Intro to Particles + the Subject Case Particle 이/가

Today is 2017년 6월 20일

Case and special particles

Korean nouns are usually marked by particles; this is something that has no equivalent in English. There are two types: case and special particles.

Case particles show the syntactic role of the noun that they are attached to. In other words, they show whether the noun is a subject, objects, indirect object, etc.

There are two kinds of case particles: subject case (이/가), which we will talk about today, and object case (을/를).

  • 찰스 커피 마셔요. = Charles drinks coffee.
    • 찰스 is the subject, so it is marked by subject particle 가
    • 커피 is the object, so it is marked by the object particle 를

The other type of particle is the special particle whose function is to add special meanings to the noun. For example, indicating the noun as the topic of the sentence or emphasizing singularity/plurality.

These particles include topic particles (은/는), delimiters (만 “only,” 도 “also,” etc.), and so on.

  • 현대 소나타 촣아요. = As for a car, I like Hyundai Sonata / As for a car, Hyundai Sonata is good.
    • 현대 소나타 is the subject of the sentence, marked by 가
    • 차 is the topic, not the subject, so it is marked by 는

Characteristics of particles

Here are a few things to remember about particles:

  1. Even though particles are an integral part of the noun, they can be omitted due to contextual understanding BUT this is not allowed in formal, written communication.
  2. Because of the case particle’s role of showing the syntactic role of a noun, the word order of a sentence can be moved around.
    1. 찰스 커피 마셔요. = Charles drinks coffee.
    2.  커피 찰스 마셔요. = Charles drinks coffee.

The subject particle 이/가

The subject particle 이/가 is a two-form particle. It is similar to how “a/an” works in English.

이 is used when the particle comes after a noun that ends in a consonant (가방 = bag, ㅇ is a consonant)

가 comes after a noun that ends in a vowel (학교 = school, ㅛ is a vowel)

The particle 이/가 in negation

Although 이/가 ‘s primary function is the show the subject case, it’s usage goes beyond just marking subjects. For example, in negation, the noun it marks isn’t the subject.

  • 사라 한극사람 아니에요. = As for Sara, (she) is not a Korean.
    • 사라 is not the subject, rather the topic, as marked by 는
    • The subject of the sentence (she) is omitted and 한극사람 is marked by 이

Double-subject constructions

Some sentences may have two nouns marked as subjects

  • 친구 세 명 왔다 = Three friends came

Korean grammarians call this a “double-subject construction.” Double-subject sentences are very common in Korean but it’s interpretation is not that the sentence has two subjects. The focus of this sentence is the number three “세” not the friends “친구.”

Here’s another example:

  • 토마스 크다. = Thomas’s hands are big.
    • Here, the nouns’ relationship is possessor-possession and it is a little difficult to figure out what is being emphasized as the subject.
    • Koreans use context along with other linguistic cues, like intonation, to figure out where the subject emphasis lies.  It also helps that in conversation, subjects and particles are often omitted.

Next, we’ll talk about the special particle 은/는 but that’s it for today.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다! 안녕!

오늘의 노래:



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