Korean Particles – Using Subject, Object, and Topic Markers

Last Updated on September 26, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
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You may be new to the concept, but particles are a part of the Korean language used every day. These Korean particles are found in nearly every sentence you’ll hear, if not all!

But it’s essential to learn how to use them correctly. We’ll cover Korean particles for everyday use that you should learn to become a competent Korean speaker.

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Here is a free PDF guide that you can download and take with you:

We will get into some of the most important parts of Korean grammar that you’ll use regularly. If you don’t know how to read in Hangeul yet, then you can learn Korean here in under an hour. For some helpful resources on a Korean language study plan, go here.

What are Korean Particles?

Korean particles mainly function as markers in a sentence. These words help identify what a certain word’s role is in the sentence (whether it’s the topic or the object), and it also helps connect words to give a clearer meaning to what you want to say.

Korean particles may come off as confusing initially, but these are essential in building sentences, which you’ll learn with enough practice!

The Different Korean Particles

Now that you have some idea of what Korean particles are, let’s learn more about the specific particles and their different uses.

Korean Topic Markers

There are two Korean topic markers used in sentences. They function the same but are used depending on the last letter of the word that precedes them. We’ll learn all about them below.

~은/는 (~ eun / neun | Topic)

1. The ~은/는 (~eun / neun) markers are used to mark the topic in the sentence which is what you are going to talk about. These markers have the same meaning as “regarding ~” or “as for ~.”

You can use the topic marker 은 (eun) when the last syllable of the preceding noun ends in a consonant and the topic particle 는 (neun) when it ends in a vowel.

For example:

(na) → (naneun)

선생님 (seonsaengnim) → 선생님 (seonsaengnimeun)

Sample Sentences:

학생이에요 → I am a student

(naneun haksaengieyo)

행복해요 → I am happy

(naneun haengbokhaeyo)

우리 선생님 미국인이에요 → Our teacher is American

(uri seonsaengnimeun migukinieyo)

2. The topic particles ~은/는 (~eun / neun) are also used for comparing or contrasting two things.

Sample Sentences:

어제는 더웠어요. 오늘은 추워요. → Yesterday was hot. Today is cold.

(eojeneun deowosseoyo. oneureun chuwoyo)

나는 커피를 마셨어요. 친구는 주스를 마셨어요. → I drank coffee. My friend drank juice.

(naneun keopireul masyeosseoyo. chinguneun juseureul masyeosseoyo)

Korean Subject Particles

There are two Korean subject particles used in Korean sentences. They’re used depending on the last letter of the word that precedes them.

~이/가 (~i / ga | Subject)

1. 이 (i) and (ga) are used as subject particles to mark the subject in the sentence. Both 이 (i) and 가 (ga) are added after the subject.

The difference between the two is that (i) is a subject marking particle used when the preceding noun ends in a consonant, while the subject particle (ga) is used when it ends in a vowel.

Sample sentences:

가방이 무거워요 The bag is heavy

(gabangi mugeowoyo)

버스가 오고 있어요→ The bus is coming

(beoseuga ogo isseoyo)

2. 이 (i) and (ga) also focus on the subject of the sentence.

Sample sentences:

누가 주문할 거예요? Who is going to order?

(nuga jumunhal geoyeyo)

내가 주문을 할게요 → I will place the order.

(naega jumuneul halgeyo)

누가 아파요? → Who is sick?

(nuga apayo)

민경 씨가 아파요 → Minkyung is sick.

(mingyeong ssiga apayo)

Basic Korean Particles

Topic markers vs subject particles

The particles ~은/는 (~eun / neun) and ~이/가 (~i / ga) can be quite tricky.

Why are these so tricky? Both of them are used to indicate the subject in the sentence, making them almost the same in use, which can cause confusion. When creating sentences, you should be careful which one you’ll use, unless it doesn’t matter in that particular sentence. With practice, you’ll get the hang of them!

As mentioned above, in many cases, you can use the particles ~이/가 (~i / ga) and ~은/는 (~eun / neun) interchangeably. With time, as you begin to learn and speak Korea, you’ll be able to differentiate between the two just by noticing how each sentence sounds, but it’s still good to focus on how they are different.

Here are the differences between the subject marking particles ~이/가 and topic markers ~은/는 explained with a few examples.

