Level 1: TTMIK “Topic and Subject Marking Particles” Podcast #9


I have missed these! So I figured now would be a great time to jump back! And you wouldn’t believe how happy I was about the topic of this Podcast. A lot of my current notes and recent learning is about how to deal with these. I actually talked to 영조 about trying to figure out the difference between these earlier so this comes at a perfect time! Let’s get to the Podcast, shall we?

*NOTE – This is probably going to be a long entry and possibly wordy. If it doesn’t make sense at first DON’T WORRY. I had to do search after search to do research and I think I am FINALLY starting to get it.

As always, I HIGHLY encourage you to download their PDF for this lesson (found Here: TalkToMeInKorean Lesson 9). This is a much longer PDF than their normal so I am very excited. This can be a VERY hard subject/topic to hit (I honestly didn’t mean to word it that way but now I am stuck on it. 죄송합니다.) It seems a little confusing but I am sure we can work with it and figure it out together.

Let’s go to it!


This will be interesting to see if I can truly show a difference. They … aren’t quite as interchangeable as we would think at first. But I like how TTMIK explains it as it helps a little bit. I am also going to pull from my current learning and combine it all here. Wish me luck.

Let’s start with the one that everyone is normally shown first when starting Korean:

What they call “Topic Particles” here.
Why did I phrase it that way? Because a few other resources I have read refer to them as something else. But no matter what, this is one of the first things mentioned. No matter which blog or video or learning thing you are using, it always seems that this is one of the first particles they are going to talk about.


The main thing to remember about this particle is that it is letting others know what you are going to be talking about – so that means that this particle is going to be attached to a noun.

Like many things we have talked about in the past, which one you use depends on the noun’s ending letter.
If the word ends with a consonant, we use: -은
If the word ends with a vowel, we use: -는

I too love books so we can use that word first for an example:
책 ends with a consonant, so it becomes: 책은.

Hmmm…. a word that ends with a vowel- oh! I!
저 (formal “I”) ends with a vowel, so it becomes: 저는.

Now here is a quote that is VERY IMPORTANT from the PDF they gave:
“The topic of the sentence is usually (but not always) the same as the subject of the sentence.”

How can you tell the difference? Not 100% sure to be honest. But I feel like it is something we will learn better as we go along.

I want to address this a little bit more because I have been reading HowToStudyKorean.com and it only touches these particles first in regards to topic/subject of a sentence. I am going to break some sentences down and color code them so you can see these bad boys in action!


Okay. Let’s get started!
A new thing in the breakdown! I am actually going to show you in the order it is written so you can start focusing on actual sentence structure, but that is important!
Those who have written notes from past entries, you will notice that I am using different terminology right now. I have used Subject – Verb or Subject – Adjective, etc. but we are using the term “Topic” for now to match the terminology used in this podcast. Thank you for understanding.

저는 여자입니다.
I (topic particle) woman am. -> I am a woman
Topic – noun – (to be) verb.

Okay, so first off, this may have been a bad type of sentence to start with because 이다 is a VERY SPECIAL verb so it doesn’t follow normal verb rules, but that isn’t the point –
The point is that there is a topic particle in there! It is showing that “저” is the main topic of the sentence! I am talking about… well… “I”. Me. Whatever, I think you got it.
Another example!

오유아는 물을 마시다.
오유아 마시다.
Oyoa (topic particle) water drinks. -> Oyoa drinks water.
Topic – Object – Verb

*NOTE: I know there was something there in red. That is an Object Particle. But I want to address that in a different entry so I will leave that alone for now.

남준은 달린다.
남준 달린다.
Namjoon (topic particle) runs.
Topic – Verb.

Okay, now to the next part of the PDF!


Introducing Subject Marking Particles!


Again, you know which one to use based off the ending of the word.
If the word ends with a consonant – 이
If the word ends with a vowel – 가

We are going to use the same examples as earlier! (Book and I. Because… I can!)

책 ends with a consonant, so it becomes: 책이.
저 (formal “I”) ends with a vowel, so it becomes: 저가.

I was looking for a good example, and though I found an amazing entry online that I will refer to soon, TOPIKguide.com had a good sentence to refer to.

By the way, TOPIK – Test of Proficiency in Korean. Official test offered to non-native Korean speakers. As the name suggests, it tests the proficiency of the non-native in Korean. If you want to live in Korea and get a job and such, this is pretty handy. In fact:
“There are two reasons why you should take the TOPIK test: first, is to determine how good your Korean is and to see if you are at your desired level. Second, it is crucial when applying for a Korean University or residency in Korea.” – KoreanExplorer.com

Anyway, the sentence:

펜이 있어요?
Pen (subject marking) do you have?

