Korean Particles for Everyday Use
You may be new to the concept, but particles are a part of Korean that are used every day. In fact, these Korean particles are found in nearly every sentence you’ll hear, if not all!
But it’s important to learn how to use them correctly. We’ll cover Korean particles for everyday use that you should learn to become a pro Korean speaker.
Let’s begin by going over the most basic (but also tricky) particles to learn, which are ~은/는 and ~이/가.
Why are these so tricky? Both of them are used to indicate the subject in the sentence, making them almost the same in use, which can cause confusion. When creating sentences you should be careful which one you’ll use, unless it doesn’t matter in that particular sentence. With practice you’ll get the hang of them!
The ~은/는 particles are also used to mark the topic in the sentence, which is where the meaning becomes different from ~이/가. Lastly, you can use 은 when the last syllable ends in a consonant and 는 when it ends in a vowel. Here are some examples of that use of ~은/는:
나 → 나는
선생님 → 선생님은
One of the first ways to understand the difference between ~은/는 and ~이/가 is that with ~은/는 the main point of the sentence, or topic, is emphasized. It has this same function when it’s on its own in a sentence and also when it’s paired up with ~이/가.
Another clear distinction between the two is that ~은/는 can be used to state a general fact. However, ~이/가 cannot be used this way.
As mentioned above, in many cases you can use the subject particles ~이/가 and ~은/는 interchangeably. With time you’ll learn to differentiate between the two just by noticing how each sentence sounds, but it’s still good to focus on how they are different.
Here’s one simple trick to explain the difference between ~는/은 and ~이/가:
- While you can use ~는/은 to describe someone’s profession or nationality and the like or describe someone or yourself with an adjective, you cannot use ~이/가 to do the same. Think of ~는/은 as the subject markers to use with descriptive sentences.
- Similarly, when you want to describe that you or someone else will do something, it’s better to use ~이/가 rather than ~는/은. So think of ~이/가 as the subject markers to use with actions.
But remember, this isn’t always the case. It’ll become easier with practice so check out these examples and see if you can recognize the difference.
Example Sentences using ~은/는 and ~이/가:
나는 학생이에요 → I am a student
나는 행복해요 → I am happy
우리 선생님은 미국인이에요 → Our teacher is American
(uri seonsaengnimeun migukinieyo)
내가 주문을 할게요 → I will place the order
(naega jumuneul halgeyo)
This particle is used to indicate the object in the sentence. When the last syllable ends in a consonant, you use 을, and when it ends in a vowel you should use 를.
Example sentences using ~을/를:
나는 책을 읽었어요 → I read a book
(naneun chaekeul ilgeosseoyo)
바나나를 먹어요! → Eat a banana!
Notice the subject particles in these examples? Multiple types of particles often come into play in a single sentence.
This particle indicates both time and location. For location, it can express where you are or were at, or where you are going, or where something is. And for time, it can express the time or day something happens.
Example Sentences Using ~에:
저는 학교에 있어요 → I am at school
(jeoneun haggyoe isseoyo)
우리 월요일에 부산에 갈거에요 → We will go to Busan on Monday
(uri woryoire busane galgeoeyo)
Something you’ll need to get used to is understanding the use of particles (and also different vocabulary) based on the context of the sentence. In the above sentence, you can recognize the two separate uses of 에 based on the words it’s used with, 월요일 (Monday) and 부산 (Busan).
Although ~에서 also indicates location, its use is quite different from ~에. When you use ~에서, you are stressing the location you are doing or did something in, excluding when the verb of the sentence is 있다, in which case 에 is used.
Example Sentences Using ~에서:
카페에서 숙제를 했어요 → I did my homework in the cafe
(khapheeseo sukjereul haesseoyo)
You can also take advantage of ~에서 when describing how something is like somewhere. For example:
물가는 노르웨이에서 높아요 → Prices are high in Norway
(mulganeun noreuweieseo nophayo)
~에서 can also be used to express “from”. For example:
저는 인도네시아에서 왔어요 → I am from Indonesia
(jeoneun indonesiaeseo wasseoyo)
Note the nuance of how the location is stressed when using 에서.