1. ~은/는 is used to state a general fact. while ~이/가 is used for specific ones.

Sample sentences: 

개는 냄새를 잘 맡아요 → Dogs are good at smelling

(gaeneun naemsaereul jal matayo)

개가 냄새를 못 맡아요 → The dog can’t smell it.

(gaega naemsaereul mot matayo)

2. ~이/가 is used when introducing new information. After the subject has been declared and known to those involved in the conversation (became a topic),  은/는 (eun / neun) is often used.

Sample sentences: 

옛날 옛적에 한 남자가 살았어요. 그 남자는 요리사였어요  A long time ago, a man lived. The man was a chef.

(yennal yetjeoge han namjaga sarasseoyo. geu namjaneun yorisayeosseoyo)

개가 냄새를 못 맡아요 → The dog can’t smell it.

(gaega naemsaereul mot matayo)

지금 내 친구가 오고 있어요. 내 친구는 한국 음식을 좋아해요. → My friend is coming over now. My friend likes Korean food.

(Jigeum nae chinguga ogo isseoyo. nae chinguneun hangung eumsigeul joahaeyo)

3. ~이/가 is used to ask a question and ~은/는 is used to answer.

Sample sentences: 

이름이 뭐예요? What is your name?

(ireumi mwoyeyo)

내 이름은 지나예요 My name is Jina.

(nae ireumeun jinayeyo)

화장실이 어디예요? →Where is the toilet?

(hwajangsiri eodiyeyo)

화장실은 엘레베이터 옆에 있어요. →The toilet is next to the elevator.

(hwajangsireun ellebeiteo yeope isseoyo)

Here is some additional information to explain the difference between ~은/는 (~eun / neun) and ~이/가 (~i / ga):

  • While you can use the subject particle ~은/는 (~eun / neun) to describe someone’s profession or nationality and the like or describe someone or yourself with an adjective, you cannot use ~이/가 (~i / ga) to do the same. Think of ~은/는 (~eun / neun) as the markers to use with descriptive sentences.
  • Similarly, when you want to describe that you or someone else will do something, it’s better to use ~이/가 (~i / ga) rather than ~은/는 (~eun / neun)So think of ~이/가 (~i / ga) as the subject particles to use with actions.

But remember, this isn’t always the case. It’ll become easier with practice. This example below shows both ~은/는 (~eun / neun) and ~이/가 (~i / ga) concept in a sentence:

한국 음식 비빔밥 제일 맛있어요. As for Korean food, bibimbap is the most delicious.

(Hangung eumsigeun bibimbabi jeil masisseoyo)

*Note: In this example, Korean food is a topic and Bibimbap is a subject.

Korean Object Particles

There are two Korean object particles used to indicate the object in a sentence. Similar to the Korean topic markers and Korean subject particles, both object particles are used depending on the last letter of the word that precedes them.

~을/를 (~eul/reul | Object)

When the last syllable ends in a consonant, you use the object marking particle 을. On the other hand, when it ends in a vowel, you should use the object particle 를.

Example sentences using ~을/를 (~eul/reul):

나는 책 읽었어요 → I read a book

(naneun chaekeul ilgeosseoyo)

바나나 먹어요! → Eat a banana!

(bananareul meogoyo!)

새 옷 입으니까 기분이 좋아요. I feel good to wear new clothes.

(sae oseul ipeunikka gibuni johayo.)

비밀 지켜주세요. → Please keep the secret.

(bimireul jikyeojuseyo.)

따뜻한 차 마실까요? → Shall we drink some hot tea?

(ttatteuthan chareul masilkkayo?)

주말에 친구와 영화 볼 거예요. → I’m going to watch a movie with my friend on the weekend.

(jumare chinguwa yeonghwareul bol geoyeyo.)

Notice the subject marking particles in the above example? Multiple types of particles often come into play in a single sentence.

Korean Location Particles

There are five Korean location particles. All of them help indicate the location in sentences. They can emphasize the place where the subject is going, where action has or is taking place, and direction or movement.

Some of the Korean location particles can also be used to express time.

In this section, you’ll learn about how each of the Korean location particles functions.

~에 (~e | Time/Location)

This particle indicates both time and location. The location can express where you are or were at, where you are going, or where something is. And for time, it can express the time or day something happens.

