When it comes to writing or speaking Korean, many people are sometimes confused on how to use the subject particles ~이/가, ~은/는. I was once very confused too, even after I read books, search online, or asked some of my Korean friends! Even when I thought I’ve gotten the concept right, when people started asking me questions I’ve never considered about, I got confused again..;;;
Aha! I did not grasp the concept well enough!
So as time passed, I tried to fit all the pieces of puzzle in my mind together, and finally got to see the big picture.
What’s a subject particle? Simply say, ~이/가 or ~은/는 act like articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘an’ in English. In the Korean language’s context, it is used to indicate or emphasise a verb, noun, subject of a sentence. You use ~이/~은 when the last alphabet of preceding word ends with a consonant and ~가/~는 with vowels.
Here comes the confusing part. But let me break it down in the way I understood it.
There are three main points that differ the usage of ~이/가 and ~은/는. They are listed down with examples in the table below:
Basically, the meaning of the sentence differs depending on what kind of situation you are using it in. But the concepts generally revolve around the three as mentioned above.
As a heads up, you cannot use ~은/는 more than once in a single sentence. Why? Because you wouldn’t know where is the emphasis of the sentence anymore! However, you can use ~이/가 and ~은/는 in the same sentence such as:
김현중이 축구는 좋아해요. (Kim Hyun Joong likes soccer)
The sentence emphasises that it is soccer that Kim Hyun Joong likes, and not others.
You use ~이/가 when:
- Telling/asking something new to/from the listener.
- You want to emphasise on the matter before the subject particle.
You use ~은/는 when:
- Making a factual statement / restating an information listener already knew.
- You want to emphasise on the matter after the subject particle.
- Double emphasise the meaning of the sentence.
Hope this is easy to be understood! Please feel free to correct if I am wrong in any way or you have any doubts! 🙂
Last but not least…