We have discussed a few particles so far, but let’s introduce another one. I call the following particle, the indirect object particle. It has three forms and one honorific forms. The target particle can be 에게, 한테 or 에. Let’s see what the indirect object particle is all about.

The Indirect Object

As you know certain actions have effects on other things this is represented by functions such as the direct object and the indirect object. The direct object is marked by 을/를 in Korean and the indirect object is represented , this post’s topic, is represented by three possible particles: 에게/한테/에.

Reminder: An indirect object is something or someone that is part of the action, but does not undergo (= Direct object) itself. It participates by being the target/recipient of the action.

Be aware that like in English, not all verbs have indirect objects. Here are a few Korean verbs that might end up using this particle: 주다, 선물하다, 던지다, 보내다, 부치다, 쓰다, 전화하다, 가르치다, 말하다, 팔다, 가다 and 오다.  For some verbs, 에게/한테/에 is only used when 을/를 is already present in the sentence, such as happens for 가르치다.

The Plants And The Rest

As already mentioned there are three different indirect object particles. Automatically the question that comes to mind is: “What is the difference?”. First there is a difference between 에게/한테 and 에. You use 에 when the target of an action is a plant or a non living thing. 에게/한테 you use for all living things except plants. The difference between 에게/한테 is minimal. 한테 is simply more colloquial; it is more often used in spoken Korean.

Being the Recipient

However, you might want to tell people from whom you received that present. In that case you simply need to slightly adjust this particle. You do this by adding 서 at the end of the particle so 에게 becomes 에게서. This is used with 받다 and 배우다.

Let’s see this in action:

Example: 나는 선생님한테서 한국어를 배웠어요. (I learn Korean from my teacher)

Honorific 께

Some particles have honorific forms, that is when you need to use such particles with something that needs to be honored such as your venerable grandfather. The indirect object particle has such an honorific form,  께. There is no further difference with the other particle’s forms.

The Indirect Object Particle Summary
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A summary on the indirect particle.