Level 1 Lesson 9 / topic,subject marking particles / 은, 는, 이, 가

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!

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Level 1 Lesson 9 / topic,subject marking particles / 은, 는, 이, 가
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  • ItsAlice x – x

    안녕하세요! I am going to need more practice on this topic. I have a notebook with all of my notes from your lessons. I am still confused with modifiers and when to use 이거 or just 이. Your lessons are still very helpful! 안녕히 계세요!!

    • TheBlackMagicMage

      You use 이거 when talking about something on it’s own. “THIS is good.” When you use it as a noun alone, referring to something. Maybe you had a pencil in your hand, someone wanted to know if there was a sharp pencil to use, and you wanted to tell them. In english, you would say so without referring to the pencil. You would just hold it up. “This is good.”
      In this situation, you would say 이거 , because you are using it as a replacement for the word pencil.
      However, maybe you would want to specify that it was a pencil you were saying is good, so you would say, “This pencil is good.” This time, you would use “이” because you are using this to describe the pencil, not as a noun on its own.
      I hope I helped~

  • Vanessa Swan

    I just recently started using this website with the books and all the other lessons before this is easy to grasp but I am having a hard time learning this. Can someone please give me another example for this? I just don’t understand the difference between a subject marking particles and topic marking particles.

  • LS

    This is a little confusing but I think I understand.

    If someone asked me which bag i bought could i respond with 저는 이가방이 샀어요? emphasising that is was me rather than other people that bought this specific bag? or is this incorrect?

  • Carol Rozumalski

    My first language is English and I think I am stuck on the terms “subject” and “topic”. I remember studying English grammar and using the terms ” subject” and “object”, but not “topic”. For example:

    I threw the ball.
    I= subject
    ball= object

    So I need to check to see if I understand the concept of “topic”.

    Seems like the function of the topic marking particle is to target the thing you want to discuss. There are many balls I could have thrown, but I threw *this* one. It that a correct interpretation?

    • Miyeon

      They’re literally the same thing but I don’t think there will ever be a perfect translation of this.

      은/는 is used when you’re trying to distinguish one of the many objects in a sentence as a subject. (If that made any sense at all.)

      이/가 is used when you’re trying to clarify what topic you’re talking about.

  • Ebony-Aisha

    …please correct me:
    Q: What school is good? (학교은 뭐 좋아요?)
    A: I don’t know about other schools, but this school is good (학교이 좋아요)

    • Karu

      its wrong. u should use 는 and 가 cause both ends in vowel.
      Q: What school is good? (학교는 뭐 좋아요?)
      A: I don’t know about other schools, but this school is good (학교가 좋아요)

    • Miyeon

      In this case, 는 and 가 should be switched around:

      Q: 학교가 뭐 좋아요?
      A: 이학교는 좋아요.

    • Nada Hisham Azzam

      I still don’t get the difference of when to use 가 and when to use 는 (the usage of topic and subject marking particles.)

    • SugaKookies

      A way to think about it maybe is that 이/가 are more definitive and 은/는 are more comparitive. Like 이/가 is saying this thing is DEFINITELY good whereas 은/는 is saying thid is BETTER than others.
      I’m sorry if this makes no sense lol I dunno how to explain but it’s how I worked it out.

  • Maureen Pavlik

    I’ve listened to this podcast twice now and I *think* I get it, and maybe it will just come with trial and error and exposure, but let me try out this dialogue:

    A: 좋아요.
    B: 뭐가 좋아요?
    A: 이거 카피가 좋아요.
    B: 그거 카피 좋아요? 이가는 카피가 좋아요.

    A: It’s good.
    B: WHAT’s good?
    A: This COFFEE is good.
    B: That coffee is good? THIS coffee is good. (e.g. my coffee is better than your coffee.)

    Did I do it right?

    • Maya Gusarova

      I might be wrong but i guess you’ve mistaken it a bit. You’re using pronouns instead of modifiers (like 이거 instead of just 이) So as far as I get it, in order to mean the same as translation given, the dialogue should look like:
      A: 좋아요.
      B: 뭐가 좋아요?
      A: 이카피가 좋아요.
      B: 그카피 좋아요? 이카피가 좋아요 (if you mean that this one’s good for sure)
      or 이카피는 좋아요 (if you mean that “as for this coffee, it’s good” or “at least this coffee is good” while the other ones are bad)

      But as I said, I’ve just started to learn Korean myself so I can easily be mistaken^^

    • Maureen Pavlik

      Ahh. That does sound better. After I posted this comment, I was thinking to myself later that it seemed like I had too many modifiers in there mucking it up.
      This may not make any sense to you, but my strong second language is Japanese (Korean will be my 4th) and I think the 가 part of 이가/그가/저가 vs. 이/그/저 by themselves, is like the difference between この・その・あの vs. これ・それ・あれ respectively. The 가 is like 事(こと) = “thing”. I think… If anyone else on this site also knows Japanese and wants to confirm this for me, that would be great~!

