Korean EFL Learners’ Use of I in English Argumentative Writing: Focusing on Genre-specific and Proficiency-specific Characteristics

Eun Kyoung Lee1, Sun-Young Oh1,
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1Seoul National University
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ⓒ Copyright 2018 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jul 08, 2018 ; Accepted: Jul 23, 2018

Published Online: Aug 31, 2018


The present study explored Korean EFL learners’ use of the first person singular pronoun, I, in argumentative essays. To examine whether learners’ I differs according to genre and proficiency, the use of I in argumentative writing was compared with personal writing and between learners of low and high proficiency. The frequency, variability, and collocates analyses of I showed that learners used less Is with little variability in argumentative essays, mostly using it to deliver opinions in formulaic expressions or to strengthen arguments with boosters. In terms of proficiency, high-level learners in general used I less often and with more hedges compared to low-level learners, more closely resembling native speakers’ use of I. The study suggests that learners depend on I to express their opinions and achieve the goal of the argumentative genre and that the knowledge of using I effectively in writing is gradually acquired as learners’ proficiency increases.

Keywords: first person pronoun; second language writing; genre; proficiency; corpus linguistics