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.

  • https://www.facebook.com/faraharacid Emberly Aracid

    Annyeonghasaeyo Kyeong-eun Unni! Am I right with this and can I call you Unni? :D.. Anyways, Thanks for these PDFs, i found them very useful. It’s just that i’m having such problems learning putting those marking particles. hahaha.. Please bear with me. :)

  • anhchung

    i tried to understand 은/는 but i still dont get there

  • Mariana

    C’est une pomme d:

  • Mariana

    Is there another video explaining this in even more detail?

  • Yahnur

    I’m still confused what’s the difference between i-chaek-eun and i-chaek-i ?

  • Danning Huang

    So what’s the difference between naneun and negga? Do the same rules apply?

  • Unique_Window

    감사합니다!! I have had the hardest time trying to figure out the particles..I’ve bought books and looked on the internet to try and get answers, but everything I found was very confusing. :( I am really thankful to you both and the TTMIK crew for making this website and posting free podcasts to help all of us who are trying to learn your beautiful language. I really understand and like how you explain everything. And whenever I get confused about anything I can go back and listen to the podcast again. You are amazing!!! ^^ 너무 감사합니다!!^^

  • jack

    can some one please explain the difference between topic and subject particles, to me there almost the same. what do i use when? 감사합니다

  • Learner

    How do you differentiate between constants and vowels if you don’t know how to write Korean .

  • http://teukcheonsa.tumblr.com/ Be

    Listen this lesson several time and what i get is if someone ask ‘which book is good?’
    Then in my opinion the ABC book is good, i’ll answer ‘이책이 좋어요’ and point the ABC book, but it’s not mean other book is bad
    but ‘이책은 좋어요’ mean this book is good and other is bad
    this is right?

  • Fatima khalid

    안녕하세요 This website is very helpful, and you guys are doing great job. I have a request can you do another podcast on this topic, perhaps with a bit more elaboration, i am still confused about the particles usage.

  • Guest

    I learn best in Non-Linear selection. I just see what I can use, select it, and take notes of the parts I need to learn. SO I start on this lesson firstㅋㅋㅋ. I really absorb the lesson when I let the Audio play and read the PDF in the browser, while I and type with Korean IME in Notepad. Interesting, there is some words in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, that are similar pronunciation and meaning. rarely in Thai though. I Think what helps me to Understand Korean, is having knowledge with Japanese inflections and particles. In fact I find these two languages close when it comes to post-position grammatical words. I think the lessons are always good because you have both male and female, it enhances the learning rate. I am for sure this is the best Korean language learning site. In fact it might be the most friendly and powerful language site I have used so far from what I experience from this lesson.

    • 류 H

      This is my reply, it just got posted as a guest somehow. =-)

  • Viki

    안녕! I would like to ask something about the language notes. There is the example sentence:
    내일은 저는 일해요. Here 저 is the subject. But why isn´t there a subject marking particle at the end? Why is it 는 topic marking particle?

  • Fitzgerald Lee

    Hi… erm I would like to make sure that my understanding isn’t wrong. So.. according to what I understand here is that,

    Topic marking particle(은/는)
    -When we use 은/는 after a noun, the other things go either negative or positive depending on the verb that we are using.
    ~If I add (은/는) after the word ‘child’ from this sentence [이 아이는 잘생겨 요] ,it means (This child is handsome.’But the other children are not, without even mentioning it but it still have that meaning.’)?
    ~And if I’m talking to a friend, if I add (은/는) after the word ‘I’ from this sentence [저는 잘생겨요.], it means that (I’m handsome.’But you-(my friend) are not, without even mentioning it’)?
    -(I notice that all your (은/는) examples have ‘but’, this topic marking particle to me is more like comparing nouns.) It is like when I’m talking to a person, and I use (은/는) for (I) I’m comparing with him.

    Subject marking particle(이/가)
    ~If I add (이/가) after the word ‘child’ from this sentence [이 아이가 잘생겨 요.] ,it means (This child is handsome. ‘Without any comparison to other children.’)?
    ~And if I’m talking to a friend, if I add (이/가) after the word ‘I’ from this sentence [제가 잘생겨요.], it means (I’m handsome. ‘Without comparing with my friend’.)?
    -((이/가) to me is more like comparing nothing, so if I just wan to talk about me or you or someone or something , it is best to use (이/가)?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    By the way, Thank you to all the teachers that are helping and teaching. I really appreciate your help.감사합니다.

    • JooyeonPark

      Yes and no.
      As you said, There is comparison nuance in the sentence you mentioned which is ‘이 아이는 잘생겼어요’ (by the way, it’s 잘생겼어요 not 잘생겨요), but not always necessarily should be comparison if there is no other compared person/thing. I mean, if there is someone who you actually want to compare, you SOULD add ‘는’ so that you can express the comparison meaning, but if not, you can safely use ‘이아이 잘생겼어요’ which doesn’t have any particle.

      Same goes to ‘저는 잘생겼어요’
      You can just say ‘저 잘생겼어요’ if you don’t want to say about just yourself :)

      and Yes ‘이/가’ has no comparison nuance but this is different problem. I mean, I think you are only focusing on ‘comparison’. It’s not like that ‘은/는’ has comparison nuance and ‘이/가’ has no comparison nuance.
      It’s more like that ‘은/는’ is used when you want to add some comparison nuance, ‘이/가’ is used when you want to emphasis the subject that are doing the verb.
      So, for example, if someone asks “Who did this?”
      then i want to answer that ‘it’s 민수 who did that!”
      In this case, In Korean, you can say “민수가 그랬어요”
      i wanted to show you that ‘이/가’ is not about comparison, it’s about highlighting the subject, and i dont know if i explain well.

