A Complete Guide to Korean Particles (With Examples)

Korean Particles

What are Korean Particles

Particles function as indicators and markers in a sentence. It indicates the role of the words in the sentence, whether it’s topic, subject, object, etc… Particles are necessary to give a clearer meaning to the sentence. It’s essential in Korean sentence structure. In this article, we will talk about common Korean particles used in everyday Korean.

First, let’s take a brief look at what we’ll talk about.

Korean Particles Examples

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Topic marking particles 은/는

Let’s take a look at topic marking particle 은/는. You might have heard this in basic Korean phrases, such as “저는 한국 사람입니다. (I’m Korean.)” 은/는 are used to denote the topic of a sentence.

은 is used after a noun that ends in a consonant. (E.g. 학생은 / 신발은 / 옷은)

는 is used after a noun that ends in a vowel. (E.g. 오리는 / 고양이는 / 의자는)

Let’s see some examples.

가방은 빨간색이에요.

The bag is red.

In this sentence, 가방(bag) is topic of the sentence. Therefore, it comes with the topic marking particle. Because the word 가방 ends in a consonant, which is “ㅇ”, 은 is used after the word.

저는 한국 사람입니다.

I’m Korean.

In this sentence, 저(I) is topic of the sentence. Therefore, it comes with the topic marking particle. Because the word 저 ends in a vowel, which is “ㅣ”, 는 is used after the word.

Subject marking particles 이/가  

이/가 is used to denote the subject of a sentence. The subject is often related to the verb or adjective of the sentence. 

이 is used after a noun that ends in a consonant. (E.g. 선생님이 / 책이 / 이름이)

가 is used after a noun that ends in a vowel. (E.g. 학교가 / 엄마가 / 의자가)

Let’s look at some example sentences:

시험이 쉬워요.

The exam is easy.

What is ‘easy’? Yes, 시험(exam) is easy. The subject of this sentence is 시험(exam), so it comes with the subject marking particle. Because the word 시험 ends in a consonant, which is “ㅁ”, 이 is used after the word.

날씨가 추워요.

The weather is cold.

What is ‘cold’? Exactly, 날씨(weather) is cold. The subject of this sentence is 날씨(weather), so it comes with the subject marking particle. Because the word 날씨 ends in a vowel, which is “ㅣ”, 가 is used after the word.

컴퓨터가 고장났어요.

The computer is broken.

What is ‘broken’? That’s right, 컴퓨터(computer) is broken. The subject of this sentence is 컴퓨터(computer), so it comes with the subject marking particle. Because the word 컴퓨터 ends in a vowel, which is “ㅓ”, 가 is used after the word.

Korean learners often get confused deciding between a topic marking particle and a subject marking particle. I highly recommend you to read this article about the topic and subject articles I have written before.

Object marking particles 을/를

Object marking particle 을/를 is used to mark the object of a sentence. 

을 is used after a noun that ends in a consonant. (E.g. 책을 / 그림을 / 가방을 )

를 is used after a noun that ends in a vowel. (E.g. 기차를 / 침대를 / 강아지를 )

object articles in Korean

Let me show you some example sentences. 

고양이가 물을 마셔요.

The cat is drinking water.

What is the object that “The cat drinks” in the sentence? Yes, 물(water). The object here is 물(water), so it comes with the object marking particle. Since 물(water) ends in a consonant, which is “ㄹ”, 을 should be used after the word.

저는 강아지를 좋아해요.

I like dogs.

What is the object that “I like” in the sentence? Yes, 강아지(dog). The object here is 강아지(dog), so it comes with the object marking particle. Since 강아지(dog) ends in a vowel, which is “ㅣ”, 를 should be used after the word.

Conjunctive particles 와/과, 하고, 이랑/랑

와/과, 하고, and 랑 can be translated as “and/with”. They can be used to link more than two nouns. While 와/과 are often used in the written Korean, 하고 and (이)랑 are commonly used in spoken language.

Korean Particles for "and"

For example,

식탁 위에 사과와 오렌지가 있습니다.

There are apples and oranges on the table.

신발하고 양말은 저쪽에 있어요.

Shoes and socks are over there.

나는 민수랑 영화를 보러 가요.

I go to the movies with Minsu.

You can link nouns as many as you want in one sentence, using these particles. For example,

가방에 연필과 책과 가위와 지갑과 열쇠가 있어요.

There are pencil, book, scissor, wallet, and key in the bag.

You can replace 와/과 into 하고 or 이랑/랑.

가방에 연필하고 책하고 가위하고 지갑하고 열쇠가 있어요.

There are pencil, book, scissor, wallet, and key in the bag.

가방에 연필이랑 책이랑 가위랑 지갑이랑 열쇠가 있어요.

There are pencil, book, scissor, wallet, and key in the bag.

Possessive particle 의

의 is a possessive particle, which can be used to indicate ownership or possession. It’s the same as apostrophe + s in English. The noun that comes first is the owner, and the noun that comes after 의, will be the thing being owned. 

선생님의 책 a teacher’s book

요리사의 부엌 a chef’s kitchen

이것은 저의 가방입니다.

This is my bag.

그의 여자친구는 미국 사람입니다.

His girlfriend is American.

Location particles 에, 에서 

에 and 에서 are location marking particles that you need to talk about locations. 

에 indicates location, meaning “at”, “to”, “on”, “in”. For example, 

저는 학교에 갑니다.

I’m going to the school.

옷은 서랍 안에 있어요.

The clothes are in the drawer.

에 can also indicate time when it’s used with a time noun. For example,

저는 아침을 7시에 먹습니다.

I eat breakfast at seven o’clock in the morning.

저는 이번 주 일요일에 부산에 가요.

I go to Busan on this Sunday.

에서 also indicates location, but it’s quite different from 에. Location marking particle 에서 expresses a location where an action is taking place, or ‘from’ in terms of a place.

Let’s see some examples.

집에서 요리해요.

I cook at home.

어느 나라에서 왔습니까?

Where are you from?

Direction particles 으로/로

으로/로 is a multi-functional particle. It can be used to indicate the direction, methods, tools, etc.

으로 is used after a noun that ends in a consonant. (E.g. 볼펜으로 / 지갑으로 / 젓가락으로)

로 is used after a noun that ends in a vowel. (E.g. 버스로 / 주스로 / 택시로)

Important Note! If the word ends in a consonant ㄹ, it should be attached with 로, instead of 으로.

For example, 연필로 / 신발로 / 발로 / 거울로 / 지하철로 …etc.

First usage is to indicate the direction, which is similar to 에.

Korean direction particles

Another usage of this particle is that it can be used to express the tools, methods, and instruments. Let’s see some examples.

연필로 그림을 그렸어요.

I drew a picture with a pencil.

자전거로 30분 정도 걸립니다.

It takes about 30 minutes by bicycle.

숟가락으로 국을 먹어요.

I eat soup with a spoon.

Now you understand what Korean particles are and how to use each of them. Particles are the most essential part of Korean sentences. Learning Korean particles will significantly improve your Korean level!


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