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Beginner 1 > Lesson 28

Lesson 28. How to say “He, She, They” in Korean

Pronouns (대명사) 

Pronouns are used when you are referring back to someone you have mentioned in a previous sentence, in place of repeating their name (e.g., I know Sara. She is smart). 


As always, in Korean, these pronouns can be removed if the individual is clear from context. 

e.g., 저는 남동생이 있어요. (-) 열 세살이에요 – I have a younger brother. He is 13 years old.  


However, if you want to include them, there are many possible ways this can be achieved: 


1. Dictionary Forms 

These are barely used in spoken Korean since they have a romantic/serious tone  

They include: 

그 → he/him  

그녀 → she/her  

그들 → they/them  


2. More common forms 

In spoken Korean, the pronoun is more commonly used than the above dictionary forms.  

This literally translates to “that person I know/that person we are talking about.” 

Therefore, it can refer back to the subject previously spoken about and can be used for both genders. 

e.g., 저는 사라를 알아요. 애는 똑똑해요 – I know Sara. She is smart.  


This pronoun is also commonly shortened to 걔. 


Following the same rules, the modifiers 이 and 저can be used with 애. 

For example: 

그 애 → that person – – > 걔 

이 애 → this person – – > 얘 

저 애 → that person – – > 쟤* 


*Note: the difference between 저 애 and 그 애 is that 저 애 specifically means “that person (over there)” and so is mainly used to refer to someone relatively far away but still in sight. However, 그 애 can be used to refer to someone that isn’t present/in sight.  

e.g., 야? – Is that person (over there) the person we know(we talked about)? / Is she her? 


Example sentences:  

제프 아니야? – Isn’t that (person over there) Jeff? 

지수는 남자친구가 있어. 알아? – Jisoo has a boyfriend. Do you know him

차 키 한테 줬어요 – I gave the car keys to him/her** 


**Note: Notice how the same pronouns can be used regardless of whether the person is a subject or an object unlike English where there are two different words (she/her, he/him) 


Since 걔, 쟤 and 얘 are all 반말, they can NOT be used when referring to someone who you should be paying respect to. 

The 존댓말versions of 그 애 are: 

그 분 → that person 

이 분 → this person 

저 분 → that person (over there) 

*where 분 is the honorific form of 사람* 


e.g., 분이 우리 엄마야 – She is my mum 

         제프는 형이 있어요. 분은 친절하세요 – Jeff has an older brother. He is kind.  


To then pluralise these pronouns and form “they”, you just need to add the particle -들 


For example: 

반말 (informal) 존댓말 (formal) 
얘들 (or 얘네들)이 분들 
걔들 (or 걔네들)그 분들 
쟤들 (or 쟤네들)저 분들 



분들은 모두 친절해요 – all of them are kind***  

분들은 제 선배예요 – these people are my seniors 

분들은 어느 나라 사람이에요? – which country do they come from? 


***It is possible to add 모두 or 다 after the pronouns to create the meaning “all of them” 

These two words can also be used instead of the pronouns or together in the same sentence (e.g., 모두 다) to create this meaning  

e.g., 저는 그 분들 모두 다 좋아요 / 저는 모두 좋아요– I like all of them. 



3. More ways to make pronouns

You can also put a noun after the modifiers그/이/저 to create a pronoun (e.g., 이 선생님, 그 친구) 

e.g., 여자는 행복해요 – She (this woman) is happy  

         학생의 피부가 너무 좋아요! – Her (that student’s) skin is so good! 


4. What to do if these aren’t appropriate 


In some cases where levels of formality can be a slightly grey area, 걔/그 분 can sound slightly strange (e.g., with older siblings/family) 

For example, when referring to an older sibling, since they are older, the 반말 form 걔 is not appropriate but since 그 분 is an honorific form, it may sound as though you are putting distance between them and yourself  

If this is the case, it is better to refer to them by their third person pronoun.   


저는 언니가 세명 있어요. 언니들은 친절해요 – I have three older sisters. They are kind.  

저는 언니가 세명 있어요. 모두 친절해요 – I have three older sisters. They are all kind. 


More example sentences  


A: 지수가 어떻게 A를 받았어요? – How did Jisoo get an A? 

B: 공부를 되게 열심히 했어요 – She studied really hard  


빅키 선생님은 한국어를 가르쳐요. 저는 그 선생님의 수업이 좋아요 – Miss Vicky teaches Korean. I like her class. 


스미스씨는 제 이웃이에요. 그 분은 매우 웃기세요 – Mr Smith is my neighbour. He is very funny.