Lastly, for 여기/거기/저기, only attach ~서.
~께/에게/한테 (To give someone something)
These forms all indicate you are giving someone something.
Example Sentence Using 한테:
오빠한테 돈을 빌렸어 → I lent money to my big brother
(oppahante doneul billyeosseo)
The difference between each one is simply their level of politeness. 께 is of honorific level, 에게 is formal polite, and 한테 is informal and casual.
~께서/에서/한테서 (To receive something from someone)
These markers possess the same level of politeness as their counterparts above. Technically you do not need the ~서 attached to the end to make the meaning clear, but it’s good to keep for differentiation when you’re still a new learner of Korean.
~도 indicates an additive, in the form of “too” and “also”. You can drop ~는/은 or other particles when using ~도.
Example Sentences Using ~도:
나도 빅뱅을 좋아해요 → I like Big Bang, too
(nado bikbaengeul johahaeyo)
나도 연세어학당을 다녀요 → I also attend Yonsei Korean Language Institute
(nado yeonseeohakdangeul danyeoyo)
나도 영국사람이에요 → I am also from England
~으로/로 (Direction and multiple other meanings)
~으로/로 is a multi functional particle. For starters, you can use it to express the location where something is happening at, making its meaning similar to ~에. For example:
우유를 슈퍼로 사러 가려고 해요 → I intend to go to the supermarket to buy milk
(ujureul syupeoro sareo garyeogo haeyo)
You can also use it to express the tool, method, language and so on that something is being done in. For example:
기차로 이탈리아에 갈거에요 → I will go to Italy by train
(gicharo italliae galgeoeoyo)
수채화로 그림을 그렸어요 → I painted using watercolors
(suchaehwaro geurimeul geuryeosseoyo)
그사람한테 한국말로 대답을 줬어요 → I answered to that person in Korean
(geu saramhante hangukmallo daedabeul jwosseoyo)
You can even use this particle to express what you ate for a specific meal. For example:
맨날 아침식사로 죽을 먹어요 → I eat porridge for breakfast every morning
(maennal achimsiksaro jukeul meokeoyo)
By attaching ~(으)로 to 쪽 you will create the meaning “the direction of_”. You can attach 쪽 with nouns and also some direction words. For example:
그쪽으로 → that way
남쪽으로 → toward south
사람쪽으로 → toward people
The most common use for ~부터 is to indicate when something starts.
Example Sentences using ~부터:
저는 지난달부터 한국어를 배웠어요 → I started learning Korean last month
(jeoneun jinandalbutheo hangukeoreul baewosseoyo)
~부터 can also be used in a similar fashion to ~에서 where the difference is more so in the nuance of the sentence rather than the meaning. It is usually reserved for sentences where you would include ~까지 in its structure. For example:
집부터 학교까지 걸어 다녀요 → I walk from home to school.
(jibbutheo haggyokkaji georeo danyeoyo)
In fact, it is common to combine ~부터 with ~까지 where ~부터 indicates the starting point and ~까지 the end. For example:
기말고사는 내일부터 다음주말까지 있을거에요 → Our final exams will start tomorrow and last until the end of next week
(gimalgosaneun naeilbutheo daeumjumalkkaji isseulgeoeyo)
Lastly, you can attach the word 처음, which means “first”, to ~부터 to express “from the start”. For example:
영어를 배우기가 처음부터 어려웠어요 → Learning English was difficult from the start
(yeongeoreul baeugiga cheoeumbutheo eoryeowosseoyo)
~까지 typically means “end”, more specifically “until” and it works for both time and place. You can also use it to mean “to”, often used together with ~에서, although the use of ~에서 isn’t always necessary and ~까지 on its own will remain clear in its meaning.
