Korean Lesson 10: Markers


Markers? What are they? In oriental languages like Japanese and Korean we need to express the object and subject of the sentence. This is similar to languages such as Greek, Russian and Classical Latin. As English speakers we don’t have a clue what these are so here’s a simple step by step guide.

You will need them to create even the most simple sentences so do spend time learning them. It should be noted though that Koreans themselves often leave them out in speech but NEVER in writing.

1. Subject, object, topic marker

The topic marker –ûn/nûn is used to introduce the subject of the sentence, usually the first time it is mentioned in conversation, or to emphasise it.

e.g. Emma-nûn sagwa-rûl møgøssøyo – Emma ate an apple (As for Emma, she ate an apple)

Na-nûn hakkyo-e kayo – I am going to school (I, not her or him)

Na-nûn i chaeg-ûl ilgo-go Emma-nûn kû-gøl ilgøyo – I am reading this book and Emma is reading that one
(Here we see contrast: I am…but as for Emma, she’s…)

Sound rules: nûn after a vowel / ûn after a consonant

The subject marker is then used to discuss the subject after the first time it is mentioned.

e.g.
pyøng-i manhayo – There are lots of bottles
Ke-ga wayo – A dog is coming

Sound rules: -Ga after vowels or -i after consonants
N.B. letter changes after -i are: k=g / l=r / t=d / p=b / ch=j

The object particle is used to describe the thing affected by the verb.
The copula/verb TO BE will never have an object particle with it.

Ch’aeg-ûl chinae-e sa-rø kayo – I am going into town to buy a book
Yongung-mar-ûl (mal) haeyo – I speak English
Gareth-imnida – I am Gareth (no marker)

Sound rules:
-rûl after a vowel
-ûl after a consonant

N.B. letter changes after ûl are: k=g / l=r / t=d / p=b / ch=j

Examples of all three together:
1) k’omp’yut’a-imnida – It is a computer (No marker)
2) k’omp’yut’a-ga dweyo – There is a computer available (subject)
3) k’omp’ut’a-rûl sassøyo – I bought a computer (object)

In 1) the Computer is with the verb TO BE and there is never a marker here
In 2) the computer is the thing being talked about. It is the thing that’s available.
In 3) I am the subject, the computer is the thing being affected by my actions. It would be equally acceptable to write: na-nûn or nae-ga k’omp’yut’a sassøyo – I bought a computer
It’s just that Koreans like to chop as much non-essential info off as possible.

More examples to help you:
1) ke-ieyo – It’s a dog
2) ke-ga che chib-e kørøsso – A dog walked into my house
3) ke-rûl shinae-e sa-ro kayo – I am going into town to buy a dog

In 1) the dog is with the verb TO BE and there is never a marker here
In 2) the dog is the thing being talked about. It is the thing that’s walking.
In 3) I am the subject, the dog is the thing being affected by my actions. It would be equally acceptable to write: na-nûn or nae-ga ke-rûl shinae-e sa-ro kayo – I am going into town to buy a dog.
Again, it’s just that Koreans like to chop as much non-essential info off as possible.

One last example before it’s your turn:
1) t’ellebijyon-eyo – It’s a TV
2) t’ellebijyon-i ssayo – The TV is cheap
3) t’ellebijyon-ûl ssa-nûn køt kat’ayo – I think that the TV is cheap

In 1) the TV is with the verb TO BE and there is never a marker here
In 2) the TV is the thing being talked about. It is the thing that’s cheap.
In 3) I am the subject, the TV is the thing being affected by my actions/thoughts. It would be equally acceptable to write: na-nûn or nae-ga t’ellebijyon-ûl ssa-nûn køt kat’ayo – I think that the TV is cheap.
You guessed it, it’s because Koreans like to chop as much non-essential info off as possible.

YOUR TURN!

Put the correct marker in the space. Or not at all!
Extension task: change the last letter if it needs to be changed. e.g. l>r or k>g

1) chaek_____ sassøyo – I bought a book
2) che koshil____ieyo – It’s my living room
3) i T’i-shyoch’u_____ pissayo – this T-shirt is expensive
4) Na____ shinae-e pang____ sa-rø kayo – I am going into town to buy bread
5) Jonathan_____imnida – I am Jonathan
6) hanggung-mal_______ mal haeyo – I speak Korean
7) kû yong-hwa_____ choayo – That film is good
8 ) kû yong-hwa_____ choa haeyo – I like that film

Answers below – good luck!





















1) chaeg-__ûl___ sassøyo – I bought a book
2) che koshir____ieyo – It’s my living room (no change except to the letter l>r)
3) i T’i-shyoch’u__-ga___ pissayo – this T-shirt is expensive
4) Na__nûn__ shinae-e pang_-ûl___ sa-rø kayo – I am going into town to buy bread
5) Jonathan_____imnida – I am Jonathan (no change)
6) hanggung-mar-_ûl___ haeyo – I speak Korean
7) kû yong-hwa__-ga___ choayo – That film is good
8 ) kû yong-hwa__-rûl___ choa haeyo – I like that film

How did you do?

Annyonghi kaseyo!

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4 responses to “Korean Lesson 10: Markers

  1. Hi! Thanks for this, it’s informative! However, I’m wondering if you could explain the differences between the subject and topic marking particle? I understand the usage if I read them in a sentence, but when I try to construct sentences, I’m unsure of when to use the topic particle and when to use the subject particle.

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    • Good question! In general, when introducing a brand new topic, use the topic marker. When then referring to that topic later, just use the subject marker. Does that help? I might do a post on this to show examples…

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  2. Thanks so much for responding! Indeed, your explanation does clear things up a little. With regards to what you said about using a subject marker when referring to a said topic, can I then generalise it further to say that subject markers can be used when answering questions? Also, I read somewhere that subject particles are used to emphasize certain words:

    e.g. 나는 finished the work (general statement) vs
    재가 finished the work (emphasizing that it was I who finished the work)

    I also read elsewhere that when I ask about new information, it is safe to use -이/가? I’m getting a little confused here as I thought that if I wanted to ask about something else, I’m essentially introducing a new topic? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Really appreciate your responses! 🙂 Keep up the good work, I really like this blog. It’s extremely helpful and beginner-friendly!

    Like

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