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.

  • Evelin Kirah

    English isn’t my mother language, but I think that I understood well this lesson, altough is a bit confusing. xd
    감사합니다!!! *-*

    • ninoshka

      English isn’t my mother language neither. I speak spanish but this page is very helpful. I didn’t find good page that teach korean in spanish like TTMIK.
      What’s your first language?

  • wani

    so interesting ,but I still can’t get all of them!!!

  • esther

    Hi! Thank you for the lesson! I love it! 좋아요!

    I want to ask about pronouncation of ㄹ

    For : 오늘은, i felt like i hear you pronounce it “oneu(R)eun” instead of “oneu(L)eun”

    and for the other word, such as 물, i heard you pronounce it “mu(L)”

    so, how to pronounce ㄹ actually?

    Thank you! ^^

    • http://www.pandasigns.ca Momoy

      When the following character in a word starts with a ㅇ and the last character ended in a consonant, the sound carries over and replaces it but in ㄹ’s case, when it’s at the end of a character, it makes more of an L sound but when it’s at the beginning of a character I sounds more like an R.

      So tl;dr – it reads as 오느른 because the ㄹ replaces the ㅇ

      눈물 – nun mul – tears – ㄹ is at the end and makes more of an L sound than R.

      런닝맨 – Running Man – best variety show ever – ㄹ at the beginning makes more of an R sound.

    • esther

      Okay, I got it. Thanks! :)

  • http://www.pandasigns.ca Momoy

    “경은씨 목소리가 너무 좋아요.”

    이거 맞아요? Or am I missing a 의 there for possessive purposes?

  • Vidura

    Hello, I love these lessons! They have helped me improve quickly and widened my vocabulary. You are amazing and helpful!!

    Could you please give some examples of when to use subject marking particles? I am comfortable with topic marking particles, but not subject. Please write a few sentences to show how to use subject marking particles.

  • Miss Zeera

    Jwiseonghamnida .my english are not too good. But i want to ask ‘is this right?’
    eun and neun. are showing that we dont care about the others but this is it (?)
    But what about i and ga ? Is it for the other things that we CONFORM wrong but this is it …?

    Im sorry ….. my sentences are too convoluted ^_^’

    • KyungHwa Sun


  • Menna Yehia

    우리 선생님이좋아요

    I hope its right ^^ , i have a question and please answer it Is there any exercise on the lesson to know that i get it or not ???!!

  • Daisy

    What is the purpose of 를 and its difference with these?? I’m confused ><

    • Julia 벽산

      Actually, the using of 을/를 is completely differ from 은/는 and 이/가, and it is very easy to understand. They have a lesson on Level 2 Lesson 2 on it.

  • Matt

    Would the following be correct nuances for 은 and 는?

    그거 수업 좋아요. = This lesson is good.
    그거는 수업 좋아요. = This lesson is good. (implies the other lessons were not good)
    그거 수업은 좋아요. = This lesson is good. (implies things which are not lessons were not good)

    감사합니다 for the lesson.

    • Seokjin Jin

      그거는 수업 좋아요. = This lesson is good.(implies the other lessons were not good) >> 그 수업은 좋아요.

      그거 수업은 좋아요. = This lesson is good. (implies things which are not lessons were not good) >> 그 수업이 좋아요.

  • Vanessa

    Hi! Thank you for the lessons! Really helps a lot. Just wanted to clarify what is the difference between subject and topic?

    • Vanessa

      Is subject something you just want to bring up, but not the main focus of the discussion while topic the main focus and what you want to talk about?

  • wonderfulb2uty

    For some reason, the sound track cannot be played. Not sure if it’s just me. =/

  • Melo ✘ ♣

    I’m confused with this lesson :( 은는 – 이가 how I’ll learn ? :'(

  • Ishan

    I read online that 은는 is used to emphasize the subject of the sentence. For example, if someone asked what is someone doing, you would respond with something like 그분은 자요 as in they are sleeping. However, 이가 is used if someone asked who is doing something, you would respond with something like 나의 고양이가 자요 as in my cat is sleeping. Is this correct?

    The link to the page I read it on is http://www.learnkoreanlp.com/2006/11/party-with-particles.html

  • Anto

    I think I understood it, it’s like, for example, if I’m in a super market with my little brother, and I want to say to him that this fruit it’s an apple and no the other fruits, i say 이거는 사과예요?

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yes. Correct. :)

  • Corkboard Smith

    Hey! Thank you for this lesson, it’s very complex to me right now but I’m sure I can grasp it soon.

    I have a good sentence to test my understanding on: the famous quote from Crocodile Dundee, “that’s not a knife. THIS is a knife!”

    Would it be: “그 칼 아니에요. 이 칼이 예요!” ?

    • Seokjin Jin

      Great! Subject/Topic marking particle part is not easy. :)

  • Carly

    Ah I’m so confused *_* So these subject and topic marking particles can be used for emphasis, but they can be used to simply state things as well – it’s just they are usually omitted in everyday conversation?

    When you are learning, is it better to always use these particles, or just when using for emphasis?

