Korean lessons: Lesson 13

Locative markers – 에서 and –

So far, we have used – 에 as a marker indicating a place. We now have a new location marker: – 에서 . The meaning of – 에서 is ‘in’, used after a noun, like a postposition (the opposite concept to English ‘preposition’). For example:

나는 은행에서 일해요 . I work at a bank.

Now it becomes quite puzzling how – 에 and – 에서 are different.

(1) Meaning of ‘in (or at/on)’

– 에 indicates the place of a state of being (있다, 없다, 계시다, etc.)

– 에서 indicates the place of an action (하다, 일하다, 공부하다, 먹다, etc.)

NB) 살다 is rather peculiar, being used with both – 에 and – 에서 . No apparent semantic difference is noticed, except that – 에서 with 살다 induces more vivid image of ‘life’ than simple ‘dwelling’.

(2) With directional predicates (가다, 오다, 다니다, etc.) 

– 에 means ‘to’.

– 에서 means ‘from’.

NB) 넣다 (to put) and 앉다 (to sit) also use – 에 because these verbs are recognized to be directional.

김 선생님은 한국에서 오셨어요 . Mr. Kim came from Korea.

We may understand that – 에서 still keeps the meaning of ‘in’ and that it is the directionality implied by the predicate that produces the sense of ‘from’. In the above example, although Mr. Kim may not be in Korea at the time that the sentence is spoken, his action of ‘coming’ must have started in Korea.

The following table summarizes what we have discussed above.

– 에

– 에서


( 있다 , 없다 , 계시다 )

in ( at )




( 가다 , 오다 , 다니다 )


학교 가요


한국에서 왔어요


( 먹다 , 보다 , 일하다 , etc.)


in ( at )

은행에서 일해요


x indicates that the respective marker is not used with the predicates.

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