      Anyway, I hope it helps :) Enjoy your studying with us!

    • Fitzgerald Lee

      Thank you for the quick reply.

      Can you please give me some examples, where you say (은/는) is not always necessary about comparing.

      Ok….. so (이/가) is to emphasize the subject. But what is the difference, if I don’t use any particle to answer the example given by you: “Who did this?” and I answer it this way (만수 그랬어요). What are the differences??

      And oh ya> you said it is (잘생겼어요 and not 잘생겨요), wouldn’t that mean (I was handsome)?

      Very sorry if my confusion cause you alot of trouble. I’m very desperate to learn up my Korean, where my parents couldn’t effort to send me to classes or buy me any foreign book(-financial problem-). So I have study from quite some sites, 1 of the sites taught me the conjugation (adjective+어/아 요) or maybe is because I haven’t finish learning.

      Anyway I really appreciate your time. I’m looking forward to your reply. Thank You.

  • Kyla Lee 이재미

    i am still VERY confused O.o seonsaengnim dowajuseyoooo~

    • JooyeonPark

      Which part is still confused?

  • Anu

    Hi !”
    Could you please tell me the difference between “i goe mwo ye yo ?” and “i ga mwo ye yo ?”

    • Seokjin Jin

      “i ga mwo ye yo ?” is not correct sentence.

      이거 뭐예요 is the shortened version of 이것은 뭐예요.

    • Anu

      I can’t read Korean. Although, I think I get what you’re trying to tell. Thankyou ! :)

  • Carine

    So we will never use them in daily life

  • luexolu

    annyeong haseyo~ will it make a big difference if i don’t use eun/neun or i/ga?

  • Calypso

    Quick question, so 이책이 조아요 is in response to a question (of which book is good/you like) while 이첵은 조아요 isn’t a response to a question you just happened to distinguish between the other books on your own. Otherwise, they seem the same thing to me, because in both cases you’re stating that the other books aren’t good (from what I’ve understood Hyunwoo Sun say).

  • Natália

    Please, can someone correct these phrases? I want to know if I got this right.

    이거 김치 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (generally).

    이거는 김치 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (implies that other foods are delicious, just the kimchi are not).

    이거 김치는 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (implies that THIS kimchi, in particular, is not delicious, but the others are).

    Thank you guys for this amazing website. :)

    • JooyeonPark

      Here are some right sentences based on your explanation you wrote :)

      이 김치 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (generally).

      김치는 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (implies that other foods are delicious, just the kimchi are not).

      이 김치는 맛없어요. – This kimchi is not delicious (implies that THIS kimchi, in particular, is not delicious, but the others are).

      Thanks! :)

    • Natália

      Thank you!! 감사합니다

  • サ ラ

    I don’t quite get it. :/ can anyone please give me a summarized explanation? Thanks ^^

  • Djah

    안녕하세요 :) Awesome podcast guys.
    Q: Since koreans drop the topic/subject marking particles in most conversations, can we still get by talking in korean without it?

    • Seokjin Jin

      It is true. In many cases, people omit the subject/marking particles. If it is hard to understand it now, you can pass it but it will be needed if you want to clarify the meaning or the nuance of sentences.

    • Carine

      Thank you

  • danny fox

    hi. I watch a lot of Korean music videos everyday. your website and podcasts are awesome !! and help me to learn korean very easy.
    thank you (ttmik Team) so much.

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks so much for your comment. 감사합니다. 앞으로도 열심히 할게요.

  • Alanna Rose St Peters

    My question doesn’t have much to do with this lesson, but I’ve been really troubled by this for a while: what’s the difference between ㄲ and ㅋ? Or ㅉ and ㅊ? I’ve been studying 한글 for quite a few months now, but I’ve always been wondering about those four.

    • katie

      it takes timeeeeeee, you just have to keep listening to it over and over again until your ear finally beccomes adjusted one is just more emphasized than the other. the ifrst one is gg! and the second one is just k. the third one is jj! and the last one is cha. It took me 2 years to be distignush them, but I didn’t study dilligently lol

    • Alanna Rose St Peters

      아, 감사합니다!

  • 우유 moo

    우유 좋아요 (I can’t think of any other words than milk right now).

  • Lauren Hand

    이거 학요 는 좋아요 Have mercy on my this is my first sentence ;)
    If your topic and subject is the same word then do you use 이/가 or 는/은?

    • Robert Ryan

      I think you mean “이거 학교는 좋아요.”.
      You use 는 directly next to 학교 (I believe you meant that).

      Also a big 감사합니다 to the TTMIK Team for making it so easy to learn korean! I’m only 16 but I really found interest in Korean culture and language!

  • Zahra

    안녕하세요 ^^
    Which of these sentences meaning :(as for tomorrow I am busy )?
    1: 내일은 저는 바쁜이에요
    2: 나는 바쁜 내일 해요
    Or both of them are false ?
    감사합니다 ~♡

    • Ray

      Would 바쁘다 not be conjugated due to the ㅡ irregularity and become 바빠요 so can you just say 저는 내일은 바빠요?. Im not too sure myself since im just starting to learn korean myself. Please correct me if im wrong.

    • Zahra

      감사합니다 for your answer ^^