Episode 17
Lesson Recap

How To Make Korean Sentences with Pronouns 'I' and 'we' & 13 Action Verbs

Key Points &
  • First Pronouns in Neutral Form:
    나 : I
    우리 : we

  • First Pronouns in Humble Form:
    저 : I
    저희 : we

  • Sentence Structure:
    Pronoun/Subject + Action + 하다 : “(Pronoun) does (Action)”

  • 양치+하다 : brushing one’s teeth + to do

  • 세수+하다 : to wash your face

  • 샤워+하다  : to take a shower

  • 식사+하다 : to have a meal

  • 공부+하다 : to study

  • 일+하다 : to work

  • 전화+하다 : to call

  • 통화+하다 : to talk on the phone

  • 화상통화 +하다 : to do a video call

  • 문자+하다 :  to text

  • 연락+하다 :  to keep in touch

  • 운전+하다 :  to drive

  • 운동+하다 : to work out, to exercise


Directions: Assume the role in the situation and respond with one of the verbs learned in this episode.

Situation for 1-3 : You are at overnight camping with teammates from work. You’ve gathered at a campfire after dinner and others are asking where your cabinmate is.

  1. He was brushing his teeth when you left the cabin.

  2. He was washing his face when you left the cabin.

  3. He was taking a shower when you left the cabin.


4. Your colleague calls you when you’re having dinner at home and asks what you are up to.

5. Your colleague calls you when you’re working at home and asks what you are up to.

6. Your colleague calls you when you’re studying at home for a Korean test and asks what you are up to.

7. Your colleague calls you when you’re working out at the gym and asks what you are up to.

8. Your colleague calls you when you’re driving and asks what you are up to.

​9. Your colleague asks how you keep in touch with your parents back in America. (You talk with them mostly via video calls. )

10-1. Your colleague asks if you keep in touch with your friends in America. (You do keep in touch with your friends in America.)

10-2. After learning you keep in touch with your friends back home, your colleague asks which means you mainly use to communicate with your friends. (You stay in touch with your friends back home mostly via texting. )

Given > 양치하다 / 세수하다 / 샤워하다 / 식사하다 / 공부하다 / 일하다 / 전화하다 / 화상통화하다 / 문자하다 / 운전하다 / 운동하다 / 쇼핑하다

Episode 17

Hello! This is Kay from EssentialKorean.com.

안녕하세요 여러분! Essential Korean 케이쌤입니다.

In this episode, you will learn 4 Korean pronouns for I and We and practice using them in sentences with action verbs. It won’t be that exciting to talk about what you do daily in your own language, but it WILL be exciting and fun to talk about what you do daily in KOREAN, so let’s get to work!

Two of the I and we pronouns are in neutral form, and the other two are in humble form. If you need a refresher on what the terms neutral and humble refer to, go back to Episode 16. I’ll introduce the neutral forms first, which you can use in situations where you are talking to people of equal level or you are in a higher position.

The neutral form of I in Korean is : 나  나  나 You would use this to refer to yourself. Now, to refer to you and other members in your group, you would use the neutral form of we in Korean, 우리  우리   우리

Humble pronouns, on the other hand, would be used when you refer to yourself or your group while talking with a superior, or when a hierarchy exists between you and your conversation partner where you are in the humble or lower position. They both start with a ‘j’ sound.

The humble form for 나 I is : 저 저 저 and
The humble form for 우리 is:  저희 저희 저희

Let’s use them in sentences with some 하다 compound verbs, which are easy to pick up. 하다 compound verbs consist of a noun and the verb 하다 which means to do.

Let’s quickly run through the list of verbs we’ll use today, starting with actions you would find in your morning routine. To brush your teeth? 양치+하다; to wash your face - 세수+하다; to take a shower - 샤워+하다 ; to have a meal 식사+하다 ; to study 공부+하다 ; to work 일하다 ; to call 전화+하다 ; to talk on the phone 통화+하다 ; to do a video call 화상통화 +하다 ; to text 문자+하다 ;  to keep in touch 연락+하다 ;  to drive 운전+하다 ;  to work out, to exercise 운동하다 . Notice how I didn’t say the gerund form, aka the -ing form, like brushing your teeth. I did this because I presented the verbs to you in dictionary form, and whenever I use a verb in dictionary form I would use to + verb as the corresponding English.

So, those are 13 verbs for today, or you can think of them as 13 nouns with the verb 하다.

Alright, now that we have verbs to create sentences with, let’s introduce the examples.

Imagine a situation where your colleague whom you’ve gotten close with calls you on the weekend, and, after exchanging greetings, he asks, 뭐 해요? 뭐: what / 해요 do, the informal-polite style of 하다. Thus, he’s asking what you are doing: 뭐 해요?

What is the answer going to be if you were catching up with your work? Right, you can say, 일해요.  일해요  일해요

Notice there is no pronoun I - 나 or 저 - in the sentence. Do you remember Episode 12 in which we discussed the basic sentence structure of Korean? In the episode, I mentioned that the subject can be omitted if readily understood in the context. So, to the question, 뭐 해요?, you can respond, 일해요.

You can also respond with the pronoun I 나: 나 일 해요. 나 일 해요  나 일 해요

일해요  and 나 일해요 both will be translated as I am working. But there is a nuanced difference in the original Korean. Generally, the [ 뭐해요?--일해요 ] exchange would be fine, even more natural without the subject. But if you want to highlight the I, let’s say because you’ve been working hard and are proud of it, then you may choose to say 나 일해요.

