Subject, Object, and Topic Markers

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Subject Marking Particles

Topic vs Subject: Effects on 저 나 너

Using with action vs descriptive verbs

Object Marking Particles

using with 되다 (to become)

Tying It All Together

Topic Marking Particles 은/는

These are added directly to the noun:

-> if ends in a consonant

-> if ends in a vowel

1) Adds emphasis when using 이, 그, 저 (this and that)

— You can also use 이/가 with these. 은/는 just adds more emphasis to the subject. (Kinda like “this specific thing” vs “this thing in general” is kinda how I take it).

2) With action verbs, 은/는 focuses on WHAT the subject is doing (what are they doing? 은/는!)

3) With descriptive verbs, implies a comparison.

“This is ~ but another thing may not be ~“.

4)Used as you continue talking about a subject that has been introduced as you are focused on what it is about that subject.

Subject Marking Particles 이/가

These are added directly to the noun:

-> if ends in a consonant 

-> if ends in a vowel

1) Used exclusively with certain verbs and grammar points.

2) With action verbs, it focuses on WHO is doing the action (Who is doing it? 이/가!)

3) With descriptive verbs, it makes a general statement.

4) Used when you introduce a new subject as you are focused on the new subject. (Puts the focus on the fact that a new subject is being introduced).

Topic vs Subject: Effects on 저 나 너

-> 저 나 and 너 are written differently based on the particle used

I – formal

저 + 는 = 저는

저 + 가 = 제가

-> so 저는 and 제가 both mean “I”, the difference is the particle used

I – informal

나 + 는 = 나는

나 + 가 = 내가

You – informal

너 + 는 = 너는

너 + 가 = 네가

( 네가 often pronounced, and therefore spelled, as 니가. It is truly 네가 but has slowly changed over time to be 니가) so 네가 = 니가 (just a note for the future)


you will also see 누가 for “who” which is short for 누구가

Using with possession

Both can be used to mark the thing being possessed (we will learn more about possession later)



제가 가게에 갔어요— I am the one who went to the store (for example, this would be your response to “누가 가게에 갔어요?”. The action is already established. You don’t care about the action. You care about WHO is doing/did it)

저는 가게에 갔어요— Went to the store is what I did (I am focused on what I did, not who did it. This is your typical sentence)

고양이가 먹고 있어요— The cat is the one who is eating (Focused on the cat)

고양이는 먹고 있어요— Eating is what the cat is doing (Focused on what the cat is doing)

So with action verbs, 은/는 is more commonly seen because you will most often be focused on the action vs the person who is doing the action. 


고양이가 귀여워요— In general, cats are cute. (No comparison. Nothing special. Plain statement.)

고양이는 귀여워요— Compared to other things, the cat is cute. (Maybe there is a cat and a dog and you are like “well… the cat is cute.”)

So when using descriptive verbs, 이/가 is more commonly seen because you will most often be making general statements than comparison statements

Object Marking Particles 을/를

This is the object particle so it marks what is being verbed.

-> 을 if ends in a consonant

 -> if ends in a vowel

What is being liked? What is being done? What is being eaten? What is being given? The “what” is marked with 을/를.


Korean Sentence Order 

-> Subject Object Verb

저는 사과를 먹어요

I eat an apple ( I apple eat)

저는 술을 마셔요

I drink alcohol ( I alcohol drink)

저는 한국어를 공부해요

I study Korean ( I korean study)

무엇을 먹어요? 

What do you eat? ( What eat? )

(by context its more like “what are you eating?”)

영화를 봐요

I watch a movie ( I movie watch )

using with 되다 (to become)

With the verb 되다-> 은/는 marks what is changing and 이/가 marks what it is being changed into

->물은 얼음이 됐어요 the water became ice (froze)

-> more natural sentence “water turned into ice”

-> 얼음은 물이 됐어요 the ice became water (melted)

-> more natual sentence “ice turned into water”

좋다 vs 좋아하다 and 싫다 vs 싫어하다

This next concept ties everything together. 


These are descriptive verbs, so they will use 은/는 or 이/가.

Use 은/이 if ends in a consonant

Use 는/가 if ends in a vowel

사과가 좋아요

Apples are good

(This can also mean “I like apples”. If you are saying they are good, you obviously like them)

사과는 좋아요

Apples are good

(But maybe something else, like the bananas, aren’t good) Using 은/는 indicates that you are making some kind of comparison whereas the 이/가 is just a general statement.

귤이 싫어요

I dislike/hate tangerines (In Korean, the subjects are most often inferred and not stated).

귤은 싫어요

I hate the tangerines 

(But maybe there is something else that i don’t hate/dislike)


These are action verbs, so they use the object particles.

저는 사과를 좋아해요

I like apples

저는 귤을 싫어해요

I hate/dislike tangerines



Korean Sentence Structure


In English, we use SVO (subject verb object)

The subject is the one doing an action. The object is what is being acted on (what is being done? What is being eaten? What is being watched?)