Example Sentences Using ~까지:
집에서 여기까지 걸어서 왔어요 → I walked until here from home
(jibeseo yeogikkaji georeoseo wasseoyo)
시혐결과를 내일까지 기다려야 해요 → I have to wait until tomorrow for the exam results
(sihyeomgyeolgwareul naeilkkaji gidaryeoyahaeyo)
우리는 8일부터 12일까지 부산에 있을거에요 → We will be in Busan from the 8th until the 12th
(urineun 8ilbutheo 12ilkkaji busane isseulgeoeyo)
If you wish to combine ~까지 with the previously mentioned 처음부터 to express “from start to finish”, the word to attach to ~까지 becomes 끝, which means “end”. For example:
하루안에 그 책을 처음부터 끝까지 읽었어요 → I read that book from start to finish in one day
(haruane geu chaekeul cheoeumbutheo kkeutkkaji ilgeosseoyo)
The marker 들 indicates plural. However, it is solely used as a marker when talking about people (it’d be weird to use it with a noun like a fruit). In fact, apart from people, it is not that common to use a plural form and isn’t totally necessary to use with people, either. In the cases you would want to indicate plural, check out the examples.
Example Sentences Using ~들:
오늘 친구들을 만나요 → Today I will meet with my friends
(onweul chingudeureul mannayo)
그들은 다른 나라에서 살아요 → They live in another country
(geudeureun dareun naraeseo sarayo)
It is possible to add the possessive form, which we will introduce to you soon.
This marker is used to express the word “only” and it is attached to nouns.
Example Sentences Using ~만:
어제 맥주만 마셨어요 → I only drank beer yesterday
(eoje maekjuman masyeosseoyo)
그는 거짓말만 해요 → He only says lies
(geuneun geojitmalman haeyo)
하루종일 공부만 했어요 → I did nothing but study all day
(harujongil gongbuman haesseoyo)
Fairly straightforward, the ~의 particle indicates possession. It is attached to the person who possesses the object, similarly to ‘s in English.
Example Sentences Using ~의:
선생님의 차 → the teacher’s car
그 사람의 여자친구 → that person’s girlfriend
(geu sarame yeojachingu)
나의 집 → my home/my house
In the case of “my”, specifically when using the more casual 나, you can shorten from 나의 to 내. Like this:
내 고양이 → my cat
~과/와 (and/with/as with)
You use these particles to indicate “and” or “with”. ~과 is used after a consonant and ~와 is used after a vowel.
Example Sentences Using ~과/와:
아침식사로 죽과 커피를 먹었어요 (achimshiksaro jukgwa kheophireul meogeosseoyo) → I ate porridge and coffee for breakfast
오늘 남자친구와 영화를 보러 가요 (oneul namjachinguwa yeonghwareul boreo gayo) → Today I will go see a movie with my boyfriend
~이랑/랑 (and/with/as with)
This particle is nearly identical in use with ~과/와. You should attach ~이랑 (irang) with a syllable ending in a consonant and ~랑 (rang) with one ending in a vowel. The main difference between these and ~과/와 is that ~이랑/랑 is more casual to use and is also more common to hear spoken than to see in text.
~하고 (and/with/as with)
~하고 (hago) is another particle meaning “and” and “with”. It can be used with both vowels and consonants.
The ~고 particle is used to connect two actions, happening one after another, into one sentence, attached either to an action verb or a descriptive verb.
Example Sentences Using ~고:
샤워하고 잠을 잘거에요 (shawohago jameul jalgeoeyo) → I will take a shower and then go sleep
You can also use this particle to connect two adjectives describing the same topic or two sentences describing a similar topic into one sentence. For example:
그 사람이 똑똑하고 부지런한 학생이에요 (geu sarami ttokttokhago bujireonhan haksaengieyo) → That person is a smart and diligent student
And yes, you can also use the ~고 particle together with the past tense!
Phew! That was quite the lesson, don't you think? How many of these particles did you already know and which were brand new to you? Try to make some of your own sentences in the comments and we'll check them for you. We'd love to see them!
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn