Korean lessons: Lesson 6

Subject marker: –/

As mentioned in Lesson 1, Korean is an agglutinating language. It means that Korean uses little grammatical devices attached to words to specify their roles in a sentence. English is not an agglutinating language, employing rather a fixed word order and prepositions in order to specify the role of each part.

A subject of a sentence is the agent (doer) of the action described by the sentence. Assuming that a state of being can also be treated as an action, a subject can take any kind of predicate, i.e., a verbal, an adjectival, or a nominal predicate. Think of “S goes,” “S is bad,” and “S is a man.” In each case, S is the subject. To mark this subject, Korean attaches either 이 or 가 to it. -이 is used when the subject word ends without a final consonant (patch’im), whereas -가 is for those ending without a final consonant.

Only nouns can be subjects in Korean, such is the case in English. In other words, when you see a part of a sentence attached with -이 or -가, you will know that it must be a noun. However, you might hear sometimes people say sentences without using subject markers -이/가 for subjects. It is because the sentences were simple and a conversational reality is presumed. For these sentences, subject markers can be replaced by a short pause. In sentences the structure of which is complex, or in written forms, the markers should be specified.

Now, let’s look at some more examples.

subject predicate

이 바지

편안해요. These pants are comfortable.


와요. The train is coming.


웃으세요. The teacher is laughing.


학교이에요. That (over there) is a school.


곰이예요. This is a bear.

연습 <practice>

Use the following pairs of words to make sentences in mid-poite style. Don’t forget to use subject markers, and to translate each sentence, as given in the above examples.

subject predicate
1. 이 사람 (this person) 친구 (friend)
2. 장미 (rose) 비싸다 (to be expensive)
3. 물 (water) 차다 (to be cold)
4. 나무 (tree) 좋다 (to be good)
5. 저 사람 (that person) 건강하다 (to be healthy)
6. 돈 (money) 많다 (to be many/much)
7. 아기 (baby) 건강하다
8. 이것 (this [thing]) 모자 (hat; cap)
9. 여기 (here; this place) 학교
10. 바지 작다 (to be small)
11. 공부 (studying) 싫다 (to be dislikable)
12. 차 (car) 오다 (to come)
13. 친구 일하다 (to work)
14. 집 (home) 어디 (where)
15. 저 사람 누구 (who)
16. 책 (book) 싸다 (to be cheap)
17. 미국 (America) 멀다
18. 이 컴퓨터 (this computer) 괜찮다 (to be okay)
19. 동생 (a younger sibling) 자다 (to sleep)
20. 숙제 (homework) 많다

Click for the answers.

  • Michelle Lampton

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