Here’s an example where you would explicitly use the pronoun: at a meeting with your team, one of your colleagues is wondering about how an ex-colleague is doing, noting that no one in the team is in contact with him. The fact is, you’ve been keeping in touch with him, calling him now and then. You can correct his assumption that no one’s in contact with him by saying, 나 전화해요, meaning, I call, rather than just saying 전화해요. You’d be highlighting that I call by explicitly using the pronoun ‘나't. In the same situation, you can also say 우리 전화해요, meaning We, the ex-colleague and I, call. 우리 전화해요  우리 전화해요  우리 전화해요. By the way, don’t forget to repeat after me when I say the sentences to practice speaking.

Ok, an example with the humble form pronouns now. At the same meeting, if your boss is wondering if anyone is in contact with the ex-colleague, you can say 저 연락해요, meaning I keep in touch. Note that the appropriate pronoun to refer to I in this situation is 저, the humble form, because you’re talking to your boss, who is your superior. Repeat after me to say I keep in touch in korean with the humble pronoun: 저 연락해요  저 연락해요  저 연락해요.  You can also say, 저희 연락해요, meaning We keep in touch, referring to you and the ex-colleague with the humble form of the pronoun for we in Korean.  Repeat after me: 저희 연락해요  저희 연락해요  저희 연락해요

Ok, now, let’s practice the rest of the 13 verbs for different situations in the form of a quiz.

#1. Someone called your cell phone while you’re brushing your teeth. You’ve been waiting for this call so you pick it up. Noticing you sound a bit weird, the caller asks why you sound strange. How would you explain to him? Right, you can say,  양치해요  양치해요  양치해요. You can choose to add the pronoun 나 and say, 나 양치해요   나 양치해요  나 양치해요. If the caller is your superior, you’d say 저 양치해요  저 양치해요   저 양치해요

#2. You went on a trip with your family. In the morning, you are in the only bathroom in the cabin and your grandfather is knocking on the door, asking if you’re taking a shower. Since you’ll be swimming later, you’re just washing your face. How would you respond? Yes, you can say, 아니요. 세수해요. No, I’m washing my face.  Please repeat after me: 아니요. 세수해요  아니요. 세수해요.  아니요. 세수해요.  You can also respond with the pronoun, more specifically the humble pronoun, 저, because you’re talking to a superior, someone higher than you - your grandfather. So you’d say, 아니요, 저 세수해요  아니요, 저 세수해요   아니요, 저 세수해요

#3. A classmate from your Korean class calls you in the evening and asks if you’re studying for the Korean quiz: 한국말 퀴즈 공부해요?  (Are you studying for the Korean quiz?) 한국말 퀴즈 공부해요?   한국말 퀴즈 공부해요? Well, you’re actually having a meal. What would you tell your classmate? Correct, if you said 아니요 식사해요  아니요 식사해요   아니요 식사해요

Or you can also say,  아니요 나 식사해요  아니요 나 식사해요  아니요 나 식사해요

#4. Knowing your significant other is away for an extensive business trip, your boss comments that you must miss him/her. The fact is you talk via video call often enough that it would be hard to miss them. How would you tell him you two talk on video calls? 화상통화해요. 화상통화해요  화상통화해요. I’ll give you extra bonus points if you said  저희 화상통화해요, for using the humble pronoun for we in Korean, 저희. 저희 화상통화해요   저희.  화상통화해요   저희. 화상통화해요

#5. Your teacher asks if you and your team members call each other: 전화해요?  전화해요?   전화해요?  How would you respond if you guys text. Very nice if you said, 아니요, 문자해요 No, we text. Repeat after me and let’s practice:  아니요, 문자해요  아니요, 문자해요   아니요, 문자해요. Again, I’ll give you bonus points for using the appropriate humble pronoun 저희. We must treat our teachers with respect, after all. 아니요,  저희 문자해요 No, we text.  Repeat after me: 아니요, 저희 문자해요   아니요, 저희 문자해요.   아니요, 저희 문자해요.

#6. This is a bonus question, for those who want to hear and  practice 반말, the casual style. You’re working out at the gym when your friend calls. Wondering about the background noise, your friend asks, 운전해? Are you driving? 운전해? (So there’s no yo in case you didn’t notice.) How would you correct your friend’s assumption?  Excellent if your answer is, 아니, 운동해. No, I’m working out.  Repeat after me, imagine you’re talking to a friend 아니, 운동해.  아니, 운동해.  아니, 운동해.  You can also use the neutral pronoun for I 나  and say, 아니, 나 운동해. 아니, 나 운동해.  아니, 나 운동해.

Alright! To sum up, we learned 나 and 우리 for I and WE in English respectively; and also learned 저 and 저희 for their corresponding humble forms. For verbs, we learned 13 하다-verbs , or do-verbs: 양치하다 / 세수하다 / 샤워하다 / 식사하다 / 공부하다 / 일하다 / 전화하다 / 통화하다 / 화상통화 하다 / 문자하다 / 운전하다 / 운동하다

As for gaining more insights into using these pronouns, if you are a K-drama fan, you’re in luck. You can enjoy your favorite dramas and study Korean at the same time, without feeling guilty! Pay attention to when people use and don’t use pronouns 나, 우리, 저, or 저희 when watching Korean dramas. Dramas can provide rich contexts for us to make observations for pragmatic language usage, in a very engaging and entertaining  way :)

Ok, that’s it for this episode.

In the next episode, you will learn me, my, us, and our in Korean and how to use them in sentences with more action verbs that we do daily, so please stay tuned. Until then, take care, and stay healthy. 고맙습니다. 안녕히 계세요!