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I've read that 그대 is a 'poetic' way of meaning 'you' - i.e. referring to the person you're speaking to.

I saw an example sentence:

앉으나 서나 그대 생각을 해요

Where it seems to be 'loving' in tone.

However, on the one or two occasions I actually heard it, it was used by a boss talking to a younger employee - so (probably?) not 'romantically' loving.

What are the different ways that 그대 can be used?

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    It feels weird that you actually have heard of it. AFAIK, no one is using the word in daily conversation nowadays. Shown only in songs, literatures, poets, and some sort of actings if it has actually spoken. – Eonil May 6 '17 at 14:17
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    It is similar to the word "thou" and used in a similar way, such as romantically, in poetry, and more often in older literature. I have gathered that it is much better to use than 당신 when you want a polite form of the second person pronoun, because 당신 can be a very loaded term and sometimes very insulting if not used right...I never use 당신, and almost never hear people use in spoken language at all...you see it in written advertising and on TV dramas sometimes. At the end of the day, the best and most common advice is to avoid using any of the second person pronouns if at all possible. – B. Alvn May 10 '17 at 2:42
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We usually use '그대' without thinking much so quite a refreshing question to me.

So in order to give you the accurate answer, yes, 그대 has two major different meanings according to 표준국어대사전(Standard Korean Dictionary):

1) When the listener is one's friend or junior(subordinate), one uses '그대' to respect him/her. In your 'boss-and-employee' situation, this example matches with it: '영철 군! 그대는 언제든지 나의 친우이다.' meaning 'Youngcheol, you are always my close friend.', giving quite a formal impression.

2) A 'friendly' term to call someone, usually in writings rather than actual conversations. And this would match '앉으나 서나 그대 생각을 해요'. There is a popular old song called '앉으나 서나 당신 생각': 당신 is used instead of 그대 but they basically mean it in almost the same way.

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  • When you say "we usually use..." I guess that implies you are a Korean who just knows when to use it correctly automatically? How often would you say you use this term in speaking, and what is the most common case...i mean for you, personally? – B. Alvn May 10 '17 at 2:51
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    Yes, your guess is correct. In a normal conversation I rarely(very close to never) use 그대 to call someone. So I can hardly define 'the most common case' for me but it would be okay to just remember that one can find 그대 in various pop songs, but usually not in the other places. – PenPoint May 10 '17 at 15:19

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