    • Miyeon

      No… 가 is definitely is こと. It’s the subject marking particle. So, for example, someone says, “좋아요 (It’s good).” But then you DON’T know what is the subject that they’re talking about. So you say, “뭐가 좋아요?” And they would reply with, “날씨가 좋아요 (The weather is good).”

      The 가 that you’re referring to is actually 거: 이거/그거/저거 (this/that/that over there).

    • Miyeon

      In my understanding, it should be like this:
      A: 좋아요.
      B: 뭐가 좋아요?
      A: 이커피가 좋아요.
      B: 그커피 좋아요? 이커피는 좋아요. (Because it then would be understood as, “You think that coffee is good? To me, THIS coffee is good.)

      I know it’s the same thing as your comment but I’m also trying to help myself through these particles.

  • dreamer head

    You guys are amazing . Thank you for such awesome lessons !

  • TJB

    So this is the way I understand this:
    이/가: When you want a specific answer from someone. If someone asks you “Who are you?” (interrogative question) and you want to answer “I am ME,” you’d use one of these. It’s used when the other person you’re talking to knows what you’re talking about, and is for observations like, “The sky is blue!” (but could mean that the sky isn’t always blue, but is blue only now)
    은/는: Used when there are multiple objects and to compare among those objects. If you say, “The sky is blue!” using one of these particles, you’re saying you don’t care what color the other things are, just the what the color of the sky is. You could also use this particle to say the sky is blue, like in general, because that is the color of the sky usually (used because you want to define it as a certain color).

    Anything I could add to this?

    So let me see if my sentences make sense:
    1: 이콜라는 맛있어요. (This Coke is delicious; it is always good, it is a fact that it’s good)
    2: 사이다는요? 사이다를 마시고 싶어요? (What about soda? Do you want to drink soda?)
    1: 콜라는 좋아요, 하지만 그 사이다는 좋지 않아요. (This coke is good, but that soda isn’t.)
    2: 이사이다는 좋아요. 그리고 이냉면이 맛있어요. (In comparison to you, I think soda in general is good. Also I just noticed and want to tell you that this naengmyeon tastes good.)

  • Sadaf

    현우씨 가 목소리 가 좋아.
    경은씨 도 목소리 가 좋아.

  • Wiktoria Synakiewicz

    I am trying hard but still can’t understand difference between 이/가 and 은/는. Can you help me?
    And when I will finally understand, where can I train it? (I mean quizzes and things like that)

    • Miyeon

      So for example, you have this sentence: “This is coffee. And this is water.” In this case, particle 는 will be used to clarify that: this is coffee, but the one next to it is not; it’s water.

      So it would be: 이거 커피예요. 그리고 이거는 물이에요.

  • Far Ah BenNai

    수박이 너무 비싸요. xD
    그리고 수박이 너무 맛있어요. xDDDDDDD

  • Kirstin Traylor

    Would this be right?
    이거 커피 예요. 이거 는 물 이어요.
    이거는 뭐예요?
    그거는 우유 예요.

    I’m trying to review, but this is giving me a hard time…:(

    • I think its good. Dont worry about it 🙂
      You wrote 에 as 어, lol.

  • Jessie

    whats the difference between using yeyo/ieyo and eun/neun?

    hoping for fast reply here. thanks

    • Ri

      예요 and 이에요 are the same thing. Just remember 예요 when previous word ends with a vowel and 이에요 when it ends in a consonant. It’s just for ease of pronunciation

    • 이에요/i-e-yo 예요/ye-yo are the same thing. They are used when you wanna say that “XYZ is” something, or “I am ABC” (저는 의사예요/학생이에요. I´m a doctor/student). When a word ends in a vowel then it sould be 예요/ye-yo, and when it ends with a consonant you use 이에요/i-e-yo. the same with 은 는, but these are subject marking particles.

  • Kim Carter

    I’m having troubles with Lesson 9. What is the difference between a topic and a subject?? I’m not quite grasping this. I understand they each have their own particles and how to use them, but I’m having troubles differentiating between subject and topic.

    • dashanelle ❀

      I like to think of it this way, when you go to school you have subjects for example Maths but within that you have topics for example trigonometry, pythagoras etc.
      The subject marking particles 이/가 are a more general focus (maths) but topic marking particles 은/는 have a specific focus (trigonomety). Does that make sense?
      Hope that helped and also, this is the video that helped me understand this better: https://youtu.be/MkuXEL7kCgg

    • Trisha

      Thank you!, that makes me understand it better. 🙂 I was confused about the difference between subject and object too.

