Level 1 Lesson 9 / topic,subject marking particles / 은, 는, 이, 가

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This lesson will introduce the topic marking particles and the subject marking particles in the Korean language. The topic marking particles and the subject marking particles play a very important role in Korean so it’s very important that you learn them well. But even some advanced-level speakers of the language can make mistakes regarding these particles, so please don’t worry even if you don’t get them right away. You will eventually be able to use them naturally after some practice. Today’s lesson is our first introduction to the particles. Make sure you read the PDF file as well. Thank you! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment!



You can download a free PDF for this lesson here, or if you want to study with our TalkToMeInKorean textbooks, you can get them here. And after you learn the basics, try writing your own Korean sentences and get corrections from native speakers through HaruKorean, our 1:1 correction service.


  • amelia

    히욘우슨 오빠 열광이 조하요. 기용는 언니 소주는…아니요 “물은” 좋아요. ^^ sorry if i spelled your names wrong lol

    • Seokjin Jin

      히욘우슨 > 현우 선
      기용는 > 경은
      hahaha You spelled the teacher’s name in funny way. :D

    • amelia

      oh no! thanks for the corrections i will remember next time :)

  • Syafiqah Iffah

    hi there! here is my question.. is 내일은 저가 일해요 is the same as 내일은 저는 일해요.. because i understand the usage of ‘I’ here are as a subject..

    • Seokjin Jin

      내일은 저가 일해요 > 내일은 제가 일해요

      Well, you can use the both sentences but the nuance will be little bit different.

      내일은 저가 일해요
      When it comes to “tomorrow”, I will work.

      내일은 저는 일해요.
      When it comes to “tomorrow”, I will work. (but I don’t know if other people will work or not.)

    • Syafiqah Iffah

      okay. thank you for the great answer! kamsahabnida

    • Cambodian Angkor

      Can we drop it out !!! Can we speak without that !!! Or it is polite to use that… pls…

  • Lizzytfd

    I thinks this sentence makes it simplier:
    “topic marker emphasize more on the verb while subject marker emphasize more on the subject.”

  • Ghie Johansson

    안녕하세요!! On your previous lessons, when you were discussing about “This”, “That” and “It”.. You said that if we are talking about an object, we should add “거” after the modifier.. I was just confused on why you didn’t use it when you were talking about the book and others.. Is it not that important? 감사함너다.

    • biggie5

      Hi! “go” means “thing”. i-go = this thing. When you specify it as book, you don’t use the word “thing” anymore. You can say: this book.

  • Ghie Johansson

    Hi. I’ve read the PDF and listened to the audio couple of times already.. But I still can’t determine when are you going to use the subject marking particles.. Help me… I can’t move on to the next lesson. I want to fully understand this first. :( :(

  • Linda Zze

    sooo ..is it okay if we drop it too ?

    • Robin

      ㅋㄱㅋㄱㅋㄱㅋㄱㅋㄱ …. no :D

  • Evee

    이거물 촣네요- This water is good

    이거은 촣녀요- This water is good compared to the other water,( not realy what it says but am hoping this is what it means)

    이거물은 촣네요- This water is good, compared to everything else not just water.

    am i right or atleast close

  • Joshua Grootveld

    Very useful and fun lesson! i’m really learning a lot from you guys! 감사합니다!

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks for your comment. 고마워요!

  • Sousou Waldorf

    Well i smell that things are getting harder in here, but thanks to the PDF it became more clear. is it okay to only know the topic marking particles and the subject topic particles and when to use them for now and pass to the other lesson? thanks anyway your explanation is really helpfull ^^

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, if it is too hard to understand the concept, it is also good to pass this lesson. You will still see many sentences including the marking particles, so you will naturally get used to it.

  • shin

    we can put eun/neun two times in one sentences? for which case? can u explain+example? thankyou

    • Seokjin Jin

      Well, the cases of using same marking particle two times in a sentence are not that common.

  • Ebi

    안녕하세요!
    I have a question. I heard this sentence from a K-drama :p
    나는 남자잇ㅅ어. (Sorry, I know it’s a wrong spelling and the second ㅅ is supposed to be under 이 too. I have problems typing/spelling hangeul in my device :/)

    Does 는 in na 나는 imply that unlike others, she has a boyfriend/ a man?
    Or does it actually imply that I have a boyfriend and nothing more than that?