Example Sentences Using ~에 (~e):

저는 학교 있어요 → I am at school

(jeoneun haggyoe isseoyo)

우리 월요일 부산 갈거에요 → We will go to Busan on Monday

(uri woryoire busane galgeoeyo)

You’ll need to get used to understanding the use of particles (and also different vocabulary) based on the context of the sentence. In the above sentence, you can recognize the two separate uses of 에 (e) based on the words it’s used with, 월요일 (wollyoil | Monday) and 부산 (Busan).

~에서 (~ eseo | Location)

Although ~에서 (~ eseo) also indicates location, its use is quite different from ~에 (~ e). When you use ~에서 (~ eseo), you are stressing the location you are doing or did something in, excluding when the verb of the sentence is 있다 (itda), in which case 에 (e) is used.

Example Sentences Using ~에서 (~ eseo):

카페에서 숙제를 했어요 → I did my homework in the cafe

(khapheeseo sukjereul haesseoyo)

You can also take advantage of ~에서 (~ eseo) when describing how something is like somewhere. For example:

물가는 노르웨이에서 가장 높아요 → Prices are highest in Norway

(mulganeun noreuweieseo gajang nopayo)

~에서 (~ eseo) can also be used to express “from.” For example:

저는 인도네시아에서 왔어요 → I am from Indonesia

(jeoneun indonesiaeseo wasseoyo)

Note the nuance of how the location is stressed when using 에서 (eseo).

Lastly, for 여기 (yeogi)/거기 (geogi)/저기 (eogi), only attach ~서 (~seo).

Korean particles

~으로/로 (~euro/ro | Direction and multiple other meanings)

~으로/로 (~euro/ro) is a multi-functional particle. For starters, you can use it to express the location where something is happening, making its meaning similar to ~에 (~ e).

For example:

우유를 슈퍼 사러 가려고 해요 → I intend to go to the supermarket to buy milk

(ujureul syupeoro sareo garyeogo haeyo)

You can also use it to express the tool, method, language, and so on that something is being done. For example:

기차 이탈리아에 갈거에요 → I will go to Italy by train

(gicharo italliae galgeoeoyo)

수채화 그림을 그렸어요 → I painted using watercolors

(suchaehwaro geurimeul geuryeosseoyo)

그사람한테 한국말 대답을 줬어요 → I answered that person in Korean

(geu saramhante hangukmallo daedabeul jwosseoyo)

You can even use this particle to express what you ate for a specific meal. For example:

맨날 아침식사 죽을 먹어요 → I eat porridge for breakfast every morning

(maennal achimsiksaro jukeul meokeoyo)

By attaching ~(으)로 (~(eu)ro) to 쪽 (jjok) you will create the meaning “the direction of_”. You can attach 쪽 (jjok) with Korean nouns and also some direction words. For example:

으로 → that way

(geujjokeuro)

으로 → toward south

(namjjokeuro)

사람으로 → toward people

(saramjjokeuro)

~부터 (~buteo | Start)

The most common use for ~부터 (~buteo) is to indicate when something starts.

Example Sentences using ~부터(~buteo):

저는 지난달부터 한국어를 배웠어요 → I started to learn Korean last month

(jeoneun jinandalbutheo hangukeoreul baewosseoyo)

~부터 (~buteo) can also be used in a similar fashion to ~에서 (~ eseo) where the difference is more so in the nuance of the sentence rather than the meaning. It is usually reserved for Korean sentences where you would include ~까지 (~ kkaji) in its structure. For example:

부터 학교까지 걸어 다녀요 → I walk from home to school.

(jibbutheo haggyokkaji georeo danyeoyo)

In fact, it is common to combine ~부터 (~ buteo) with ~까지 (~ kkaji) where ~부터(~ buteo) indicates the starting point and ~까지 (~ kkaji) the end.

For example:

기말고사는 내일부터 다음주말까지 있을거에요 → Our final exams will start tomorrow and last until the end of next week

(gimalgosaneun naeilbutheo daeumjumalkkaji isseulgeoeyo)

Lastly, you can attach the word 처음 (cheoeum), which means “first”, to ~부터 (~ buteo) to express “from the start”. For example:

영어를 배우기가 처음부터 어려웠어요 → Learning English was difficult from the start

(yeongeoreul baeugiga cheoeumbutheo eoryeowosseoyo)

~까지 (~ kkaji | Until)

~까지 typically means “end,” more specifically “until,” and it works for both time and place. You can also use it to mean “to,” often used together with ~에서 (~ eseo), although the use of ~에서 (~eseo) isn’t always necessary and ~까지 (~ kkaji) on its own will remain clear in its meaning.

