Subject particle: ~이/가, ~은/는

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:

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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.

In summary…

You use ~이/가 when:

  1. Telling/asking something new to/from the listener.
  2. You want to emphasise on the matter before the subject particle.

You use ~은/는 when:

  1. Making a factual statement / restating an information listener already knew.
  2. You want to emphasise on the matter after the subject particle.
  3. 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…

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2017~! ^^