    Also, is it just everyday conversation these or omitted? For example, would you leave them in if you were writing a formal letter or essay?

  • Pingback: Particles in Korean pt. 2: Topic Particles [Grammar of the Week] | Twenty Third Station

  • lia

    I want to ask some questions. Besides i/ ga to confirm on something, what is used to? Because when i read korean people’s status, they put i/ga on it. But they didnt mean want to confirm on something. I hope u get it.

    • KyungHwa Sun

      Basically, you need to use 이/가 after a subject of a clause. However, you can omit it when it is very obvious to tell that it is the subject of the clause.

  • Amy

    감사합니다 for explaining it all very well!! I have written it all down in my Korean learning book yay!

  • Irma Fitriasari

    I want to ask something, my korean teacher told me that we use 은/는 to complete the sentence
    example: 저는 학생입니다. She said it means “I am a student” and 학생입니다 means “(I am) a student”
    Is it true? And what is the different between 입니다 and 이예요? Is it about formal and informal?
    Thank you^^ 감사합니다!

    • KyungHwa Sun

      Hello Irma,

      -(으)ㅂ니다 is more formal than -예요, and 학생입니다 means “(I) am a student.”

  • Alvera Kawaa

    회사원들이 도넛을 원한다
    how can i make from this sentence a question ? ( with the subject marking particle 이 / 가 ??

    • KyungHwa Sun

      You don’t have to change the particle. You can change it to “회사원들이 도넛을 원해요?” or “회사원들이 도넛을 원합니까?(more formal)”

  • Lily

    Could you explain the role of 은/는 in these sentences to me: “여기는 도서관입니다.” and “이것은 책닙니다.” ?Do they play a role of topic marking particles? 감사합니다!

    • Seokjin Jin

      여기는 도서관입니다. (I am talking about) This is a library.
      이것은 책입니다. (I am talking about) This is a book.

      The topic of the sentence, marked by 은 [eun] or 는 [neun] is usually (but not always) the same as the subject of the sentence.

  • Mini Konkhmer

    Can we use 이/가 as both subject and object markers in the same sentence?
    제 형이 돈이 있어요.
    제 형은 돈이 있어요.
    These two sentences are the same or not?

    • KyungHwa Sun

      “제 형은 돈이 있어요.” sounds neutral unless you put an emphasis on “은” when you say it. However, if you say “제 형이 돈이 있어요.” it will sound like it is an answer to the question “Who has money?”

    • Mini Konkhmer

      oh! Thanks you so much.

  • Michael Schroeder

    경은씨가 너무 예뻐요.

  • Simonee

    This is hard..I had to listen to it multiple times to understand fully.

  • Ömer Faruk Ataç

    My question will be the same as Mini Konkhmer’s one? Because I did not distunguish the topic markers and subject markers how they use exactly. For example: as you gave an example on the pdf , the weather is good. the weather is Subject but you did not use Subject markers when you want to eamphasize weather. but in other case you use the subject markers to emphasize book in the pdf example.

    I hope that my question is clear from your side:) If you give an explanation how I will understand the emphasize topic or subject. or distunguish , I would be very pleased.

    gam sa hap ni da!!

    • Mini Konkhmer

      Yeah, I still misuse with these. I really want to know how to clarify it clearly in the sentence. I sometimes use it the same either. :)

  • 4ㅕㅆㄹ

    Hi, I do not know is it ok to ask here. 우리말놓을까요 should be written as Uri mal not eul kka yo? Or as what i seen on a book (Uri mal noeulkkayo)? And noeulkkayo should join together or separate as per the hangul block?

  • Jenny Liaw

    Hi, I do not know is it ok to ask here. 우리말놓을까요 should be written as Uri mal noh eul kka yo? Or as what i seen on a book (Uri mal noeulkkayo)? And noeulkkayo should join together or separate as per the hangul block?

  • Linda

    I’m having trouble knowing what part of my sentence (or when I’m talking in general) is the topic and which is the subject.

  • Jhae

    Its hard to distinguish when to use TOPIC or SUBJECT marking particles.

    • Seokjin Jin

      Yes. I know this concept is hard to understand. However you should practice to use them frequently, so you will understand the right usage.

  • Alexandra

    I’m still not 100% sure what the difference is, but I think sometimes they’re used for emphasis. Also for example if you say “I like mom the best” then “I” would have the topic particle since your talk about yourself/”I” and “mom” would have the subject particle since “mom” is getting the action. Am I sort of right? By the way, thank you I always find these lessons helpful.

  • Julia 벽산

    Regarding the sample sentences in “이책 좋해요.” :
    When someone is asking you : Which book is good?
    The answers of (1) 이책은 좋아요. & (2) 이책이 좋아요. is emphasizing differently. This point I understand, BUT ……..

    However, how would it be when the question is asked in Korean, should it be translated to : “어느 책이 좋아요?”
    As such, in this situation, when the person asking question is using 「책이」, can the one answer to the question use 「책은」?
    Could you explain this further, please?

  • Smiles

    Is there another video about these? I am still confused. :D