Example Sentences Using ~까지 (~ kkaji):

집에서 여기까지 걸어서 왔어요 → I walked until here from home

(jibeseo yeogikkaji georeoseo wasseoyo)

시험결과를 내일까지 기다려야 해요 → I have to wait until tomorrow for the exam results

(sihyeomgyeolgwareul naeilkkaji gidaryeoyahaeyo)

우리는 8일부터 12일까지 부산에 있을거에요 → We will be in Busan from the 8th until the 12th

(urineun 8ilbutheo 12ilkkaji busane isseulgeoeyo)

If you wish to combine ~까지 (~ kkaji) with the previously mentioned 처음부터 (cheoeumbuteo) to express “from start to finish”, the word to attach to ~까지 (~ kkaji) becomes 끝 (kkeut), which means “end”.

For example:

하루안에 그 책을 처음부터 끝까지 읽었어요 → I read that book from start to finish in one day

(haruane geu chaekeul cheoeumbutheo kkeutkkaji ilgeosseoyo)

Korean Particles Linking

Korean Linking Particles

There are four Korean linking particles that can be used to connect two or more ideas. Two out of the four linking particles have two variations. Their usage depends on the last letter of the word before them.

~과/와 (~gwa/wa | and/with/as with)

You use these particles to indicate “and” or “with”. ~과 (~ gwa) is used after a consonant and ~와 (~ wa) is used after a vowel.

Example Sentences Using ~과/와 (~gwa/wa):

아침식사로 죽 커피를 먹었어요 → I ate porridge and coffee for breakfast

(achimshiksaro jukgwa kheophireul meogeosseoyo)

오늘 남자친구 영화를 보러 가요 → Today I will see a movie with my boyfriend

(oneul namjachinguwa yeonghwareul boreo gayo) 

~이랑/랑 (~irang/rang | and/with/as with)

This particle is nearly identical in use with ~과/와 (~gwa/wa). You should attach ~이랑 (irang) with a syllable ending in a consonant and ~랑 (rang) with one ending in a vowel. The main difference between these and ~과/와 (~gwa/wa) is that ~이랑/랑 (~irang/rang) is more casual to use and is also more common to hear spoken than to see in text.

~하고 (hago | and/with/as with)

~하고 (hago) is another particle meaning “and” and “with”. It can be used with both vowels and consonants.

~고 (~ go | connective)

The ~고 (~ go) is a connective particle mainly used to connect two actions, happening one after another, into one sentence, attached either to an action verb or a descriptive verb.

Example Sentences Using ~고 (~ go):

샤워하 잠을 잘거에요 → I will take a shower and then go to sleep

(shawohago jameul jalgeoeyo)

You can also use this particle to connect two adjectives describing the same topic or two sentences describing a similar topic into one sentence.

For example:

그 사람이 똑똑하 부지런한 학생이에요 → That person is a smart and diligent student

(geu sarami ttokttokhago bujireonhan haksaengieyo)

And yes, you can also use the ~고 particle together with the past tense!

Korean Plural Particle

There’s only one Korean plural particle added to nouns in a sentence that would make them plural. It is the particle 들 (deul).

~들 (~ deul | Plural)

The marker 들 (deul) indicates a plural form. However, it is solely used as a marker when talking about people (it’d be weird to use it with a noun like a fruit). In fact, apart from people, it is not that common to use a plural form and isn’t totally necessary to use with people, either. In the cases you would want to indicate plural, check out the examples.

Example Sentences Using ~들 (~ deul):

오늘 친구을 만나요 → Today I will meet with my friends

(onweul chingudeureul mannayo)

은 다른 나라에서 살아요 → They live in another country

(geudeureun dareun naraeseo sarayo)

When Koreans talk to you in Korean, you may notice that they omit this particle. This is common in a Korean language conversation.

It is possible to add the possessive form, which we will introduce to you soon.

Korean Particle “Only”

~만 (~ man | Only)

This marker is used to express the word “only,” and it is attached to nouns.