    고맙다!

  • Dominic

    Anyeonghaseyo. I’ve been asking some korean friends thru the internet and they can’t explain this stuff to me. I’ve been learning Korean just some days ago and I’m able to respond even if it’s just basic korean. This site is the best I’ve been to.
    Kamsahamnida

  • Vergil

    안녕하세요!

    Is there a grammatical reason behind why 좋아요 is spelled this way instead of 조하요? same goes for 맞아요, I often get confused when it comes to spelling because of things like that.

    • Seokjin Jin

      When the last consonant ㅎ is followed by vowel, we don’t pronounce it.

      좋아요 [조아요]
      낳아요 [나아요]

  • Audrisse Noelle

    When is a word (for example, 책) called a subject, and when is it called a topic? I mean, aren’t they the same? Please, I’m still confused. Thank you.

    • Seokjin Jin

      No matter which particle added to the word, the meaning won’t change a lot. Just nuance will be different. For example,

      이 책은 좋아요. This book is good (but other books can not be good.)

      이 책이 좋아요. (Generally) This book is good.

  • jami s

    sooo….
    aaaah i’m still so confused with what the difference between topic marking particles and subject marking particles :( they’re both the same thing in my head

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yeah, it is quite hard to understand so it it is too hard for now, you can skip this lesson and proceed from the next lesson.

  • Kiwi

    안녕하세요.
    For the last example (ABC 좋아요? XYZ가 좋아요.) Does this give a stronger feeling of “only this one”, as in “Only XYZ is good” or is it more like saying “Personally I prefer XYZ, but I don’t have an opinion on ABC.”? I’m having a little difficulty seeing the difference between the strength of 는/은 and 이/가.
    Sorry for the silly question, I’m still very new to Korean.
    감사합니다!

  • Djilian Foster

    So ; we always need to use the Topic marking particuls ? in every sentence?

    • Seokjin Jin

      You don’t have to add it to every sentence and we often omit them in daily conversations.

    • Djilian Foster

      Ah! what about the object particul ? we always use it ?

  • EmiJay

    I just made it to level 5 but I decided to review before continuing and this is the one lesson from Level 1 that has stumped me for a while. I understand how to use these by their names, highlighting the subject and topic, but I’m having a hard time remembering how to use them for emphasis. After studying the chapter and listening to the audio file it seems like -은/-는 are used for comparing while -이/-가 are used for contrasting. Is this correct? Or is it the other way around? Also, is it safe to just get use to these as something used for emphasis rather than simple marking tools? The teachers in the audio file made it seem like they are used for emphasis much more often than not.
    감사합니다! :)

  • Cambodian Angkor

    It is really difficult to seperate between Topic and Subject ,,, anyone have an idea… pls cmt..

    • Seokjin Jin

      I am sorry it must be hard. However, you will understand about the concept more if you practice a lot.

  • Allice

    When you said that we can drop it, does that mean we don’t have to worry about adding these particles? Like can we just not use them when we talk in Korean? Please help, im confused

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yes. Even if you omit the particle, it won’t effect the meaning of the sentence.

    • Allice

      Thank you so much!

  • Rizky Martin

    hi, thanks a lot to TTMIK so finally i understand this confuse topic. i have learn this from many link and books but still don’t understand until i learn from TTMIK. thanks guys for the great explanation of it. hope this month when i arrived at korea i can speak little bit of it. 감사합니다!

  • Diane Torres

    Thank you very much for providing free korean lessons! I have ound it hard to find easy and free korean lessons online. I am just a bit confused about one thing: what is the sentence structure? I’ve read it’s “subject – obeject – verb” , but then where does the topic of the sentence go?

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks for studying Korean with us. Through this lesson, we regard the concept of topic same as subject but according to the nuance, it can be a topic or subject.

  • Juanis

    Can you give me an example showing which one is the subject? I dont know what you mean with the “Subject”

  • Milk Tea

    Im trying to understand this topic by using examples – so i can learn better.

