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Learning Korean - Sentence Structure and Explaining Away the Difficult Particles
Hills Learning

Learning Korean - Sentence Structure and Explaining Away the Difficult Particles

 

My name is Minhee, a Korean teacher at Hills Learning, and I’ve found that some of my students when learning Korean have difficulty with particles. I’d like today to talk about Korean sentence structure and some of the most confusing particles, hopefully after reading this you’ll have a better understanding!

At first, let’s discuss Korean sentence structure. Korean sentences consist of either a “subject + verb” or a “subject + object + verb.”  

For example:

-  캐럴이 와요[Carol-i wha-yo],  Subject + verb,  Carol comes.

- 에릭이 사과를 먹어요[Eric-i sa-gwa-leul muk-uh-yo],  Subject + object + verb, Eric eats an apple.

This is one of the big differences between Korean and English because a verb comes at the end of the sentence in Korean, and at the beginning of the sentence in English. There is a saying in Korean that says “you need to listen until the end of the sentence.” In other words, you never know if the speaker is talking about the past, future, positive or negative expressions unless you listen to the whole sentence.

Next, let’s discuss Korean grammar and particle usage. There are about twenty different particles in Korean. Particles are attached to words in Korean sentences and express the role of words in the sentence. Using the right particles is a key point of speaking Korean fluently.

Let’s look at the most confusing particles and the differences between them, 이[e]/가[ga] and 은[eun]/는[neun].

/

This particle is added to the end of a subject to designate it as the subject of the sentence. For words that finish with a vowel, 가 is added, and for words that end with a consonant, 이 is added.

For example:

- 민희씨가 빵을 먹어요 [Minhee-ssi-ga bbang-eul mu-kuh-yo]. (Minhee is eating bread.).

민희씨 ends with a vowel (ㅣ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject 민희 (Minhee).

Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘이’ is added after the subject.

Another usage for the particle 이/가 is when the subject functions to emphasize the preceding subject.

For example:

- 내가 했어요! [nae-ga hat-uh-yo]. (I did it!).

The final usage for particle 이/가 is to express new information or the topic of a sentence. For example, 동생이 지금 자요 [Dong-saeng-I ji-gum ja-yo]. (My younger brother/sister is sleeping now.)

The next particle I want to talk about is 은[eun]/는[neun]:

/

은/는comes after the subject like 이/가, but it is used when the speaker wants to talk about or explain the main idea, topic, or issue of discussion. When words end with vowels, 는is added, and when words end in consonants, 은 is added. Let’s look at some examples!

저는 한국사람이에요. [Juh-neun han-kook-sa-ram i-e-yo]. (I am Korean.)

헨리는 29살이에요. [Henry-neun seui-mool ah-hop-sal i-e-yo]. (Henry is 29 years old.).

Both subjects (헨리 and 저) end in vowels (‘ㅣ’ and ‘ㅓ’), therefore ‘는’ is added.

제 직업은 변호사이에요. [je jik-up-eun byun-ho-sa i-e-yo]. (I am a lawyer.).

In this case, the subject (제 직업) ends in a consonant (ㅂ), therefore the particle ‘은’ is added.

은/는 is also used when mentioning something that has already been established in an earlier conversation (old information), or when talking about something already known by both speakers.

The last case of using 은/는 is when comparing or contrasting two or more things. In these cases, 은/는 can be attached not only to subjects, but also to objects. For example:

- 에릭은 한국 사람이에요 [Eric-eun han-kook-sa-ram-i-e-yo].

- 그렇지만 저는 미국 사람이에요 [geui-ruh-ji-man juh-neun mi-kook-sa-ram-i-e-yo]. (Eric is Korean, but I am American).

Most of Korean learners have the hardest time choosing which are the right particles, especially between 이/가 and 은/는. The best way to learn it is practice! One day, you will realize that you are using the right particles without thinking about it.  

In case you're interested in our online korean classes or korean language classes in nyc, please click the links for further information.

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78 comments on article "Learning Korean - Sentence Structure and Explaining Away the Difficult Particles"

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JJ

Thanks so much. I've been learning Korean and this article answered one the questions I've had for a long time. I've wondered if I was using particles correctly and how and when to use them. This helped a lot.


