Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Subject Case Particle 「이/가」

The subject case particle 이/가 is a two-form particle. 이 is used when the particle comes after a noun that ends in a consonant, and 가 is used when the particle comes after a noun that ends in a vowel. The principle of having two forms resembles the use in English of “a/an.” However, the rule is the opposite in that “an” is used before a noun that begins with a vowel and “a” is used before a noun that begins with a consonant.


The particle 이/가 in negation

Although the primary function of 이/가 is to indicate the subject case, its usage extends beyond case marking. For example, in negation the noun it marks is not the subject of the sentence. Consider the following example:


사라 is not the subject but the topic of the sentence as it is marked by the topic particle 는. Notice that the subject of the sentence is omitted, and 한국사람, marked by the particle 이, is not the subject of the sentence.

Double subject constructions

Some Korean sentences may have two nouns marked by the subject particle. Consider the following example:


Notice that there are two subjects in the sentence, 친구 and 세명, as both are marked by the subject particle. Korean grammarians call such a sentence “double-subject construction”. Double-subject sentences are very common in Korean. However, its interpretation is not that the sentence has two subjects. In this sentence, the focus is on the number three rather than friends. Consider another example:


In this sentence, the relationship between two nouns, 토마스 and 손, is that of the possessor-possessed.
It is rather confusing which noun marked by the particle should be regarded as the emphasized subject. Koreans use context as well as other linguistic cues to figure out where the emphasis lies. The importance of contextual understanding is also evident in the fact that Korean subjects as well as particles are often omitted in conversation.

* Click to read related posts.
Grammar for Beginners
Particles Part.1 (What are the particles in Korean)
Particles Part.2 (Case Particles)
The Direct Object Particle 「을/를」
The Case particle 「(으)로」
The Case particle 「의」
The Case particle 「에」
The Case particle 「와/과, (이)랑, 하고」
The Case particle 「에서」
The Case particle 「한테, 에게, 께」
The Case particle 「한테서, 에게서」
Particles Part.3 (Special Particles)

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