L1-G: Topic/Subject marker

In this lesson we will plainly look at the usage of marker 은/는 to mark a topic or subject of the sentence. There are many functions of this marker which we will look at later on but for now, this aspect will do.

When you’re trying to “mark” something (can be a noun, event, etc) as the topic of conversation or the subject of the sentence, you can attach 은/는 after the topic to indicate that that thing is the topic of the sentence.

How it works:

Add ~은 when the word before it ends in a consonant.

Add ~는 when the word before it ends in a vowel / Y+vowel / double vowel.

For example:

If you want to put yourself as the topic of the sentence, like saying “I am happy”. The humble form of “I” is 저 (though you may hear some people say 나 but that is casual terms and only used with people you are close to).

Since 저 ends with a vowel “ㅓ”  we will add the subject marker 는.

So front part of the sentence will be: 저는 …….


Say you want to put your teacher as the topic of sentence, like saying “Where is teacher?” . Teacher (or a general honorific title) in korean is 선생님.

Since 선생님 ends with a consonant “ㅁ”  therefore we will add the subject marker 은.

 So the front part of the sentence will be : 선생님은….  (remember overflowing of consonant sound?….)


 The subject marker 은/는 is also used to indicate a change in topic.

For instance in the beginning, I am talking of myself. So I put forth me as the topic of conversation:

               저는 ……………………….

Then after that, I want to change the topic and talk about the teacher. In order to mark that change in topic, I use this subject marker.



You can also use this subject to kind of like redirect a question. Let me illustrate what I mean with an example.

Say I am talking to my teacher, and he is asking me how am I doing. I continue saying that I am fine. Then I want to ask how the teacher is doing instead. So I just redirect the same question to the teacher by just putting him as the subject and add the marker.

ie    선생님은? (How about you teacher?)

     redirecting the question that he asked me back to him.

It doesn’t need to be how are you. Maybe the teacher is asking me if I’m busy. And after answering that I am busy, I may want to redirect the question to the teacher to know whether he’s busy too. 

So I just go: 선생님은?  

Try it on your own:

1) Add the appropriate subject particle ~은/는  to the give words:

  • 어머니
  •  학교   
  • 우리

2) Try finding some topic and add the appropriate marker yourself.



One Response

  1. […] 18th, 2007 by honjangnim This lesson will integrate your skill from using the subject marker 은/는 and also the ending “is Y” 이에요/예요 to make the sentence “X is […]

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