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!

You can download both the PDF lesson notes and the MP3 audio track for this lesson below, and if you want to learn with our various textbooks and workbooks, you can get them on our online bookstore at MyKoreanStore.com. If you have any questions about this lesson, please leave us comments below!

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

    How am I able to know if 이 is a modifier or a subject marking particle? Is there any difference?

    • Gio

      For what I understand 이 as a modifier will be before the thing you want to say and as a subject marking particle will be after what you trying to say 이 가방… (As a modifier) …가방 이 (As a subject marking particle)

    • 카린

      Ah, yes. Makes sense. 감사합니다. 🙂

  • Chamz

    Hi, if i were to say This fish is big, will it be…
    I mulgogi keu yeyo?
    Where in Big=keuda right?
    I’m a total beginner here.

  • Youtuber

    So everything so far follows the patter which is that is the previous letter of the noun ends with a consonant, means that the expression/particle after it begins with a ㅇbecause the final consonant replaces the silent sound of ㅇ making it easier to pronounce.

  • Luke Kim

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

    • buthaina hamed

      subject is more general and the topic is more specific >> for example : math is subject and the Algebra is the topic >< i know it's hard but since you got it it will be more easier than you think

    • La’Shelle Johnson

      Thank you!! I was trying to understand the difference as well.

  • Lan Anh Nguyen

    OMG, I’m so confusing now 🙁

    • buthaina hamed

      look at some youtube videos it will help you so much

  • Lynn

    안녕하세요 ~
    저는 학생 이에요 ~
    너희 소리가 좋네요 ~
    And I like the way you teaching and explaining!!!!!!
    I get to understand all of them!!!!
    It’s my second day to learn Korean ~
    정말간사한니다!!!!

  • Bhavika Gupta

    Can someone please explain me the difference between ‘topic’ and ‘subject’? Don’t they mean the same thing???? :O

    • SimFerAtzul

      The topic is what you are talking about (for example I say, I like food!, the topic is food)
      And the subject is like… Look:
      The cat is near me.
      8The cat is the subject)

  • v eatrice

    When I first read the PDF, I was so confused and scared. But after listening to the audio file, I understood everything much better and I believe I will get it if I study a bit more. Don’t forget that there’s a youtube video on this subject, guys! I’m going to go watch it now. Thank you for being so incredible, it’s always a pleasure to study with you.

    • Andrea Ivanna

      do you have the link of the video?

  • Taysgma

    Why is it 좋 네요 and not 좋 이에요? Is it for ease of pronunciation or is there a grammar rule for this? FYI, I am over 60 years old and got hooked on kdramas and Korean osts. I have been studying on my own but it’s very slow going so i bought the textbooks and workbooks! Hopefully I can speed up now.

    • Sara

      좋네요 is a completely different grammar rule! The ending -네요 is used to indicate that you’re surprised, impressed, or that you’re expressing some thought or expressing that you didn’t know something before. So the sentence “오늘 날씨 좋네요” could have the meaning of “Oh, I didn’t know the weather was so good today.” Talk to me in Korean has a lesson on it: Level 3 Lesson 25: http://talktomeinkorean.com/lessons/level-3-lesson-25/ I hope this helps you! Good luck with your studies!

  • Ajeng Shafira

    in the pdf, when they tell us more about the roles of i/ga, they talk about jo-a-yo (i like it), why the romanization of jo-a-yo is 좋아요 and not 조아요?

    • Luan

      You mean the hangeul of jo-a-yo is 좋아요? You shouldn’t look at it from the Latin/Roman alphabet. It’s the hangeul that is romanised, not the other way around. So your question should instead be: ”Why is 좋아요 romanised as jo-a-yo?” Answer: because this is the way it is pronounced. The romanisation of hangeul is mostly based on the way it is pronounced. It isn’t always correctly romanised, either. A lot of people fail to do it correctly, especially Koreans themselves, because they naturally did not learn the Roman/Latin alphabet like we did, but instantly learned hangeul. So now and then, you may bump into romanisations on the internet (even on youtube videos of official Korean companies) that are faulty. For instance, Koreans find it hard to distinguish the R and L, as they only have one character for it, namely ㄹ.

  • 팟차

    오늘은 에뻐요. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

  • Andrea Ivanna

    Is so funny how they roast themselves hahaha.
    This lesson is super complicated. 🙁
    So, i and ka is more like “at least” is like, more negative?
    and eun and neun is more positive in meaning?

