I wanted to do a quick post about this while chatting with my boyfriend about AI. We wanted to test and how well it could translate something so I specifically put the sentence “I’m going to my house to see my brother” into ChatGPT (free ver3, not the latest paid ver4). Not a complex sentence, but it tests 2 things about Korean, and it gave me:
“나는 내 집에 가서 내 동생을 보러 갑니다.”
Which is wrong and awkward. ‘Brother’ is really just a trick though, 동생 doesn’t work if you’re speaking about an older brother, 형 if you’re not male, etc. But the real test was ‘my house’ in a 1 to 1 translation 내 and 집 would mean my house. But for a lot of things Koreans don’t say 내 they say 우리.
Why Use 우리?
Koreans like using 우리 to show a sense of community, but not always between them and the speaker. In English when you say ‘I went to our house’ it typically means 1 of 2 things; you and the listener live together or the person you live with is next to you included in the conversation. Korean includes another option where nobody living with you is there; nobody even needs to live with you!
우리 is such a part of Korean that sometimes instead of saying 대한민국 or 한국 people will say 우리나라 instead! This is a much more casual way to say Korea as compared to 대한민국 or 한국 so not every situation calls for it though.
note: people don’t use 우리나라 to refer to any country, it’s only Korea- so even if both you and your friend were born and raised German 우리나라 still means Korea.
When do Koreans Use 우리?
- mom: 우리 엄마
- dad: 우리 아빠
- siblings: 우리 오빠, 누나, etc.
- husband/wife: 우리 아내/남편
- boyfriend/girlfriend: 우리 남친/여친
- house: 우리 집
(even if you live alone people still use 우리 집, and while a romantic partner like boyfriend or wife is typically not shared people still use 우리 too.)
- company: 우리 회사
- coworker: 우리 회사 동료
- company president: 우리 사장님
Its even used with friends, though this is used more dotingly and cutely. And used more with speaking with a shared friend, so talking to someone about your mutual friend Hyunsoo you can say 우리 현수.
Worth noting though free ChatGPT struggled with the translation but DeepL did pretty well. And with alternatives listed saying 오빠 for another variation of brother or 만나 to meet.