Example Sentences Using ~만 (~ man):

어제 맥주 마셨어요 → I only drank beer yesterday

(eoje maekjuman masyeosseoyo)

그는 거짓말 해요 → He only says lies

(geuneun geojitmalman haeyo)

하루종일 공부 했어요 → I did nothing but study all-day

(harujongil gongbuman haesseoyo)

Korean Possessive Particles

Unlike in English where showing possession is indicated by adding an apostrophe and an “s,” Koreans use a possessive particle. The Korean possessive particle ~의 (~ ui) is added or used in sentences to show possession.

~의 (~ ui | Possessive)

Fairly straightforward, the ~의 (~ ui) particle indicates possession. This possessive particle is attached to the person who possesses the object, similarly to ‘s in English.

Example Sentences Using ~의 (~ ui):

선생님 차 → the teacher’s car

(seonsaengnime cha)

그 사람 여자친구 → that person’s girlfriend

(geu sarame yeojachingu)

집 → my home/my house

(naui jib)

In the case of “my,” specifically when using the more casual 나(na), you can shorten from 나의 (naui) to 내 (nae). Like this:

고양이 → my cat

(nae goyangi)

Other Essential Korean Particles

~께/에게/한테 (~kke/ege/hante | To give someone something)

These forms all indicate you are giving someone something.

Example Sentence Using 한테 (hante):

오빠한테 돈을 빌려줬어 → I lent money to my big brother

(oppahante doneul billyeosseo)

The difference between each one is simply their level of politeness. 께 (kke) is of honorific level, 에게 (ege) is formal polite form, and 한테 (hante) is informal and casual. You can read more about Korean honorifics here.

~께서/에게서/한테서 (~kkeseo/egeseo/hanteseo | To receive something from someone)

These markers possess the same level of politeness as their counterparts above. Technically you do not need the ~서(~seo) attached to the end to make the meaning clear, but it’s good to keep for differentiation when you’re still a new learner of Korean.

~도 (~ do | Also)

~도 (~do) indicates the use of the additive principle in the form of “too” and “also.” You can drop ~은/는 (~ eun / neun) or other particles when using the additive particle ~도 (~do).

Example Sentences Using ~도 (~do):

빅뱅을 좋아해요 → I like Big Bang, too

(nado bikbaengeul johahaeyo)

연세어학당을 다녀요 → I also attend Yonsei Korean Language Institute

(nado yeonseeohakdangeul danyeoyo)

영국사람이에요 → I am also from England

(nado yeongguksaramieyo)

Phew! That was quite the lesson, don’t you think? As you learn Korean, learning the particles will significantly improve your knowledge of Korean grammar which will make you more confident with talking to native speakers!

How many Korean particles discussed did you already know and which were brand new to you? Try to make some of your own Korean sentences in the comments, and we’ll check them for you. We’d love to see them! In addition, to help you speak Korean and build a Korean sentence, we have a list of English words translated into Korean here.

If you want to learn Korean, we have the Inner Circle web program that will teach you how to have a 3-minute conversation in the first 90 days.

    88 replies to "Korean Particles – Using Subject, Object, and Topic Markers"

    • Avatar for Jasmin Jasmin

      I will read this many times and try my best to understand it…thank you so much😊

    • Avatar for guyman123 guyman123

      Not sure if it was already brought up but I think there’s a spelling mistake under ‘Other Essential Particles’. The ‘to receive something from someone’ part: 께 / 에서 / 한테서. It should be 께 / *에게서 / 한테서 if I’m not mistaken. Great resource so far, love the in depth lessons.

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Thank you for letting us know! The article is updated with 에게서. ^^

    • Avatar for Rawin Rawin

      With the difference between 이/가 and 은/는, does the former emphasise the subject and the latter emphasise the action (description of doing)? I am studying for my exam and one homework I had was translation:
      마이클이 언제 운동해요 and 유리는 오전 9시에 버스를타요
      For this translation, I used 은 for the first sentence and 가 for the second but when I looked at the answers, it was the other way round but I don’t quite understand why as everything I read online contradicts itself. I asked my Korean friend about it and she told me (i/ga) can be seen as subject description and the other as action description but sources online say the opposite. With these sentences, I don’t understand how either are any different as the emphasis could be on the subject AND the action.

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