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Hills Learning

Thank you JJ for reading our website, and I'm glad this article was useful for you. We're always working to develop our resources further for helping to learn these languages. Please stay tuned for further articles and resources.


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mimi

oh,thank u for this article, this article help me to understand the korean sentence structure.i've been studying korean...so uhmm thx alot


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John

Minhee,

Thanks for the explaination on this confusing subject. I'm still learning how to correctly pronounce vowel combinations. I have a question about your name. I thought 의 sounded like "ooyee". Does the ㅎ change this to just an "ee" sound? Or is it said so quickly that the "u" sound is lost?

감사합니다,

John


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Hills Learning

Hi John,

It sounds like 'ee' because we say it quickly. However, it is not always that way. When you pronounce of for example 나의 집, then you do need to pronounce 의 as 'eui', but when two nouns come together such as 친구의 집, then '의' pronounce as '에'.

Sincerely

Minhee


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Mimi

감사람이다!!!

thank you so much Minhee, you really helped me! My father is Korean but he never bothered teaching me, so now I'm trying to learn on my own from a workbook. However, I was having trouble with the participles and this helped me so much!

Also, I don't understand when to use 을 and 를. Can you pleas help??


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Mimi

Oops, I spelled 감사합니다 wrong ^_^


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Jamers

너무 감사합니다! That was incredibly helpful. I am teaching myself Korean and have been suspecting some of the particle rules for 이 / 가 and 은 / 는, but it would have taken forever to figure out the actual usages without this article. Thanks so much,

Jamers


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Bec

Thank you! I already have exprience in Japanese, so I am very glad to understand that 이/가 is the equivalent of が in Japanese and that 은/는 is the same for は!! 감사합니다(hope I spelled that right!) ありがとう!


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Lena

I was so happy to finally find an article that explains this so well!I am so disappointed that you are all the way in NYC. I am studying here in LA, CA. There aren't any classes around here that are actually worth going to. When I visit NYC, I'll be sure to stop by.

감사합니다.


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Sandra Lim

민희씨가 빵을 먹어요, as the씨, we have to use it for every person's name?


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Minhee Park

Hi Sandra,

씨 means Mr. Miss or Mrs in English..

You can use 씨

1. when you think the other person seems like around your age, but not sure whether you can call her/him 언니/누나 or 오빠/형.

2. when you meet someone for the first time. (Obviously, you don't know her/his age yet.)

3. to someone who is same age with you or a little younger at work place.

In other words, you can use 씨, when you call someone's name in a polite way.

Hope this is enough explanation.

Thanks,

Minhee


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Jo

Is 저는 한국사람이에요 the same as 나는 한국입니다? If it is, what is the difference?

Anyway, awesome article written. It gave me an idea how to start writing sentences in Korean!


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Adreanna

Thank you~^__^ this has helped me so much, it's hard practicing on my own aha, wish me luck :)


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CiCi

Hi, Thank you so much for this article :) But i was wondering why do koreans pronounce '의' as ‘에’ and does it mean 'in possession of'?


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Japanese Sentence Structure 1 | Hills Learning

[…] In Japanese, the sentences follow the subject-object-verb structure, or SOV (same as in the Korean language): […]


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Karol

I think there is a mistake ............Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ................‘가’.........shouldn't "g'a but "e"?.... is added after the subject.


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Romy

You have a typo... 8 the fruit 8 expensive example. 8n the sentence you wrote 이 but you said to put 가 after the consonant.

Still very helpful article!


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Moon

hello! thank you for great explaining, but I guess there is one mistake, it can make a people confuse))) I mean:

"Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject." So, it sould be "i" right?


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Christine

This will help me and my sisters learn 학글 well.

감사함니다... I hope i splet that right..


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Korean classes in NYC and free resources | Hanguk Babble

[…] Korean Sentence Structure – Difference between 이 / 가 and 은 / 는 […]


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John

The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject.

I think you made a mistake in this sentence..

Thanks for writing this article! :)


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Yuri

How to write these sentences in Korean? "You don't even know that I'm in the same world as you. But for me, you are my whole world" Thank you.


