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.

  • Reyhane Sahebzade

    Oh My GOD!!! This lesson was so hard for me to understand, I should listen it over and over again…
    I think I’ll DIE in the way of learning Korean language!!! But I won’t let it go!!! believe me.

    • Liana Au

      Me too. I already listened to it & read the pdf over & over again, but still can’t understand… ~___~

  • Strahinja Jovanovic

    I don’t understand anythinggg :(

    • Anna Le

      Keep your head up high ^^ Just study other lessons and then go back to this again later on. Figthing!

  • PG

    Thank you so much for these great lessons! I appreciate the playfulness that you bring to this practice!

  • Daniel.Lion

    안녕하세요… I have been taking Korean lessons for about 3 months now at 부경데학교 and this section is still very difficult for me to comprehend. Your lesson helped, but still leaves me confused in the end.

    If we take the WEATHER sentence #3 for example as a starting point:

    오늘은 날씨는 좋아요. The 은 emphasizes today in comparison to other days. The 는 gives the impression that while other things today are not good, at least the weather is. I would think the translation would be something like… As for today, while other things are not good, at least the weather is.

    However, if we changed the sentence to:

    오늘은 날씨가 좋아요. Isn’t this sentence giving a similar nuance as the first one I wrote? If the 이/가 marker gives the nuance of “nothing but” is the sentence translated roughly as… As for today, nothing but the weather is good?

    Does using 가 instead of 는 give a different feeling/meaning to this sentence? If so, can you please try to help me understand what that is?


  • http://notoriouslycurious.com Niki Torres

    Still getting confused whether to use the topic marking particles OR the subject marking particles. Only with more practice, I guess! :)

  • Linh

    Are these particles necessary in the sentences?

    • Seokjin Jin

      Although people often omit the particles during the conversation but it is still necessary and important.

  • Lovely Nody (나다)

    It’s the most complex lesson until now but i think I understood it well ! :D
    Your way of teaching is amazing !
    오빠 또 언니 목소리가 좋아해요 ! ♡ ^^
    Is it right ?!

  • kira

    I have just started learning hangeul, and I cannot even express fully how much you guys are helping me learn! Kamsahamnida! TTMIK is the best and hopefully all of you won’t get tired of helping us learn!

  • Benjamin Kuss

    Is it correct to thing of the topic/ subject marking particles as having a function similar to that of stressing particular words in an English sentence? For example, “Today the weather is good,” vs. “Today the weather is good.” ? Both are the same but the stress would imply different things in a conversation. Thanks!

    • KyungHwa Sun


  • Benjamin Kuss

    oh sorry, i meant to italicize today and weather in the different sentences. OK: “TODAY the weather is good,” vs. “today the WEATHER is good”

  • Didi

    감사합니다 성생님들

    • Seokjin Jin

      감사합니다! :)

  • Eleni Nana

    Annyeonghaseyo! please help me, i can’t understand thiw lesson. If i have a water in front of me, what must I say? Igeo murieyo or Igeoneun murieyo? And why?

    • Seokjin Jin

      You can use both. In daily conversation, subject/topic marking particles are often omitted so both expressions are available. :)

  • Eleni Nana

    Annyeonghaseyo! please help me, i can’t understand this lesson. If I have a water in front of me, what must I say? Igeo murieyo or Igeoneun murieyo? And why?

  • mohadese

    ohhhhhh it’s really difficult i can’t undrestand it!!!!!

  • Tan De Silva

    Hi, I have red the level 1 dialog and I saw this line
    :선물이 없어요 which means dont have gift or present. I just wanna ask if what could be the complete meaning of that since it has subject marking particle?

  • Nouha JUNHA

    Kamsahamnidaaa the lesson is really great and really important. I often, while watching korean dramas or TV show, I hear the word Hyung but sometimes some guys say it Hyungi, is this “i” added in the end is the subject marking particle we’re talking about? If this is what I’m thnking then if it’s a girl “Unni” then we add “ga” and it becomes Unniga is that right?

  • Esra sultan

    Hi, how do I know which words take 가 and which ones take 이 ?

    • Seokjin Jin

      If the last letter has a last consonant, 이 is followed.

      For example, 석진이 밥을 먹었어요. / 현우가 밥을 먹었어요.

