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.

  • Kaine Chandler

    In the sentence about the weather, 좋네요 is used, but in the book example, 좋아요 is used and both are translated as “is good”. Why the difference?

    • maye2911

      Hi TTMIK – I have the same question. What is the difference between 좋네요 & 좋아요? Appreciate if you can help to clarify. 감사합니다!

    • krysolov

      네 is a conversational particle. Some good explanations with links: https://www.italki.com/question/58345

  • Maddie Shore

    I overheard someone say “오ㅐ가” I understand that wae means why but i’m just confused as to what the ga does to modify the situation. It was said after someone made a mistake doing something, I just don’t get what the modifier does in this case.

  • msciwoj

    안녕하세요! I have a question regarding the words for this/that/that one over there and the topic/subject markers, as well as other particles you can add at the end of these words. In lesson 7 you’ve said that a word for ‘this thing’ is in principle 이것, but people often drop the ㅅ, so it becomes 이거. Now, there is not a very huge difference in pronunciacion, because the last ‘t’ is not really that strong anyway. But the problem for me appears when I want to make ‘this thing’ a topic of a sentence. Now, should I add to it 은 or 는? It depends if it has a 받침 or not. But one of the versions has it and the other doesn’t. In other places I’ve found that it will always be 이것은, pronounced like ‘이거슨’, according to merging rules, but in your pdf you use 이거는. Now, the difference in pronunciation between these two is huuuge. So, could you please explain if any of these forms is preferred or more correct, and the other is still correct but colloquial, or how does it work? I am slightly confused, I have to admit.

    • krysolov

      이거 (그거, 저거) are colloquial, everyday kind of words. 이것, etc. are more bookish or academic or appropriate for newscasts. I was told by my Korean friends it’s one of the easiest way to spot a beginner learner when they use 이것 in spoken language.

    • msciwoj

      I get that, but I was asking specifically for the use of topic particles here, so you didn’t asnwer my question at all. Anyone else?

  • Kristen

    Thanks for the excellent lessons guys! I have been trying to learn Korean for a while now and you guys made it easier to learn and understand 😀

  • Kaelah

    I’m a little confused when do I use I/ga and eun/neun
    and what is the difference between the two.

    • natluu

      From my understanding of this lesson. You use the topic markings to empathize on the topic that you’re referring to and use subject to do the same on your subject.
      So topic markings are eun/neun and subject markings are i/ga.
      So depending on what you want to emphasize or trying to point out, you would add these marking particles to do so.
      (if anyone want to correct me, please do)

    • Kaelah

      감사합니다 🙂 thank you I understand now 😀

  • Suga Swag

    If someone doesn’t understand, check this video out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W44A4vuMPec
    It helped me a lot to understand!

    • loftycries

      감사합니다! lil 윤기 (;

  • j

    in the worksheet it says 피자 비싸요 – Why is it just 비싸요 and not 피자 비싸예요 (the pizza IS expensive)?

    • krysolov

      ~예요 is a conjugated form of 이다 – “to be” used after a vowel (Lesson 5) to predicate the sentence (pretty much equivalent to the English “is/am/are”). So if you want to say “This is pizza”, it would be 이거 피자예요. 비싸요 is a conjugated form of 비싸다 – “to be expensive”. So “Pizza is expensive” is 피자 비싸요. “Pizza” is the subject and “is expensive” is the predicate. As opposed to “Expensive pizza” – 비싼 피자예요. “Expensive” describes the subject, “Pizza”, and ~예요 predicates the sentence.

  • Shira

    So when speaking do most people drop the particle and use it only when necessary?

  • Baek Yoel

    If someone’s name is 지민 what does it mean if someone says 지민이 & 지민이가?

    • 이 is often added to the end of a Korean name to make it sound more “cute”, and to show affection. as for 지민이가, I’m not entirely sure though it sounds like for similar purposes? idk tho.

    • Mia

      지민 = name
      지민이 = Jimin is
      지민이 = Jiminie (cute version of 지민)
      지민이가 = Jiminie is

      “is” being the particle instead of a verb here (I’m too lazy to add the verb, check one of the early lessons, the meaning of 이/가 is explained there), the 이/가 one.
      이 being used with words ending in a consonant (지민 ends in ㄴ) and 가 being used with words ending in a vowel (지민이 ending in ㅣ).

    • 줄리아 (julia)

      are you a BTS’ fan?

  • Poia

    Hi, my teacher is half korean and say that marking particles must be place depending if the last word end in batchim or not. NOT if the last word end in vowel or consonant like explain in pdf.
    But it’s not the same meaning? If the last word doesn’t end with batchim, it’s because it end in vowel. ???

    • metal_samurai

      your teacher is describing the same thing. if a word doesn’t have a 받침, then it ends in a vowel

  • Damaris Solis

    I have a book that says to put 를 and 을 whats the difference if there is one?

    • metal_samurai

      if you’re referring to the object marking particle, i’ll refer you to level 2 lesson 2

  • Suga Swag

    Can someone explain me the difference between these?

    날씨 좋아요
    날씨 좋네요
    날씨 좋다

    저어엉말 감사합니다!

