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.

  • michelle

    how can i download the mp3?

  • 케티이

    Let me see if i got this right. So the easiest way for me to actually learn this was to create a full understanding of what the topic and subject is. The Topic is basically the noun in English so the ‘thing’. The subject is the object, so the ‘doing word’. English sentence structure is ordered by Topic + Verb + Object, whereas, in Korea it is ordered by Topic + Object + Verb.

    Knowing when to use Topic markings and Subject markings is a little more confusing for me to explain. I feel that Topic markings are used more to pinpoint something exact and to show the contrast between that thing you’re pinpointing to another thing. Whereas, Subject Markings i feel are used more to show curiosity and and how intrigued a person is.

  • victoriakathleen17

    Thanks for this very useful lesson! There are still a few things I’m not quite sure and don’t get it though…
    What’s the difference between 1) 저 학생이에요 and 2)저는 학생이에요? They both are referring to “I” not anyone else…so it’s still saying that “I am a student”…? I just don’t get difference…:O
    Same for 가방은 and 가방…What is the difference again..? To me, it sounds just the same…they’re both referring to “the bag”…? Giving another example: 오늘은 날씨 좋네요 —> how do you know what’s the meaning adding the topic marking particle? It could be making the topic obvious or could be making contrast, meaning the weather hasn’t been good lately, but TODAY is good.

    Another question is when it says 1)이가방 좋아요 or 2)이가방은 좋아요, is 1) just simply saying the bag is nice and 2) is specifically saying ONLY this bag is nice and others are not? How do you differentiate them?

    I know this is loads of and i’m sorry about it…but i’m so confused…:/a

  • Jisubfanatic Sara

    Hi, sorry if this has been asked before. I haven’t read all the comments. This is about eun and neun.

    When we say “I don’t have time” with “eun” after the word time, it means “I have time for other people but don’t have any time ONLY for you”? Does it have a negative connotation? And when we use “i” after the word “time”, it means “I don’t have time neither for you nor for others”? So it’s politer
    and has a positive connotation? Sorry, I’m a bit confused.

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yes, how to use subject/topic marking particle is not easy. If you say “저는 시간이 없어요.”, it will be polite and it won’t have negative meaning to anyone. However if you say “저는 당신한테 쓸 수 있는 시간은 없어요”, it will be really rude to the person.

    • Jisubfanatic Sara

      Thank you for the answer. Now I can get it a bit better.

  • Stacey K.

    I listened to this yesterday and was very confused! However, I thought about it a lot today and even noticed 은 and 는 while listening to K-pop. I am going to listen again and I have a feeling I will understand it even more. 감사합니다!

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yay! Because it is hard to understand right away, you need to read many sentences including the subject/topic marking particles. Yes, it is also good to listen many Korean songs.

  • Dwani Shady’ Richardson-Gumbs

    thank you guys for being awesome!!

    • Seokjin Jin

      @dwanishadyrichardsongumbs:disqus Thanks for your kind comment. You’re awesome, too.

  • Ninja Queen

    감사합니다! These particles were very confusing to understand before and I couldn’t find a place for someone to explain them in a simple way. I probably have to listen to it again to make it stick but it was very helpful.

    So “저는 학색 아니여요.” would mean something like “I may be other things, but I am definitely not a student.”?

    • Seokjin Jin

      @ninjaqueen:disqus Hi, the correct expression is “저는 학생 아니에요”. However, you understood the nuance well. Good job!

    • Ninja Queen

      Oh right, my bad. I guess I have to practice my spelling too. Thanks for the correction. :)

  • Yaleja Suarez

    감사합니다 my name is alejandra, i have a little question which it´s better 코피가 좋아요 or 커피이 좋아요 or how can i use 가/이?

    • Seokjin Jin

      커피가 좋아요 is right. Because the last letter “피” doesn’t have a last consonant, 가 was followed.

  • Kristine Joy Catan

    annyeong haseyo! This lesson was so great. I learned a lot! kamsahamnida!

    • Seokjin Jin

      Thanks for your comment. :)

  • faezeh

    i can`t understand what difference is between ” ee check choayo” and ” ee checkon choayo” and “ee check ee choayo”

    • Seokjin Jin

      There is a difference of nuance.

      이 책이 좋아요. (Normally) This book is good.
      이 책은 좋아요. This book is good (but other books may not be good).

  • faezeh

    thank you :)
    you are the best;)

  • faezeh

    forgive me if my English grammar is bad:)

    • Seokjin Jin

      It’s okay! Thanks for your comment.

  • Miranda Filan

    Hi, I was watching 별에서온그대 while learning these lessons, and found a few sentenses which I’m not sure if they are applications of subject particles. 니가 듣고 싶어하”는” 말들… and 니가 그리”는” 미래애. I’m uncertain because the word before는 feels like a verb instead of a noun as given in your example. I also found 사실”은”, 저 나으리”가” 좋습니다. I guess it’s an object particle? thank you in advance!

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  • Qistina Izni

    So basically, neun/eun sometime shows negativity and i/ga shows positivity.. I’m sorry this lesson is just a bit hard for me but that doesn’t stop me to learn Korean more..

    • Seokjin Jin

      As other contries don’t have this marking particle concept, it should be hard to understand them, but I hope you use it a lot when you practice using Korean. Then you will learn more the differences between subject/topic marking particles.

  • Vaishnavi Kunjapur

    Aanyonghaseyo! I have been trying to learn Korean from different sources and by far I find your way the easiest and the simplest for learning detailed korean. And kyong hun and hyun woo both your muksuri chuayeyo. I think! I have jsut reached till this lesson! Khamsahamnida

  • Dmitry Narkevich

    Hi, in the sample sentence 내일 은 저 는 일해요, why do you use the topic marking particle twice, after both 내일 and 저? Why isn’t 저 followed by 가 instead, since the emphasis is on tomorrow, and “I” is simply the one who’s doing the action? Kamsahamnida!

  • William Lynch


    So if I get this right, 이젝윽 좋네요. Is like “As for this book… It’s good” as in it’s talking about the book as the topic meaning there is more to what you’re trying to say than this one sentence. So does 은/는
    imply that the following information is one factor of the sentence. Is if a korean speaker hears
    이젝윽 좋네요. then would they assume there are things you may feel are negative about the book?

    Kind of like in English when we say “As for this book, it’s good but,,,”

    • Seokjin Jin


      When I hear 이 책은 좋아요, first I will think that the book is good and an the same time, I will think that other book won’t be good as the book.