Now, don’t worry if you are unsure about which one to use where.

I LOVE the explanation Learn Korean by swagfairybokjoo.

“A topic of a sentence is not necessarily a subject. A topic of a sentence is generally what the sentence is about and therefore the topic marker is used to mark the topic of a sentence and to differentiate between two possible topics of conversation.

A subject marker is used to identify the subject: the noun in the sentence – and to emphasize it. It can be hard to tell which one to use, but one of the easier ways to remember the difference:

Topic marker emphasizes more on the verb while the subject marker emphasizes more on the subject.

Examples of the difference will actually be used soon after this brief explanation from the PDF.

I know it is a tough subject. Stick with me!

This next explanation phrase seems like it should be so easy but it utterly confuses me because I overthink things.
“Topic marking particles express what the topic of the sentence is, and the subject marking particles show what the subject of the sentence is.”

Simple, right? Well, let’s dive more into the multi-purpose these two particles.

First, let’s talk about the topic marking particles. TTMIK says that they tend to have the nuance of being about something. Like “as for/about/unlike/different from” other things.

Whereas Subject Marking Particles has more of the feeling of “none other than/nothing but” type of deal. It can mark the subject without emphasizing it too much.

Utterly confusing? Yeah, for me too. Luckily there are examples and explanations coming!


First, we will touch on the examples given by TTMIK about 는/은!

오늘은 날씨 좋네요.
오늘 날씨는 좋네요.

They both say “The weather’s good today.” But what is IMPLIED is a whole different story. (Let me break it down really quick so you can see where all the words are.)

오늘 날씨 네요.
오늘 날씨 네요.

Today the weather good it is.

Let’s look at that first version of the sentence.

오늘 날씨 좋네요.
Look where the topic marking particle is. It is right after “today.” It is saying THIS ONE is good. THIS ONE is attached to today, so TODAY the weather is good.
So essentially, what this sentence is saying: The weather hasn’t been good lately, but TODAY it is.

So what about the second one?

오늘 날씨 좋네요.
The topic marking particle is now attached to “the weather.” So do that though. THIS ONE is good. THIS ONE is attached to weather, so THE WEATHER is good today.
Basically, this sentence is implying: “Today, though nothing else seems to be going well, at least the weather is good.”

INSANE, right?

Relisten to their podcast. They tease each other by putting the topic marking particle after certain words to say “Oh, your makeup is pretty, but-” or “Your voice is nice but-” type of thing. What about subject marking particles?

Here is the example TTMIK used.
ABC 좋아요? XYZ가 좋아요!

Notice it is after the subject XYZ. The person before had said they think ABC is good. But apparently we are disagreeing. We believe that XYZ is good.
The subject particle is emphasizing XYZ. The subject of “Being good” should be XYZ.

A little… confusing? Let’s use the example I was talking about earlier!

Learn Korean by swagfairybokjoo broke it so I was able to understand a little better in regards to emphasis.

제가 샀다
저는 샀다

Both of these say “I bought” but the emphasis is different!

제가 샀다 – I bought (I am the one who did, not anyone else.)
저는 샀다 – I bought (I bought rather than doing something else.)

The top one emphasises the subject “I”. I did this thing, not someone else.
The bottom one emphasises what was DONE. It states I am the subject, but the EMPHASIS is on what was done.

I think that helped me a lot more as I was reading.

She has another good example.

Say someone was asking: Who bought a new shirt?
제가 갔어요. (I went.)

Focus is on the WHO.

What if someone asked: What did you do at the store?
나는 구두를 샀어요. (I bought shoes.)

The focus isn’t on who it was, it was more on WHAT I DID – bought shoes.
(Ps: 구두 – Shoes. 샀어요 – bought.)

Focusing on the subject itself, topic marker. What the subject DID, subject marker.

WHEW. I don’t know about you guys, but I am exhausted after that.


I know it seems confusing, but you can reread. Relisten. And just know that it will make more sense as we go along. You may not get it now, but it isn’t the end.

So, to finish, I am dropping a video here to help. We got this! Until next time, enjoy this video. ^.^

3 thoughts on “Level 1: TTMIK “Topic and Subject Marking Particles” Podcast #9

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