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Subject and Topic Particles

Is there an easy way to explain the difference? lol...I cannot, for the life of me, tell the difference between the two as far as usage. My textbook does a lousy job at explaining!

Feb 22, 2015 7:40 PM
Comments · 6

An easy way to figure out which particle to use is to remember that 은/는 emphasises what comes after it, while 이/가 emphasises what comes before it. You could say that a lot of the time 는 emphasises what is being done and 가 emphasises who (or what) is doing it.

So if I my friend Jinho this question:

"진호야, 오늘 뭐 먹었어요?" (Jinho, what did you eat today?)

He might answer like this:

"나는 부대찌개를 먹었어요" (I ate Budae-jjigae) 
In this situation he would use 는 because he is emphasising what he ate, not who ate it.

But if I asked a question like this:

"야! 나의 김치가 없어졌어! 누가 먹었어?" (Hey! My kimchi has disappeared! Who ate it?)

Jinho might answer like this:

"내가 먹었어요, 미안해요." (It was me that ate it, I'm sorry). Notice how the emphasis in this sentence is the ACTOR and not the ACTION.

Don't forget that 나 becomes 내 when it comes before 가. 

This is a bit of an oversimplification and the rules about using 는/은 and 가/이 get a bit more complicated when you get into some more advanced grammar like passive/active tense and stuff but it works most of the time.  

February 24, 2015

This is a difficult to explain.  It might be easier to explain the meaning of life.  :P  Just kidding.  Lee does a great job of explaining it here:


It is a bit easier to understand when you can see the translations of the similar sentences in which the only difference between the sentences are the use of the particles.

I am constantly using 이 or 가 when I should use 은 or 는, although I do understand when corrected.

February 22, 2015

Wow Justin! Thank you! That explains it a little better for me!

February 24, 2015

haha! No worries! I didn't notice! :-)

February 22, 2015

You are welcome.  


self correction:

This is a difficult to explain.

in which the only difference between the sentences are is the use of the particles.

February 22, 2015
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