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Gabby Maceda

this helped me a lot!!!!

i've been studying korean for almost 1 week (and im still not good in it)

but this actually solved my problem !!!!!

THANK YOU !!


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Deepak Pulami Magar

Every sentence must have attached ga/i or eun/neun after subject in Korean?


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john eric celo

Thanks jj i realy needed dis for taking eps klt exam dis april 2015.wish u also have a pointers for the comin exam in the Philippine dis coming april. Its a big help for me.


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Edna Castillano

Ooh my goodness its to hard,to make self study the korean language!but i'll try my best..

good luck gor me

Thank you for the article


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gabriel

감 사 함 니 다 this realiy help me in my korean lesson 노 무 감 사 함 다


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Maxii Tismo

I really understand now on how to use those particles and I hope that I could learn it as soon as posible.


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Kate

thank you so much minhee for giving this information it helps me a LOT! can you teach me some that i don't know about korean language?


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moon mae ara

i love this article!! numo kamsahamnida minhee ssi. \^___^/ this will be a great help.


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Kelsie

This helped me so much! I´ve been studying Korean for about a year and a half now, and this is just what I needed to clarify a lot of the issues I´ve had along the way. Thank you so much!


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Felix

Hi I'm studying korean because of the fact that I don't want to rely on subtitles too much XD, and I was thinking why 어 is pronounced as "u" instead of "o", and how would you construct long sentences, like, having a conversation with someone. And how would you know if the verb is past, present or future?


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Rich

ok, that is great information... how does one build conditional sentences:

if i had a tool then I could fix it.

an example from another book so its a contrived example:

"having loved her, It was difficult to continue" (or something like that...)

thanks!


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아갈라

고마워요!!

Thank you! :) This helped me big time. I just need to learn the words :( so im still climbing up the mountain.


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Let’s Talk About: Adjective Placement and More Sentence Structure! – Trying to Learn Korean

[…] Now, let’s get into the whole 는 subject. I will not go into detail nor will I explain in an easier way for now. What I will do is show the explanation that HillsLearning.com provided. […]


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Neibell

I am now learning Korean with my own.

My mom bought me a Korean Dictionary but I don't really understand it. Some words are spelled in hangeul wrongly. I already know how to read and write hangeul bit fails when it comes to understanding and composting my own sentence.

It really help me.감사합니다~


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あゆみ

This is how I understood but not sure: another usage for 이/가 is for the subject to emphasize the previous subject? If that is right, how can a subject emphasize a previous subject? Please help me, miss/sir Minhee because I don't think I completly understand them.


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あゆみ

I don't know but I'm Japanese myself and I don't see any similarities between the two of these Korean and Japanese particles. They're way too different... Can u tell me in what way they're similar?


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April ronario

It's very helpful..however,the explanation about the particles (이/가) is somewhat confusing.

"Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject."

Please clarify..thank you.


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Summer

Thank you so much for this article, 민희. I'm teaching myself Korean through Memrise, so there isn't much of an explanation for these types of things. This is the only thing I've read that makes sense. You really explained this perfectly, thank you!

-Summer


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abhie

thanks for this articles ...now I understand how to use 'eun' and 'neun'


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Dauzee

Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject.

you mean 이 should be added?


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sabrina

It's really helped me. These things always made me confuse and you wrapped them in one article. Short and clear. Thank you


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Holly

In english a verb comes in the middle of a sentence not the beginning. It goes subject + verb + object I (subject) + eat (verb) + hamburgers (object)


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BTS.A.R.M.Y

Thx


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딘린

인녕 thanks a lot


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딘린

im sorry its 안녕


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Kim Gina

길을 걷다가 문득 히늘을 부왔더니 달이 참 아름답게 있었다!!!


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Shayne

Hi, can I just verify, if you translate. Sana is not man. It will be Sananeun namjaga Animnida. Neun and ga was both used in one sentence. I get it that ga is used to emphasize who(did the action) in the sentence. But is this possible, both Topic and identifier particle has been used in one sentence?


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Aria

I feel so stupid, because I've been trying to teach myself Korean, and I don't even know WHAT a particle is. Help??