    • shalmi_315

      i think what it meant was that eun and neun are more negative and i and ga are more like answering the question one person asks. but thats what gt from his comparisions

  • Andrea Ivanna

    12:35 has me confused…

  • Shadowclone245

    Are you saying we should only use these particles when we want to differentiate it?

  • 제이

    How do I know when I talk about the topic and when I talk about the subject? Because for example in the sentence ‘the cat is cute’ the cat is the topic but also the subject so what do I use??

    • Evee 이비

      I am in the middle of learning as well but as far as I understood it depends on the situation, what you want to say. If you just want to say the cat is cute, simple as it is it would be: “그 고양이 귀엽어요”. So this is the default version if you like and once you start to add the particles it changes the meaning of the sentence. Which in english the only way you could do is describe it in a longer way, but they can do it with a simple particle, without unnecessarily making long sentences.
      So if you would say 그 고양이는 귀엽어요 it would have a meaning like the cat is cute but the other animals are not cute, so it compares to something else and opposes with them.
      And if you would say 그 고양이가 귀엽어요. That would mean that from all the animals the cat is the cutest (so it kind of compares to the other animals as well) but doesn’t mean that the other animals are not cute. ^^

  • Bành Ý Linh

    Thank you so much. I didn’t understand at 1st

  • សុគន្ធ មាលា

    Can you indicate me between this particle which is correct or the same meaning?

    미셀이 무엇을 합니까?
    미셀은 무엇을 합니까?

    • Ruhasri Humastuti

      i think michele is subject so the correct setence is the 1st one..

  • Paige

    Ive listening to this lesson over and over for the past 2 days as i was finding it really confusing to get my head around (I still am)!
    I’ve noticed a lot of people having the same problem so i wanted to recommend people to go on to the TTMIK youtube and watch Hyunwoo’s video on it as it goes into a lot more depth and gives more examples!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCxLNRLntc0

    Im still trying to get my head around it but after watching his video its getting a lot easier to understand, Trust me this episode becomes a lot more clearer after watching their video 🙂
    Hope it helped someone!

  • Vulhar Rala

    Just some clarification for people confused about the difference between 은/는 and 이/가. They’re fairly interchangeable in most cases.

    A few rules to consider.
    -In sentences with multiple subjects (I said that he was smart) 은/는 would be used for I and 이/가 would be used for he. This is because 은/는 is seen as the primary subject marker and 이/가 is used for all subsequent subjects. (note: he is the subject of the sentence he was smart but not the primary subject of the whole sentence).
    -Related to the rule point above, there will, almost always, only be one 은/는 in a sentence but there can be several 이/가s.
    -In a basic sentence with only one subject, you can use either one, but 은/는 feels like you’re putting a little more emphasis on it. (그책은 좋아요 vs 그책이 좋아요) the first is more emphasized, the second is less so.

    Now, if you know those rules, you’ll be good to go in most cases. There is one sort of confusing case that involves them both. I’ve included it below.

    -Where it gets a little confusing is in sentences like when you want to say something like I like that. 저는 그것이 좋아요. First, 좋아요 does not mean to like, it means good. So, what you’re actually saying is something like , As for me, this is good. You could even look at the sentence like this, (저는) 그것이 좋아요. The 저는 is optional but clarifies in relationship to whom is 그것 good. There are only a handful of “verbs” (they’re more of a hybrid between an adjective and a verb) for which this will be an issue. This seems to be what they are talking about in this lesson with there being a difference between the subject and the topic and what not.

  • Vincent Robin Delos Santos

    Do you have a lesson about object particles?

    • j_m_h

      Level 2, Lesson 2 is object marking particles.

  • Priya kannan

    i have a doubt… this may look so silly..but yet i ask
    Is it possible to use both topic and subject marking particle in the same sentence…?

    • Evee 이비
    • Ranggala Adika

      Sure… even its possible to use more particles in a more complicated sentece such time marking particle, location particle, possesion marking particle.

  • 노츄 몬스터 || ’94 liner

    When using topic and subject marking particles, its only for nouns right? You dont use this for verbs, adjectives and adverbs?

  • Marlies Storm

    So, if 은/는 has a higher contrast factor than 이/가 – in the sample sentence “ABC 좋아요? XYZ가 좋아요!” why is 이/가 used instead of 은/는, which is stronger in contrast?

  • Ottilia Vikdahl

    One question.
    If you are on campus (where there are a lot of students) for example and you are about to introduce yourself and say you’re a student. Do you still say 저는 학생입니다, as 는 can imply that the other ones are not a student. Or
    저가 학생입니다 as that only implies that you are a student but you don’t know about the rest. Or is 는 always used in the context when you are introducing yourself?

    This gets me really confused!