L2-G: Subject marker

In this article, we will look at the subject marker 이/가.

This form is used to mark the subject of the sentence.

How it works:

  •  add if it ends with vowel
  • add if it ends with a consonant

Note: When this particle is attached to words ‘I” [저 / 나] or ‘you’ [너], it will be changed to its respective possessive form.

            ie: 저 => 제가   나 => 내가   너 => 네가

Lets look at one example how this particle is used. 

Eg.   What is your name?  

         casual way of saying name = 이름    what = 뭐 

         Since 이름 ends with consonant ‘ㅁ’ we add particle to it.

         Sentence: 이름이 뭐예요?  What is your name?

 note: when asking question, a rising tone to 요.

—————————————————————————————————————————

From the example above, you may question, then what is the difference between 이/가 and 은/는 as subject marker?

We can write it as 이름은 뭐예요? .

Well, general difference is that 은/는 is refers more to the topic of conversation and 이/가 is for subject of the particular sentence.

 이름이 뭐예요? just signifies that for now, this particular sentence, the subject is your name.

이름은 뭐예요? signifies (probably) that we’re just going to talk all about your name in the whole conversation.

                            ———————————————

Taking a step further,

Eg:  민지 씨 학생 아니예요.   Minji is not a student.

From the sentence above, 민지 is the topic of conversation (ie what we’re chatting all about is Minji. Your friend will say something about Minji, you say something about Minji. The topic of the conversation is Minji)

However, the subject for particular sentence is “student”. So it is used with the subject marker 이/가.

                             ———————————————-

 more example:  Today, the weather is good.

The topic of the conversation is ‘today’. We’re discussing all about today.  The subject of particular sentence is ‘weather’ because I’m describing the weather.

Thus:   today =오늘   weather = 날씨   good=좋다

Let’s develop this sentence slowly.

We will add marker to 오늘 because its the topic of conversation : 오늘은

To say something is good, using the polite form, is 좋아요.

If we don’t put ‘weather’ in: 오늘은 좋아요. (today is good).

But what is good? We want to say the weather is good. Because its a subject relating to the topic of conversation (today) we add 가 (날씨 ends with vowel).

Thus: 오늘은 날씨가 좋아요.   Today, the weather is good.

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In more detail of the difference, look at the explaination below. This is quoted from soitgoes in the arirang.co.kr ‘Let’s speak korean’ discussion board.

/
This particle makes the word that comes before it the subject. Think of it as ‘as for (the word I just said)…’
나는 한국사람이예요 – I am Korean.

(me)(as for me) 한국사람(Korean)이예요(am). The verb comes at the end.

사람은 현대의 사장님이죠? That person’s the president of Hyundai, isn’t he/she?

 그사람(that person) (as for) 현대의 사장님 (president of Hyundai)(is)(isn’t it?). /
This is the second subject particle.
내가 그렇게 생각했어 – I was the one who thought that. (I)(I am the subject) 그렇게 (in that way) 생각했어 (Thought).
and are better explained by showing how they differ as opposed to trying to explain them one by one. Here is the difference between them: places more importance on what comes afterward. We use to introduce a subject, and then talk about it. places more importance on what comes before it. When using , less information comes after the than before.
For example:
나는 한국인이예요. I’m Korean. (=As for me, I’m Korean).
내가 한국인이예요. I’m the Korean. (=You wanted to know who the Korean was; well, it’s me. ( changes to when coming before .)
말했어? – Who said that? Here the listener wants to know who. Therefore one would answer by saying, 내가 말했어 – I was the one that said it. We already know that someone has said something, but didn’t know who. Therefore the person who has done the action is what is important and we use .Also,
is used when one is directly experiencing or feeling something, whereas is used when talking about them with a certain detachment. For example,
커피가 뜨거워! – The coffee’s hot!
커피는 뜨거운 액체입니다 – Coffee is a hot liquid. Once again there is generally more information after a .
, 달이 예뻐! – Wow, the moon’s beautiful!
달은 지구의 위성이다 – The moon is the earth’s satellite. To sum up, think of the / as FOCUSING attention on the subject, whereas / provides us with the BACKGROUND to the rest of the sentence. Another way of using / is as a contrastive marker: 나는 사과가 좋아요=I like apples (for ME, apples are good, but other people might think differently).
P.S.: Don’t forget that Korean allows two subjects for one sentence, whereas English never does. Also, the order is different: English uses S-V-O (Subject-Verb-Object) whereas Korean uses the pattern S-O-V (Subject (
주어) – Object (목적어) – Verb (동사)).
Take care, and I hope this is of some use.

Note: Sometimes this particle can be omitted if the subject is obvious.

Try it yourself:

 

1) Translate this sentence to korean and use the subject particle 이/가.

  • I have a korean book. (usually in this the particle is omitted but if its not, how do you write it)

  • Now, its snowing. (verb to describe the snow is 오다 – to come)

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