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Do Not Use 당신 | Alternatives to YOU

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

안녕하세요! Koreanstudyjunkie님입니당~ Let's get right into today's topic - other ways to address people in Korean besides 당신 or 너. If you just want to see the other titles you can use, you can scroll to the very bottom of this post.

There are a few situations in which 당신 is used. You may have heard that it is formal, but it can come off as rude and so can 너.


Many couples refer to each other as 당신. This is seen more often in middle-aged or elderly couples. Younger generations tend to use 여보 or 자기. It is also more common among married couples.


A: 오늘 저녁 뭐 먹지?

A: What should we have for dinner?

B: 불고기 어때. 당신 좋아하잖아.

B: How about bulgogi. ‘you’ love them.

A: 당신, 내가 불고기 좋아하는 거 어떻게 알았어?

A: How did ‘you’ know I like bulgogi?

B: 어떻게 모르겠어.

B: How would I not know.

As you can see this is an intimate usage of 너.


The other usage is quite a rude way to address a stranger. For example, if you get into a fight with a stranger, you would use 당신 while saying rude things.


‘A and B bump with each other on the street.'

A: 방금 어깨 치고 갔냐?

A: Did you just bump into my shoulder?

B: 왜 시비야?

B: Why do you pick a fight?

A: 당신이 뭔데 내 어깨를 치고 가?

A: Who are ‘you’ to bump into me?

B: 뭐야? 당신이 그렇게 잘났어?

B: What? Are ‘you’ that stuck up?


The first is to use names. In real life, you just say name+씨. So it would be 영희씨 or 철수씨.

Online you use 님 typically. Online, it isn’t awkward to address someone with username+님. So I would be addressed as Koreanstudyjunkie님. if you’re feeling lazy, you can leave out the username and just say 님, as long as the other person knows you are talking to them.


A: 님 안녕하세요.

A: Hello (you).

B: 아 Koreanstudyjunkie님, 오랜만이에요.

B: Oh hi Koreanstudyjunkie. Long time no see.


In Korean, subjects are often left out and you can do so where ever needed in Korean as long as it’s understood who you are talking to. Therefore, If you don’t need to just avoid using “you” at all. At least until you learn that person’s name (or title) then you can start using their name + 씨 or their title.


You’ll often hear Korean people use job titles or status related titles when addressing others. Some titles can stand alone while others are attached to the person’s name like in cases of 님 and 씨. To give you more context, I’ve heard older people say “학생“ when referring or calling to kids they don’t know that well. And I’ve also heard Koreans use “선생님” for teachers and doctors and other similar occupations. I’ve even seen a person’s child’s name + 엄마/아빠 be used to refer to someone (usually that person is not in the room).

Example: 민지 엄마 (instead of saying the mom’s name)

선배 = Senior

This is for someone who is your senior in age or experience that you may encounter at the workplace or at school. This one can stand alone, so you can just call someone 선배 without having to attach a name. It is also possible to use this with someone who is younger than you if they have more experience than you.

Example sentences:

선배님, 조언 좀 해주세요 (Senior, please give me some advice)

선배님, 함께 일하면서 많이 배우고 있어요 (Senior, I am learning a lot from working together)

후배 = Junior

This is the alternative to 선배 as it is used for the person who is more junior in standing. Once again, this can stand alone and can be used for someone older if they are less experienced.

Example sentences:

후배들, 오늘은 고생 많았어요 (Juniors, you worked hard today.)

후배들, 항상 최선을 다해요 (Juniors, always do your best.)

군 = Mr. (young man)

This honorific is not as common as 씨, but it basically means the same thing. This is used for young, unmarried males in a formal occasion. 군 can be attached after the first or last name. It is better to not use this one in everyday conversation as it can be seen as condescending since it may suggest submissiveness or certain gender roles.

Example sentences:

하준 군, 오늘 식사 어때요? (Ha-joon, shall we have a meal together today)

지호 군, 오늘 수고 많았어 (Ji-ho, you worked hard today)

양 = Miss (young woman)

This is the same as 군, but for young and unmarried females.

Example sentences:

하린 양, 너의 도움이 필요해 (Ha-rin, I need your help)

수아 양, 너의 의견에 동의해요 (Su-ah, I agree with your opinion.)


오빠 = older brother (used by females when referring for male friends or older male siblings and can be used between couples)

형 = older brother (used by males when referring to older male friends or male sibling who’s older than you)

언니 = older sister (used by females when referring to older female friends or an older female sibling)

누나 = older sister (used by males when referring to older female friends or an older female sibling)

동생 = younger sibling (used by someone who is older than them or an older sibling when talking about someone younger than them - not used when you call them. call them by name)

여동생 = little sister (not used when you call them. call them by name)

남동생 = little brother (not used when you call them. call them by name)

어머님 = mother (used to call a mother-in-law or your acquaintance’s mother)

아버님 = father (used to call a father-in-law or an acquaintance’s father)

아주머니 = madam; middle-aged woman (a woman in her forties to sixties)

아줌마 = a casual way to say 아주머니 (be careful as it can offend woman to assume they are older. If you’re not sure, just leave it out and say “excuse me..” instead)

아저씨 = mister; middle-aged man (used to call a man in his forties to sixties. once again be careful about using this to people who may be a lot younger than this)

할아버지 = grandfather (used to call a man over seventy years old)

할머니 = grandmother (used to call a woman over seventy years old)

아가씨 = miss; young lady (used by older people to call a young lady who is not married yet)


I used multiple articles and sources online to help me write this lesson appropriately and I’ll credit most of them here: Koreanclass101, FluentU, Lingodeer. (There’s one more I can’t remember).

Usually when using honorific titles you’ll use honorific words and grammar to accompany them.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! We have plenty more where that came from on Lessons similar to this are right below if you want to keep learning.

HCheck here for my other lesson about this topic: Korean formality levels and titles.

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