I eat cake” in Korean sentence order is “I cake eat

I watch a movie” in Korean sentence structure is “I movie watch

and so on


-> as the sentences get longer, they get more complex and versatile

as a beginner, memorize this:

subject time location object adverb verb

(who when where what how do)


You may be familiar with subject/topic/object particles (there are more to learn!) One reason particles are soooo important in Korean, is because the sentence structures can vary 😱 These particles help you know what goes with what.

Here are some basic rules:

1) verb is ALWAYS last

     -> EXCEPTION:

         In some cases, you may see the subject or object stated last. This happens as an afterthought. “oh, the subject/object wasn’t clear, I should clarify😅”

2) 은/는 goes before 이/가


     -> the weather is nice today

          오늘은 날씨가 좋아요

          (you wouldnt say 날씨가 오늘은 좋아요 or 오늘이 날씨는 좋아요)

3) adverbs go directly before the verb


        같이 (together) can go either right after the subjects, or right before the verb.

“watch a movie together with a friend”

-> 친구랑 같이 영화를 보다

-> 친구랑 영화를 같이 보다

-> 영화를 친구랑 같이 보다

(i was told all 3 are fine but the first sounds more natural)

4) objects are placed right before the verb

         UNLESS there is in adverb, in which case it goes right before the adverb

     -> minus the exception mentioned in number one, when it comes last (as an after thought)


-> to sing 노래를 부르다

-> to sing well -> 노래를 잘 부르다

(“sing” can be 노래를 부르다 or 노래를 하다)


In other words: the Suject, time, and location can be moved around



Placing time/location before the subject

-> As a beginner, this may be hard to comprehend. You just need to know:

    “subject time location object adverb verb”

    Typically the subject goes first (because the emphasis of the sentence is plased after the subject). When you place the time or location before the subject, you are not focused on them (it is not the main point of your sentence). In order for this to work, your sentence will have to make sense without it. It is also important to note how it affects the nuance of your sentence. Let me try to show this:

1) 한국에 저는 갈 거예요

     -> I will go….. to korea

     (To korea is like an added information that doesnt really impact the sentence. If you say the location first, you are putting emphasis on the “I will go” rather than the WHERE I am going)

      — I will go…..

This doesn;t make sense by itself, so this sentence is weird.

2) 유월에 저는 한국에 갈 거예요

     -> I will go to korea…. in june

     (Stating the time first makes it more like added information. WHEN I go isnt important, the fact that I am going is important. So this is possible, IF you dont want to stress the time as well as the location.)

3) 저는 유월에 한국에 갈 거예요

I will go to Korea in June

(This is the typical way to say this based on the basic sentence structure)

4) 도서관에서 저는 제 친구랑 같이 공부하고 있어요

    -> I am studying with my friend….. at the library

    (At the library is additional information. The main point of your sentence is that you are studying with your friend. The fact that it is at the library isn’t important. I am emphasizing the fact that I am studying with my friend)

     —– As long as that is what you mean, you can say it this way.

5) 저는 제 친구랑 같이 도서관에서 공부하고 있어요

    -> I am studying at the library with my friend

    (Now, the location is important and I am focusing on what I am doing and where)

6) 병원에서 저는 일해요

     -> I work….. at the hospital

    (This emphasizes “I work” so the location is unimportant. This really doesn’t make any sense. The whole point of saying you work is to indicate WHERE you work. So this sentence is just weird)

7) 저는 병원에서 일해요

    -> I work at the hospital

(This is typical)

7) 새벽 두 시에 저는 일어나요

    -> I wake up…. at 2 in the morning

    (The time is first, so you are emphasizing the “I wake up”. well obviously you do😅 The main point of this sentence is to tell me WHEN you wake up, so this is weird)

8) 저는 새벽 두 시에 일어나요

    -> I wake up at 2 in the morning.

    (Now you are focusing on when you wake up, so this sounds more natural)


Swapping time and location

-> Much like before, this just changes what is being focused on in the sentence. If the sentence doesn’t make sense without the one that comes first, it is awkward.    

Time and location can be equally important to the sentence. So I think of it like this. You have a phrase consisting of 3 parts. what you do, when, and where. The “what” should always come last… because it is the verb of the sentence. So basically, whichever one you say second (out of the time and location) is the one being focused on more.

1) 저는 유월에 한국에 갈 거예요

     -> I will go to Korea…. in June

    (The location was mentioned second, so the main point is that I am going to Korea. This is typical)

2) 저는 한국에 유월에 갈 거예요

     -> I will go in June….. to Korea

    (The time was mentioned second, so the main point is “go in June”. So this one is a little weird)

3) 월마트에서 낮 한 시에 만나요

     -> (lets) meet at 1 pm…… at walmart

     (this one focuses more on the time)

4) 낮 한 시에 월마트에서 만나요

     -> (lets) meet at walmart….. at 1 pm

     (focuses more on the location)


I hope this helps you understand how the sentence structure varies at times!


I wrote this based on how I read the sentences so I hope the way I tried to break it down makes sense😅