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In English, we use "he" to indicate a man, and "she" a woman. If we use "he" to indicate women, it is grammatically incorrect. Let John be a male and Anna a female.

  • John did an operation on the yogurt bottle. He must have found the Klein bottle.
  • *John did an operation on the yogurt bottle. She must have found the Klein bottle.
  • Anna did an operation on the yogurt bottle. She must have found the Klein bottle.
  • *Anna did an operation on the yogurt bottle. He must have found the Klein bottle.

How about "그" and "그녀"? In Korean, we don't need to use "그녀" to indicate women necessarily. Let "철수" be a male and "영희" a female.

  • 철수는 요구르트 병에 조작을 가했다. 그는 클라인 병을 발견한 것이 틀림없다.
  • *철수는 요구르트 병에 조작을 가했다. 그녀는 클라인 병을 발견한 것이 틀림없다.
  • 영희는 요구르트 병에 조작을 가했다. 그는 클라인 병을 발견한 것이 틀림없다.
  • 영희는 요구르트 병에 조작을 가했다. 그녀는 클라인 병을 발견한 것이 틀림없다.

My question is:

  1. When was "그녀" introduced in Korean?
  2. Are there theories dealing with why there is asymmetry between "그" and "그녀"?
  3. Is it appropriate to use "그녀" to indicate women in speaking? How about in writing?

Examples taken from Jourdain effect

  • 1
    Note that you use "그" much less than "he" or "she" in English, since you can omit the subject if the context is clear or repeat the Name in stead of using a pronoun. – Leonhard Jun 22 '16 at 14:05
5
  1. According to the linked Seoul Daily Newspaper article, 그녀 appeared after the National Liberation Day (Aug. 15,1945). Some scholars argue that it is a direct translation of the Japanese Word かのじょ[彼女] and it is inappropriate to use. However, it became as popular as 그 and there is no problem in using it in Korean nowadays.

  2. 녀 in 그녀 is 女 (girl or woman in Chinese character). 그 doesn't have a corresponding Chinese character as it is originally Korean word.

  3. It is appropriate to use '그녀' in both speaking and writing.

Korean song: 그녀는 예뻤다

7

Good afternoon!

In short: "그" can be either male or female, but these days usually male. "그녀" is always female.

I'm a native Korean in the early 30s. When I was young, "그" was used for both male and female. But gradually people started to use "그녀" for female only and "그" for male only. Yet still there are many people who use "그" for both male and female, like me.

  • Living in Korea, I found this to also be the case. You can use 그 for either, but 그녀 is only for women. – Vladhagen Jun 22 '16 at 17:39
  • So it's sort of like in a transition from the traditional usage to the English-like usage. – busukxuan Jun 23 '16 at 11:02

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