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Good explanation for particles 은/는, 이/가 and 을/를

I understand the use of the object marker 을/를 but since I first started studying Korean, I could never understand the difference between 은/는 and 이/가. I stumbled across this explanation of it on Lang-8 while milling around.This is the best explanation so far that I’ve seen for it. While I’m still a little fuzzy on using them in the same sentence, this definitely helps me understand them separately. It was written by audioslave on Lang-8. You can find the original here.

을/를 are object markers. They go after the object of the sentence 
피자를 먹었어요. I ate pizza. 
In this sentence, the noun “pizza” is the object of the verb, so we use the object marker 를. 

은/는 are topic markers. They go after the topic of the sentence. 
나는 행복해요. I am happy. 
In this sentence, “I” am the /topic of the sentence, so we use the topic marker 는. 

이/가 are subject markers. They go after the subject of the sentence. 
사과가 너무 비싸요. Apples are very expensive. 

This is where it becomes a little tricky. You may have noticed that 이/가 & 은/는 are similar in usage. This is true. Context is important to knowing which one to use (for sentences with no context, like, on an exam or something, ask your teacher what they prefer. my professor told us to use 은/는 on exams when there’s no context, but others may want something else). The best way I can describe the difference between the two is to compare it to English. 

If I am telling a story in English, I introduce something to the story by using “a/an.” This is similar to 이/가. After I’ve introduced the subject, I can continue to talk about it using “the” (it becomes the topic of conversation). This is similar to 은/는. If I want to change the topic, I introduce something new using “a/an” again. For example: 

“There was [a] woman.” (woman = subject.) 
“[The] woman had long hair.” (woman = topic.) 
“[The] woman had [a] best friend.” (woman = topic, best friend = new subject; its possible to have multiple subjects and topics within one sentence) 
“[The] best friend… (best friend = subject) 
etc. 

A good way to check if you’ve used the particles correctly is to remember that nouns followed by 을/를 always have an ACTION VERB at the end of the sentence. The nouns followed by 은/는 (or 이/가) will have an ADJECTIVE (or 이다/아니다 & 있다/없다) at the end of the sentence. 

Hope this helps! <3

 

If you understand the use of ‘a/an’ versus ‘the’ in English, this could definitely help you in understanding the use of these four particles. I’m hope it benefits you as much as it did me.

 

–Charm

 

By Charm

I am an American living in Korea, teaching English to Korean students, and Korean to myself. Topik here I come!

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