에게/한테/더러 – Korean Grammar vs. Grammar #8

3 Speed Only

With Explanation

Today's topic is about 에게, 한테, 더러. All of them are usually translated to "to" in English. We will see the differences today.

First of all, 에게 and 한테 are fairly interchangeable. In almost every case, both of them can be used instead of each other. The only difference is that 한테 is more conversational and 에게 is more literal word. Because of that, 한테 is usually used a lot in conversation and 에게 in writings.

더러 is interchangeable with 에게 and 한테 in some cases, but it is not in other cases. Let's check them from now on.

1. Don't use 더러 with animals.

더러 is only used with people. It is not used with animals. However, 에게 and 한테 can be used for both animal and people.

새한테 먹을 것을 주었다.
I gave birds something to eat.

동물원에는 동물들에게 먹이를 주지 말라는 팻말이 여러 곳에 있다.
There are a lot of signs in the zoo telling us not to feed animals.

In above sentences, you can use both 에게 and 한테, but you cannot use 더러.

2. Don't use 더러 when it is related with giving or having something.

When you give something, Koreans use 에게, 한테 a lot. However, it is not usually changed with 더러. It is the same with other giving verbs like 선물하다(give something as present), 보내다(send), 던지다(throw), etc.

친구한테 무엇을 선물하면 좋을까요?
What should I give to my friend?

철수는 영희에게 공을 던졌다.
철수 threw a ball to 영희.

너에게는 어떨지 모르지만, 나에게는 소중한 친구야.
I don't know what she means to you, but to me, she is a good friend of mine.

3. Don't use 더러 when 에게 is used to describe somebody who did it.

It is less frequent case than others, 에게/한테 is used when you describe someone who or some animal which did it.

어린 시절 목소리 때문에 친구들에게 많이 놀림 받았다.
When I was a kid, I was made fun of because of my voice.

개에게 물려서 병원을 방문했다.
As I am bitten by a dog, I visited a hospital.

We learned the cases when you cannot use 더러. Now, let's talk about the cases when you can use it.

4. When someone told something to others.

We relay what other people said a lot. This is called reported speech in grammar rules. You can use 더러 to the person who heard the message.

누가 너더러 뚱뚱하대?
Who said that you are fat?

그 남자가 나더러 뭐 하는 사람이냐고 묻더군.
He asked me who I am.

그 아이가 영희더러 바보라고 해서 많이 화 났어?
Are you angry because that kid told 영희 a fool?

5. When you let others do something, or vice versa.

We cannot do everything by ourselves. If we cannot do something, we let others do it. 더러 is used for those who have to do it.

형더러 해 달라고 해 봐라.
Let your brother do that for you.

그걸 나더러 믿으라고?
Do you want me to believe it?

나더러 가라는 거야? 말라는 거야?
Do you want me to go or not?

6. When you let others talk to someone else.

It is a bit rare case. Actually, I don't say like this, so it's a bit awkward to me. However, I can find it in some cases, so I added some examples here.

누나더러 물어 봐라.
Ask your sister.

나더러 이야기한다고 해서 해결될 것 같지는 않아.
It seems that it will not be solved if you tell me that.

날더러? 널더러?

Some Koreans write 나더러 or 너더러 as 날더러 and 널더러. Although 날더러 and 널더러 are common, only 나더러 and 너더러 are standard.

A sentence which look like an exception.

그는 나더러 가지라고 하면서 책을 한 권 주었다.
He gave me a book telling me to have it.

I said that 더러 is not used with giving verbs, but there it is in the sentence. Actually, it is a combination of two sentences. 그는 나더러 가지라고 했다(He told me to have it). 그는 나에게 책을 한 권 주었다(He gave me a book). It might become unusual if we said it like 그는 나더러 책을 한 권 주었다. However, it became fine because we added 그는 나더러 가지라고 했다 in front of the sentence.

We learned when to use and not to use 더러. It's really complicated. As you can use 에게 or 한테 instead of 더러 in every case, so you can use 에게 or 한테 if you are not sure.