    Subject marking, identifies what the subject maybe -

    “mul jo-a-yo”(water is good) and to reply you say “Mwo-ga mul jo-a-yo?” main subject is WHAT water is good? What is the good water?

    In speaking example(In reply to top example):

    - I geo-Neun Mul Jo-a-yo | THIS water is good.

    - Geu geo Mul Jo-a-yo? A-ni-yo. i-geo Mul-ga Jo-a-yo | That water is good? No, this WATER is good.

    _______________________________________________________

    Topic marking how ever i just dont understand- or to even just putting it into an simple example is confusing. Ive been re reading and listening and still don’t get it. Hope i can get an answer to clear this all up for me to progress.

    Gam-sa-hab-ni-da

    • Seokjin Jin

      Well, many other countries don’t have the concept of subject/topic marking particle, so it is sometime hard for to explain, too.

      Yes, when somebody ask me like “Which water do you like? 어떤 물이 좋아요?”, I would definitely answer with subject marking particle like 이 물이 좋아요.

      Let me share a comment written by other listeners so I hope that it will help you understand more about 은/는/이/가.

      ****

      So far, I’ve learnt quite a lot of particles. Topic/subject/object/location marking particles.

      Firstly, topic marking particles. 은/는 (eun/neun). These are attached
      after nouns, and it is used to let other people know what you are
      talking about, or what you are going to talk about.

      저는 군인이에요. (jeo-neun gun-in-i-e-yo) literally means, As for me, I’m a soldier. Basically means, I’m a soldier.

      Let’s move on to subject marking particles. 이/가 (i/ga). These are also
      attached after nouns, but it gives a softer/slighter emphasis on the
      noun before it. Here’s a comparison.

      이 드라마가 좋아요. (i-deu-ra-ma-ga jo-a-yo) It means: This drama is good.
      이 드라마는 좋아요. (i-deu-ra-ma-neun jo-a-yo) It means: As for this drama, its good.

      The difference between the two is kind of the emphasis it gives to the
      noun before it. The subject particles give a stronger emphasis on the
      nouns, whereas the topic particles a weaker one. In normal
      circumstances, when you want to introduce a good drama to someone, you
      would use the one with the topic marking particles, 이 드라마가 좋아요.

      However, if the scenario is one like this “You walk into a video store
      with a friend and you look at a particular shelf and you’re like this
      drama, and this, and this, and this one, are not nice. Then you spotted
      one which is good and you’re like, “This one IN PARTICULAR, is nice”.
      Then, situation is more suitable for you to use 이 드라마는 좋아요.

      See? In normal circumstances you wouldn’t say something is “nice IN
      PARTICULAR”, if you hadn’t been mentioning something “bad” before.
      ****

    • Milk Tea

      AH i see, thanks!

  • Amanda

    If I say 네 친구는 제가 아니에요, 네 친구는 will mean “as for being your friend…” while 제가 will be the subject of the sentence? So the translation would be something like: “As for being your friend…I`m not.”? Is it right? Also, is it right to say 제가, 내가, etc, or I should say 저가, 나가? 감사합니다!
    By the way, I`m loving the lessons!

  • https://www.facebook.com/minyong.jan Mi’Noù Chà

    humm !! i don’t undrestand this lesons :

  • max

    The last 3 lessons are so hard remember :o

    • Seokjin Jin

      Actually, the concept of particle is hard. Yes, I know that. If it is too hard to understand it now, you can skip it and study other lessons first. :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/minyong.jan Mi’Noù Chà

    hi!! actually i don’t undreastand what is the different about 은/는 and 이/가 b’cuz both have the same roles here

  • Nazanin

    aigooo this part was so hard :3

  • Carla

    안녕하세요. 저는 많이 배원해요. Did I said it right 선생님들? What I am trying to say is “i am learning a lot”. Having fun listening while learning from you guys. 청말 감사합니다.

  • masdo12

    안녕하세요!!!! had a quest I on and was hoping someone will answer me. If many people dont use the particles in general conversation is that allowed when writing in korean??

  • Robin

    Well, u said: “subject marking particles (이/가) show what the subject of the sentence is” but in the sentence, 내일은 저는 일해요……. 저 is the subject. So 저 is the topic AND subject, right ?