    • metal_samurai

      날씨 좋아요
      plain statement that the weather is nice

      날씨 좋네요
      expressing your surprise or realization that the weather is nice. if you just walked outside and noticed how nice the weather is, you could say that.

      날씨 좋다
      same as first one, but with no consideration of formality. 날씨 좋아요 is more formal/polite.

  • Maria

    why do you have to say 내일은 저는 일해요 and not 내일은 저가 일해요

    저 is the subject of the sentence, isn’t it? bc I’M working…


    • Helena Blažková

      저가 would become 제가, it’s irregular, such as 나 and 너 are.

      Anyway, particles are really hard sometime, so I can’t give you clear answer. I’m not sure about it 😀 I believe that 저 is both subject and topic.

  • Marie-Soleil

    What is the difference between 좋아요, 좋네요 and 좋아해요? 감사합니다!

  • chry

    But I still don’t understand when to use subject marking particles and when to use topic marking particles.. whats the difference??

  • Dallas

    I’m confused now…I’ve learned elsewhere that 는 or 은 were SUBJECT marking particles along with object marking particles 를 and 을. I did not learn of any topic marking particles, or that 는 and 은 were somewhat negative to use in a sentence, I hear them used more than 이 and 가 too. Am I missing something? Would saying 나는 or 저는 instantly set a negative tone to whatever I am going to say with myself?

    • To answer your last question, no, saying 나는 or 저는 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to say something negative about yourself. Instead, it’s like you’re practically saying that you are going to talk about yourself, you don’t care about the others but it’s you. Let’s say for example I wanted to say that I like milk; it would be, “나는 우유를 좋아요.” I’m emphasizing that it is I who likes milk. Like the idea 현우 and 경은 had expressed on the podcast, it’s like comparing myself with other people. There might be other people who doesn’t like milk and I honestly don’t care if they like milk as well or not but I do.

      To make it easier, you can think of it like saying “As for me…”
      Example: “내 친구가 차를 좋아요 근데 나는 우유를 좋아요.” would be, “My friend likes tea but (as for me) I like milk.”

      Ps. I’m still not really fluent so I apologize if there are some mistakes on my sentences but I hope you get the idea of what I’m trying to say.

  • 줄리아 (julia)

    Why 내이른 저는 일해요 not 내일은 제가 일해요? I think because 저는 is the subject so it should be 제가? Someone please explain me!!

  • Harvey Duong

    목소리가 좋아요!

  • Courtney

    How do I know when to add subject particles and when not to?
    Do I just use them to emphasize the subject?
    How do I know when the subject will need clarification?

  • Luana Adriano

    I don’t understand something, what if I want to answer the question “which book do you like the most?”, without intending to minimize the quality of the other books?

  • Dale H. Jones

    Does anyone have a copy of the PDF? It’s been taken down ㅠ.ㅠ 감사합니다.

    • Hannah Brattain

      If you click on the “download available” button instead of the “free PDF” link it should work! Hope this helps 🙂

  • Ana Lucia Villafranca

    about the sample: 내일은 저는 일해요. Why adding emphasis to 2 of the 3 words? tomorrow and me are both the topic? does this means that the person speaking does not usually goes to work and tomorrow he/she will go to work after a while?

  • Monkey Freak

    what is the difference between the topic and subject of the sentence??? Can someone please help out? Thanks in advance 🙂

  • andwan0

    please check the scribd link… it’s broken

  • Nadd

    Thank you for your hard work~!! I would appreciate some help with this since I can’t quite grasp the difference between both the topic and subject particles. When Kyeong-eun said “오늘 목소리는 좋네요” it meant Hyun-woo’s got nothing good but his voice. And then towards the end when he said “목소리가 좋아요” it meant her voice is her strong point and when asked what’s good about her he’d say it’s her voice. Then, doesn’t that mean she’s got nothing good, but her voice? Or does it mean she has many good traits but her voice stands out more. Just like when he said the other books are not so good, but that specific one is, it was “이책이 좋아요, meaning none other than that book is good.

  • Sara

    annyeonhaseyo. Thankyou for this explanatiion of this important and confusing lesson. But im a bit confues about the difference of topic and subject marking particles. i undesrstood subject marking particles as a answer to the question but topic making particles are as a particles to impress the word i wont to underline. am i right? kamsahapnida^^

  • Semitic akuma

    hahaha omg omg jdfhlxdhdj we have that rule in arabic easyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy asia languages like i said we all have the same rules and ways of speakin thinking and life style oh my

  • Semitic akuma

    목소리가 something something hehehe
    감사합니다 ~

  • Ayman

    can we say ” 내일은 내가 일해요 “, since “I” is the subject is it correct to use subject making particle?

  • Silvana Ramirez C

    excuse me, it says that the file has been removed from scribd 🙁 🙁 :8

    • Danny Wang


  • Katie Crossing

    Ah this is harder to wrap my head aroud DX But kamsahamnida for explaining it so well! So basically: you don’t need to use eun or neun for everything, unless you want to emphasize it. And i or ga can be used more freely ?