Jon Hills

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 ‘가’ is added after the subject.

Another usage for the particle이/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/가is 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.


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


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.

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.


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



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?



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'.





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??


Oops, I spelled 감사합니다 wrong ^_^


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,



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!


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.


Sandra Lim

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

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.




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!


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


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'?

Japanese Sentence Structure 1 | Hills Learning

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


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.


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!


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?


This will help me and my sisters learn 학글 well.

감사함니다... I hope i splet that right..

Korean classes in NYC and free resources | Hanguk Babble

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


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! :)


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.

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 !!!!!


Deepak Pulami Magar

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

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.

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


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

Maxii Tismo

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


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?

moon mae ara

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


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!


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?


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...)




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

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. […]


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~


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.


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?

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.


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!



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


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?


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


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)




인녕 thanks a lot


im sorry its 안녕

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