    • Veat Choi

      omg thanks, made this so much easier

  • 너의 핸드폰은 좋아요… 어디가 사줬어요?
    Your phone is better than others… Where did you buy it at?

    Is it right? :/

  • Lara Pena

    What is the difference between:
    이유 가 뮈에요?
    이유 는 뮈에요?

  • Lara Pena

    How to know whether 이 or 가 is going to be used in a sentence?
    ABC가 or CBA이
    (PLEASE HELP ME!) 🙂

    • smol bean

      이 and 가 are both the same particles except that 이 is used after a consonant (example: 책, 돈, 사진,…) and 가 after a vowel (example: 엄마, 비, 하루,…). So ABC가 and CBA가 would be correct in your example because the pronunciation for ABC in Hangeul would be 에이비씨. Since it ends with a vowel, 가 is used. Same with CBA (씨비에이).

    • Lara Pena

      너무 감사합니다 😀

    • zhjlmay

      I is used when its used when the word ends in consonant and GA when the word end in a vowel

  • Vince Ralph

    if I say jeonun haksaeng-ieyo, am I emphasizing that “I” is the topic of the sentence, or could it be I’m also implying that the people around me are not students?

    • Angel Amo (qvadratic)

      possibly because the translation for that in the PDF is “As for me, I am a student.”. So it is possible that the others who are with that person aren’t students. hehe

    • RainyCloud 10

      From what I have gathered from this lesson is that, when you say ‘저는’ you are implying that, I don’t know about the others but I am a student. I could be wrong though because I am kind of confused in this lesson too.

  • Cat✨

    what is the difference between a topic and a subject of a sentence?

    • peta zeta

      if we have the sentence: I drink watter.
      I is the subject, because is the person who is doing the action
      watter is the topic because is a complement for the drink.
      in this case is eassy but sometimes is a little bit complicate.
      one tip is ask to de verb who is doing the action to know the subject or what to know the topic:
      – I drink watter.
      – who drink watter?
      – me. so I is the subject

      – what i drink?
      – watter so that’s the topic.

      so if i put the phrase: I see you. I is the subject and you is the tipic.

      Did you understand?

    • Cat✨

      I understand now, thanks!

  • Kimmy

    when to use the topic marking particle and subject marking particle?

  • Utsa Banerjee

    In the sentense ‘ as of tomorrow, i work’, why I is the topic and not the subject? 는 Is used after 저..can someone plz explain..

  • 씨재

    so basically what i got from this was:
    subjects are used when broad topics are covered, i.e: “A lamp.” So, these are mildly similar to “A/An” is English.

    topics are used when you want to emphasise something, or talk about something more specific, i.e: “The lamp.” So, these are mildly similar to “The” is English.

    I’m not very sure I understand it, and I’m only a beginner in learning new languages, so please understand! Thank you!

  • Alex

    I have a question with regards to the PDF. At the top of page 2 it uses the sample sentence “As for tomorrow, I work” (내일은 저는 일해요). It identifies the topic as “tomorrow” (내일) and the subject as “I”(저). My question is, if 저 is the subject, then why does it have a topic marker following it (는)? Shouldn’t it instead use the subject marker 가? Any help would be appreciated! 🙂

    • 마라~

      This is because 는/은 are actually subject markers and are used in specific situations. They can however also be considered topic markers as taught in this lesson. So in your sentence 는/은 is used to mark both topic and subject in the sentence. Here because you are insinuating via the topic marker that ‘tomorrow’ is when you will work, we see that 는/은. is being used in a comparative sense- compared to other days you will work tomorrow which is why 는/은 is used as the subject marker. 이/가 can’t be used to give the nuance that something is being compared and so subject markers 는/은 are used instead. So 이/가 and 은/는 are both subject markers but can only be used in certain situations, as you keep learning you will learn when to use either 이/가 or 는/은 as subject markers depending on the situation in which they are used. I hope this helps I too am still a learner and understand this can be hard to wrap your head around >.<

  • Kaven Chanthaphy

    안녕하세요!

    I think I am beginning to understand this. For example, if I were at a market and there were many types of apples and I wanted to say:

    Is THIS apple good?

    이거는 사과 좋아요?

    A response to this could be:

    No, THAT apple is good.

    아니요, 저거는 사과 좋아요.

    • I love Shinhwa

      It should be 이 사과는 좋아요?
      and 아니요, 그 사과는 안 좋아요.

  • Ace

    Very confusing….