가/이 vs 는/은

As you already know even Duolingo gets confused with the usage of the two. I've been settling on 는/은 as "the" and 가/이 as a more general "a". From what I understand we use 가/이 when dealing with action verbs and 는/은 with stationary stuff 잇다 and the ilk.

That said LingoDeer flips this around. I spoke to a few Koreans and there isn't a clean consensus either. What is your thoughts about this?

October 16, 2018


i like how the post with a legitimate question just gets downvoted. thats really nice.

in single clause sentences you can often use either of them because the meaning wont be changed dramatically. theres cases where its more clear which you should use like multiple clause sentences.
선생님은 (그 학생이 수업 시간 동안 부적절하게 행동했다고) 말했어요
the teacher said (that student was behaving inappropriately in classtime)

behind 있다 없다 and 아니다 you will mostly see 이/가
후추가 없는 수프는 안 매워요 the soup without pepper isnt spicy
저 사람은 내 친구가 아니요 that person is not my friend

and if 은/는 is attached it can sound more like a general statement:
요즘에 학생은 공부하기 싫어요 these days (students) dont like studying
요즘에 학생이 공부하기 싫어요 these days (the student) doesent like studying
though it probably would have made more sense to just add 들

at least thats my understanding of it, in smaller sentences it can be entirely subjective to the speaker and what they want to emphasize.

October 16, 2018

I have made a large post on this before which discusses the different usages and nuances in detail. Please check out my post here.

In summary (of my linked post), 는/은 can be used to show generalizations, show contrast, set a new topic or change the topic of discussion (important), while 가/이 is used to show a close relationship with the verb (meaning there could be a topic and a subject in the same sentence, but the verb would be pertaining to the subject of the sentence; see example 1 below). This also means the subject is emphasized. Sometimes 는, if there is no topic already put into discussion, can be the subject of the sentence; see example 2 below.


오늘은 제가 학교에 갔어요.

Today I went to school.

Notice how this is saying I, the subject of the sentence, went to school. NOT, "today went to school" because that would make no sense; today is not the SUBJECT of the sentence and hence has no relationship with the verb. Also notice how this sentence uses 제가 because the topic is already on 오늘 (today). It wouldn't make sense (in most situations) to say 오늘은 저는 학교에 갔어요. If there was no 오늘은 at the beginning of the sentence, then it would be 제가 학교에 갔어요, right? So why not 저는 학교에 갔어요? See point 2 below.


OK, so what about a sentence with no 가/이 but only 은/는? For example:

저는 피자를 먹어요.

I eat pizza.

Why is there no 이/가? Why not 제가 피자를 먹어요? Shouldn't there be a 이/가 since "I" is the subject of the sentence, "I" is the one doing the action? The answer is: the sentence is also correct if it were 제가 피자를 먹어요. The difference is context of usage. One would use the former sentence with the topic marker 저 if, as described earlier, one wanted to show contrast or establish a new topic of conversation. In this sense, 은/는 can replace 이/가 functioning as the subject of the sentence if a topic has not already been established or a change in topic is desired. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule, but we won't get into that.

Did this clear it up? Please let me know if you have more questions, and please don't forget to check out the linked post as it goes into a bit more detail.

October 19, 2018

Go to They have actual lessons for free on the what, how, and why of things. 는/은 is a topic marking particles. Words ending in a consonant, use 은 Words ending in a vowel, use 는 This lets people know what the topic of the sentence is. From my understanding it also has the nuance of "about" something, "as far as" something, or "unlike other things" as well.

가/이 is a Subject marking particle. This can mark the subject of the sentence with out emphasizing it too much. Also in some cases you can use either 는/은 or 가/이 , in other cases it is very important which one you use.

Head over to talk to me in Korean. They have all the lessons free and they explain everything to you as well as video courses as well.

October 17, 2018

I am Korean. I am not an expert on the grammar but my conclusion after thinking a little bit is: Simply speaking you use 가/이 when you focus more on the subject while 는/은 do on the whole meaning. It is more clear if you think question like: 누가 할래요?(Who will do it?) 제가 할게요(I will). 나는 그 것을 한다(I do it). 내가 그것을 한다(It is me who is doing it)

October 19, 2018

The two other repliers have given some really good advice. There is no English equivalent of 은/는, 이/가. The best things you can do is read up on the grammar behind it and expose yourself to a massive amount of Korean so that you develop a feel of when to use each.

October 17, 2018

From what I understood, you put 이/가 on the object that a person “has” when using “있다.” But to see the difference between this two when not using 있다, where it demands 이/가, you must have experience. This a nuance problem, mostly because you know it, if you know the context. 는/은 is used when stating a general fact. 이/가 is used to describe a specific situation that the speaker just realised. BUT, in the same time, 는/은 is used when comparing something

사과는 빨갛다 = in general apples are red 사과는 빨갛다. 바나나는 노랗다 = Apples are red. Bananas are yellow 사과가 빨갛다 = the apple is red; the apple that I am looking at

hope it made sense :))

October 17, 2018
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