Help on when to use particles 는 은 이 가

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I'm still not exactly sure what the difference between them is. I've read in the past that 는 은 refer to an indefinite particles and 이 가 refer to a definite one. But I don't think this is accurate. Apparently Korean really has no equivalent for 'the' or 'a, an'. That's why 그 is often used as 'the' even though it means 'that.'

I've also seen people talk about that the first two refer to the topic and the next two refer to the subject. But this doesn't really make sense because I don't really know what the difference is between a subject and a topic.

For example, in the sentence: 저는 이것을 먹어요 ( I eat this)

Isn't 'I' a subject? How do you know to use 저는 instead of 제가? How is 'I' a topic?

Any clarification is appreciated!

3 months ago


often in single clauses they can be interchanged without any real difference in meaning. when sentences start to get bigger is when you can notice the proper usage of one over the other. 은/는 will be used on the main thing in the clause like:

제가 먹는 밥은 맛없다 the rice i eat tastes bad.
in that sentence "me eating" describes the rice so "me" gets the simple 이/가 marker and "rice" gets the 은/는 marker
학생이 읽는 책은 길다 the book the student reads is long
아이가 차는 공은 크다 the ball the child kicks is big
i hope that makes sense.

with that in mind if you wanted to just say "i eat rice" you would be talking about yourself eating rice, so you would just say:
저는 밥을 먹는다
if you said:
제가 밥을 먹는다
the emphasis would be a little weird.

theres also the trend of nouns marked with 이/가 translating to having articles, and ones marked with 은/는 translating to the infinitive form, which makes sense when you think about everything above, nouns with 이/가 are always referencing something specific in sentences by nature, and ones marked with 은/는 are referencing the thing being talked about, which isnt something necessarily general, but can be something not necessarily specific.

this is something people will generally tell you not to worry about because you cant really make sense of it at first, and because its something that if you screw up, can still be understood.

additionally, in a different usage 은/는 can have a contrasting function, but im not going to talk about that.

3 months ago
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I've read about the contrast usage as well, but I thought that was more straightforward, so I didn't ask about it.

And I definitely have seen the general vs specific usage at work.

ex. 1. 학교는 재미없습니다. School is not fun ( use 는) 2. 학교가 커요. The school is big (use 가)

I think a lot of my confusion comes because the sentences I'm seeing currently on Duolingo are short ones with only one clause. And it seems like, other than 'I', which usually gets the 는 particle, a lot of other nouns use both types of particles somewhat randomly.

Out of the examples you've given with longer sentences, it seems like you use 이/가 when you want to specify >who< is doing a topic that is being described.

If this is the case, 제가 밥을 먹는다 would only sound natural if someone asked 'who is eating rice?'. Is this right?

3 months ago

thats right, saying that would be putting emphasis on YOU being the specific actor like:
i am the one who is eating the rice, opposed to
when it comes to me im eating rice

ill make a little longer sentence:
선생님이 가르치는 수업은 어렵지만 재미있다
the class the teacher teaches is hard, but its interesting.

선생님이 가르치는, and 어렵지만 재미있다 describe 수업
if you flip flopped the position of the particles in the sentence, it would still point to 수업 being described so it makes sense, but the emphasis would be really weird.

the conjugation i've been using is used mostly in text and not speech. i suppose its not explained until later in the duo course but you can read up on it here, if you want.

i wonder where all these downvotes are coming from

3 months ago
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It definitely makes more sense in longer sentences. Also, the contrast between the ideas of hard and fun is emphasized with the 은 ending. Thank you for the resource!

As for down votes, I'm not sure. People asking for help and others giving help should be encouraged in my opinion.

3 months ago
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Hello~! I'm a native Korean,

and I have to say that

저는 밥을 먹는다/ 제가 밥을 먹는다/ 제가 먹는 밥은 맛없다

these are not natural, but wrong sentences.

the 은는이가 usage is correct

the thing is 저/제 is in Honorific form. and the sentence must conjugate to the corresponding honorific form. otherwise, It will sound wrong or even rude and sarcastic.

Honorific grammar form must be with these suffixes.

~ 니다 / ~ 이에요 / ~ 어요 / ~ 요/ and so on

e.g: 제가 지금 밥먹고 있거든요/ 저 지금 밥먹습니다 / 저는 지금 밥을 먹고 있어요/ 저는 밥먹고 있습니다/ 저 식사중이에요/ 밥을 두 그릇 먹었더니 지금 엄청 배불러요/ 존댓말을 정확히 사용하는건 중요합니다

the difference between 저 and 제,

저 is very common, in articles 저 is more often used, but it is actually used for both speaking and writing. note that 저 can bring very flexible suffixes so It sounds reasonable when it is used more often. e.g:저 또한/저도/저를/저는/저 밖에/ 저 외에도/ 저만/ 저한테/ 저에게 and so on.

on the hand hands

제가 is also commonly used. 제가 can empathize Who(I) does something or Who(I) is done/described. Also, 제가 can deliver the feeling of speaking which used in conversations and discussions for two or more than two people.

note that 제 can bring suffix ~가 or no suffix. so it becomes 제가 or 제 + Noun as compound Noun. (e.g: 제 아이/ 제 월급/ 제 체면)

and be careful with these two.

제발=please / 제 발= my feet, my foot

and for your last question, as the answer of "who is eating rice?"

제가 밥을 먹는다 is grammatically wrong due to the honorific misforming.

the most natural answer will be: 저요(or raise a hand without saying anything)

That's the way Koreans would answer for the question.

if you'd like to say as the answer "I'm eating rice" without any implying ( repeating the details without implying as an answer is already a bit unnatural and the way natives would less likely speak) it will be something like these: 제가 밥먹고 있습니다/ 제가 지금 식사중입니다/ 제가 지금 밥먹고 있어요/ 제가 밥먹고 있어요

I hope it helps! :)

3 months ago

hmm. you say:
"저 is very common, in articles 저 is more often used, but it is actually used for both speaking and writing."
and then you say:
"제가 밥을 먹는다 is grammatically wrong due to the honorific misforming."

no but what really baffles me is the title of this thing is "Help on when to use particles 는 은 이 가" and not "fixate on the honorifics within four word example sentences"

3 months ago
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I think the discussion about 저 and 제 come from a question in my original post: "How do you know to use 저는 instead of 제가?"

I'm still not too sure about all the conjugations and will learn more about that when I reach those topics.

But I think both of you helped me a lot, and for the most part agreed on the difference between when to use each particle.

3 months ago
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저 is a humble way to say "I". Whether you use 는 or 가 with 저, it's more natural to conjugate verb/adjective with 어요/아요 or ㅂ니다/습니다 form.
If you are talking to close friend then you can say 나 in relation to yourself, and conjugate verb/adjective in - 어/아 form, without 요. And you can add 는 or 가 to 나 depending on the situation.
In this Wikipedia article you can see that Hasoseo-che and Haeyo-che use 저 (1st Person), and Hae-che use 나 (1st Person).

3 months ago
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I actually haven't learned the conjugation 는다 yet, so that last question about the sentence 제가 밥을 먹는다 was quoted from McPwny's post, who said that the sentence would be unnatural if written that way.

So to summarize what you are saying, 저/제 has to be used with more polite endings, rather than 는다, which I assume is not polite, by your response. Moreover, 저 and 제 can both be used, but 저 sounds more natural since it has more suffixes and is more common whereas 제 emphasizes who did it or feeling. And lastly, the endings are usually dropped in spoken word, since they add no unique meaning.

3 months ago
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