  • Sandy Joseph

    I have a question related to the topic marker:
    If I said 저는 바보 아니에요- would that be insulting to the people around me?
    Would saying 저 바보는 아니에요 mean I have other faults but being dumb is not one of them?

    Then would it be better to just use the subject marking particle on I 저가 바보 아니에요, to put emphasis on ME, myself, not being stupid?


    • KyungHwa Sun

      Hello Sandy,

      If you put strong emphasis on “는” when you say 저는 바보 아니에요, it implies that you are not 바보, but someone is. However, if you say 저는 바보 아니에요 plainly without any emphasis, you are not implying that someone else is 바보. You are just saying that you are not stupid.

      As for 저 바보는 아니에요, people usually say it when they want to say something like “I am not THAT stupid.” or “I am a little dumb, but I’m not as dumb as 바보.”

      Hope this helps! :)

    • Sandy Joseph

      It does, thanks.

  • Moslemforever

    Hi there, i red the lesson 9,but I can not understand one thing in the sentence:내을 은 저는 일해요. The topic is 내을 and the subject is 저는 but why we use 는 for 저 ,we have to use 가 ?

  • Moslemforever

    Hi there, i red the lesson 9,but I can not understand one thing in the sentence:내을 은 저는 일해요. The topic is 내을 and the subject is 저는 but why we use 는 for 저 ,we have to use 가 ?

    • simjang

      hey, i was also confused with that so i looked it up. it seems that both 은/는 and 가/이 are used as subject marking particles, while 가/이 is used when the emphasis is put on the person or thing in the sentence.
      나는 샀다 = I ‘bought’
      내가 샀다 = ‘I’ bought
      in the first one it is more emphasis one the action (buying) and in the second one about who bought (I). i hope it helped you, you can check here for more info http://www.learnkoreanlp.com/2006/11/party-with-particles.html

  • KarlaXIII

    안녕하세요! I would like to know how do you write the name of that food that 경은 선생님 likes :)


    • KyungHwa Sun

      삼겹살 :)

    • KarlaXIII

      고맙습니다! ^-^

  • Michele

    So is the “subject” the same as a “noun”?

  • Janice

    The link for the “free PDF” is apparently not free on the Scribd site. Is it really “free” or do I have to pay to download it? :/

    • Janice

      Nevermind, I figured it out. However, the “free PDF for this lesson here” link under the mp3 player links to a file that requires payment for download.

    • david

      That’s strange, for me it opens it up no problem in a new tab

  • A

    there is some words that i cant understand like “Moksori” “bajayo” ? what does mean ?

    • Sandy Joseph

      “bajayo” is really pronounced “majayo” (맞아요) with the /m/ sound. It just sounds like a /b/ to us newbie learners. Both letters are made in the same place, and both have the buzzing in the throat, they just have different ways the sound comes out.

      It mean’s “that’s right”. Normally used in conjunction with yes (네,맞아요).

  • Réka

    Okay, I don’t understand something. In the beginning, you said “igeot kamera yeyo” is not a complete sentence, and you must use a particle. But if I say “igeot eun sagwa yeyo” that means “The other things might not be apples and I don’t care about them but THIS one is an apple”. So you said if I simly wanna say “This is an apple” I have to say “igeot sagwa yeyo” But now is that a right sentence or not? You said it’s not complete!
    Oh, and another thing, my Korean friend told me that “igeot eun sagwa yeyo” is right for simple “This is an apple” without any extra roles.
    Or is there something about emphasising it with your voice in speaking?
    What do I say if I just wanna say “This is an apple”? Just this simple sentence, without any instense of saying “The others are not”
    Thank you so much, anyway, you’re awesome!! :)

    • KyungHwa Sun

      First of all, the subject marking particles are often omitted, especially in everyday conversations, so most Koreans would probably say “이거 사과예요.” (이것 is often pronounced as 이거 when you speak.) Second of all, if you say “이것은 사과예요” plainly, it doesn’t have a subtle nuance, so it would be the same as “이거 사과예요,” but if you say “이것*은* 사과예요” with an emphasis on the particle “은,” you are implying that you “don’t know about the others, but THIS one is an apple.”

  • http://twitter.com/mydeerluhan_07 Luhanee

    Sorry I don’t get what is the difference between subjects and topics :(. Please explain. Thank you in advance ^^

  • Pamela

    its a bit confusing…