. Social name*  

You can address the person based on their role in social contexts (e.g., family, school, work etc.) 

Some examples include 엄마 (mum), 선배 (senior), 사장님/대표님 (boss/CEO) 

e.g., 언니 보고 싶어 – I miss you (said to your older female family member/friend) 

It is also possible to attach 씨/님 after these social positions (e.g., 실장님/형님) 

e.g., 선배님 뭐 공부해요? – What are you studying? 


*Note: Some social names to take note of  

Title Meaning/Explanation 
선배and 후배 

선배is a term used to refer to a person who joined an organisation/group before you. For example, if you joined a school in 2017, anyone who joined before this would be your 선배.  

Those who then joined after you (after 2017), could be referred to as your후배 

아저씨 used for men who are older than you with larger age gaps (e.g., in their 30/40/50s) than those who you would call 오빠 
아주머니 and아줌마 

used for middle-aged women but 아줌마 sounds slightly less friendly than 아주머니 (female equivalent of아저씨) 


아가씨 and총각 

아가씨is used for younger unmarried females and총각is the equivalent for unmarried males (similar to bachelor/bachelorette) 


어머님and 아버님 

can be used to refer to the parents of the people you know (e.g., friends or students’ parents) 


이모 and 고모 

both mean “aunty” but 이모 refers to your aunt on your mum’s side, whereas 고모 refers to your aunt on your dad’s side  


언니 and 누나** 

both mean “older sister” however 언니 is only said by females and 누나 is only said by males  


오빠 and ** both mean “older brother” but only females would say 오빠 and males would say 형 

** These names are not only used for direct siblings but can also be used for older cousins, friends etc.   


    5. Job name + (/선생님) 

Examples include 선생님 (teacher) 의사 (doctor) 기사 (driver) 기자 (journalist) 작가 (writer) 

E.g., 저는 작가님의 팬이에요 – I’m your fan (said to a writer) 

         저는 선생님께 감사해요 – I am thankful for you (said to teacher) 

~since 선생님 already ends in 님, you don’t need to add another~ 

Attaching 선생님 is more respectful and is not only used after job titles but can also be added to first names or last names.  

e.g. 저는 빅키 선생님과 수업을 할 거예요. I will have a class with Teacher Vicky.


For some professions, 선생님 is attached more commonly than 님 and 의사 (doctor) is an example of this  

e.g., 저는 의사 선생님을 믿어요 – I trust you (said to your doctor) 


If ever in doubt, it is possible to completely remove the subject since it should still be understood by context that you are talking/referring to someone.