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Aria

Actually, I've pretty much been failing at teaching myself how. I don't even know the alphabet. Or what the sounds in the alphabet are. Or anything, really.


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Kendylovee

고마워 :P


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Ming

Thanks! This helped me a lot in my learning!


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Ji_Hyun

Where do we place adjective?


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Blessious

kamsahabamnida it ofenly gave me difficulty but now have leant


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Pingkey

May I know, how is the sentence structure when come to period of time?

Eg: the parcel took 2 months to arrived.

Thanks


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francis botor

go-ma-wo


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JiMiElLe03

Hello, I'm Belle.. I would like to thank the people behind this learning site, that helps the aspiring korean language students to learn hangul in a more efficient amd effective way.

I am a Filipino who got addicted with KPop and Kdramas, the reasons why I decided to learn hangul. I really love to learn hangul so since I can't afford to take language courses, I decided to learn on my own. Thanks God that there's a lot of guidelines that could helps me to achieve one of my short goals. I've read a lot starting then. whenever I have free time. Though it's pretty hard, I still find it enjoyable .

I started few months ago, started with learning the alphabets, praticing the korean writing, also different ways of counting, as well as the right pronounciation of a word, followed by learning every figure of speech, construction of sentences and improving my korean vocabulary.

But at this point, I am still struggling on the last two phases of my study..

Constructing a simple sentence with S-V or a S-O-V form is kinda manageable for me.. but I'm getting more confuse when it comes to constructing a compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences, with a use of 3-4 different particles (also considering the korean complex sentence patterns)

I hope that you also tackle this part, in a more easy way that we can understand.

Looking forward for other knowledge that you would share. Thank you amd More Power.

Love lots, Belle


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cyrick jane

arigato


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@eeeunice_a

Thanks! This would help me a lot. Hope I'll learn Korean someday. So I can truly understand what those Kpop lyrics means^-^ btw, learning hangukeo is fun! Thanks to my beloved Kpop idols. Lovelots SKZ, SVT, NCT, BTS, EXO, ETC. Multifan attact.

:>


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Nicole

I am confuse because sentence structure is subject+veeb or subject+object+verb. Iam trying to translate a sentence word from word but base on the lesso the 이 indicates that it is a subject but the subject is in the middle of the sentence.

"언덕딜 양옆으로 벚꽃이 피어 있었다"


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Sandra

I have been trying to learn korea for a long time now. This has really help me i want to know how simple i can memorise the alphabet


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Sky

Thanks alot for this, but I'm kinda confused. In this part;

Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject.

Isn't it supposed to be 이..? Please clarify


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Ja yoon

Thanks this article is really helpful

But

How to write in a sentence

Plss helped


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M

Hi,

Please note: "Another example of using the particle ‘이’ is 과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject."

Change last sentence (the word 가 to 이) : "therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject."

Thanks


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Leesha

Thx for helping me. Now I am fully fluent in Korean. This was the only thing I did not learn. You are a life saver


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Rose

Thank you!


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Siddhi

Hindi and Korean sentence structure is same subject object verb.....this makes more easy for me to learn Korean.

Thanku

Minhee


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S.sadadivam

Hola, muy bien. Gracias. I am teaching spanish in chennai- Indio. My mother language is Tamil. My age is only 79. Now I am learning our korean also. மிக்க நன்றி.


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조나단 루디실

This is very helpful! Tysm!


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🎨

bts.a.r.m.y.


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i love chocolat

that help me tnx


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Tiffany

What are the other 18 particles?


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daniella

Thank you! This help me alot since I'm studying all by my self!


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Web Patar

Very well written articles. I wish you had posted more. Greetings from LA


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Saira

.like you said if the words that finish with a vowel, 가 is added, and for words that end with a consonant, 이 is added. But why you added ga instead of i

과일이 비싸요 [Gwa-il-i bi-ssa-yo]. (The fruit is expensive.). The subject 과일 finishes with a consonant (ㄹ), therefore ‘가’ is added after the subject.


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Hills Learning

Yes you are correct, sorry for the mistake. It should be 이 instead of 가. Thank you!

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