As far as my knowledge goes, I know 3 determiners in Korean: 저, 그, and 이. However, I noticed that, sometimes, spaces are used to separate the determiner used and the noun following it.


  1. 그사람은 무엇을 봅니까? (What is this man looking at?)
  2. 그 사람은 차를 봅니다. (This man is looking at the car.)
  3. 저 건물 옆에 있습니다. (It's next to this building.)
  4. 저비행기는 서울로 갑니다. (This plane is going to Seoul.)

Is there a rule to know when spaces should be used between a determiner and the noun following it?

These sentences all come from a book I use to learn Korean, but this particularity is not explained. (Or at least, not yet.) The following question, "When should spaces be used between words?", did not help me whatsoever.

  • 1
    As far as I know, spaces should technically be used in virtually all cases. Exceptions exist for extremely common uses such as 그때 and 그녀. – Teddy Cross Aug 14 '17 at 8:32

이 is used when the object mentioned in the conversation is close from the speaker. 그 is used when the object is rather closer to the listener. 저 is used when the object is far away from both the speaker and the listener.

이것 is similar with 'This' and 그것/저것 has similar meaning with 'That'. 이 곳 can be translated into 'Here' while 그 곳 means 'There' and 저 곳 means 'Over there'.

If you have learned Japanese or you are Japanese, you may understand it easily. These are almost same as こ, そ, and あ.

If 이/그/저 is used in front of a noun, then there is a space after it. ex) 이 사람, 저 건물, 그 고양이

But if -것 comes after, then there is no space between 이/그/저 and -것. ex) 이것/그것/저것

It's because -것 is not an independent noun, but a bound noun. These are examples of bound nouns: -것, -뿐, -따위, -분, -만큼 (Sometimes 이/그/저 can't be combined with every bound noun always. For example, -뿐 can't be combined with the determiner 저.)

  • Hi @jungyh0218 ! Thank you for taking the time to write an answer. :-) However, as interesting as it is, it dodges my question, which solely focus on the use of a space character between a delimiter and the related noun. – Yuriko Aug 14 '17 at 7:53
  • @Yuriko Oh I was doing another task also at the same time so I made a confusion. I also added additional information which may help you :) If a bound noun (-것, -분, -따위, -뿐 etc.) comes after there should be no space in front of it. – jungyh0218 Aug 14 '17 at 8:33
  • That's okay, I accept your answer then. Would it be possible, however, to add a comment regarding my 4 examples? I believe, as Teddy Cross stated in his comment, that 1. and 4. are wrong and a space should be added. – Yuriko Aug 14 '17 at 15:48
  • 그때 is a compound. 그 and 때 are combined and the combination made a single word. Therefore, there is no space between 그 and 때. 그녀 is also a compound and moreover, 그녀 is not originally a Korean word. In past, in Korean there was no distinction of gender in personal pronoun. For both men and women, people used '그'. (You can still use 그 for a woman. It means 'that person'.) Actually, the word '그녀' is originated from the English word 'she'. – jungyh0218 Aug 15 '17 at 6:23
  • 2
    I heard even the use of "그" as a pronoun was influenced by European languages (via Japanese). Traditionally, "그" could only mean "this", so "he" would be written as 그이/그분/그 사람/etc. When Korean writers ventured into the new territory of modern novels, they suddenly found a need for an abstract personal pronoun that didn't encode social relationship, and 그/그녀 was created. See: namu.wiki/w/%EA%B7%B8 – jick Aug 16 '17 at 6:31

Definitive answer: Look up a dictionary

If the word is listed in the dictionary, then no space is used. E.g., 이분, 아무것 (아무것도 아니다).

If the word is not listed in the dictionary, then always put a space between them. E.g., 이 사람, 아무 말 (아무 말도 하지 않았다).

You might also ask: what rule determines whether such word be listed in dictionary or not?

There is no such rule. It is an arbitrary decision by dictionary (namely 표준국어대사전) makers.

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