I got a question to my inbox today asking me to explain these things because someone was studying Korean and finding them hard. They aren’t that complicated, but if you are studying Korean, you need to know what they are and how to use them. Most native speakers of English don’t know how to explain why we use “the” and “a” or nothing before a noun, but we use them right anyway. They are the kind of thing the articles and particles in Korean are except we only use ours with nouns, and they use them with several other parts of speech. One blog isn’t really sufficient to explain every particle or article you might run across in Korea, but it is enough to explain some basics.
To begin with, theirs go after the word instead of before it like in English. If you speak Romanian, you are used to seeing “ul” or “a” at the end of a noun denoting “the.” If you speak Japanese, they use them too. If you see “は” after a noun, you know it is pronounced “wa” and it means that noun is the subject. It is the same in Korean. If you see any of these syllables after a noun in Korean, then it is the subject: 가 (ga) or 이 (ee). If you see 는 (nun) or 은 (un), it could be the subject, but it could also be something else like time or an adjective. If the subject ends with a consonant, then the post position article would be 이 or 은. If the subject ends with a vowel, the post position article would be 가 or 는.
These post position articles are not only used for nouns, but also for pronouns. There are basic pronouns, and the particle after them tells you what part of speech they are. Here are some examples:
그는 or 그가 = He
그를= him, the direct object
그에게 = to him, and in Korean, there is not indirect object unless you count this prepositional phrase.
그의 = his
그 자신 = himself
As you can see, ever word begins with 그 (ku). That is a third person singular masculine pronoun. Each of the particles after the 그 tell you what kind of 그 it is. Here is another example:
나는 or 내가 = I
나를 = me, the direct object
나에게 = to me
나의or 내 = my
나 자신 = myself
The prepositions also come after the object of the preposition. Here are some basic examples:
하교 에 or 하교로= to school
하교에 can also mean “at school.” The 에 is used for many things.
탁자위에= on or over the table
우로에 보세요= Look up.
오랜쪽으로 가세요= Go to the right.
오랜쪽의 문 = the right door (의 is used for possessive and after adjectives.)
오랜쪽의 문에 = The door on the right
아래에 = under
탁자의 아래에 = under the table
계단의 아래로 가세요= Go down the stairs. 로 used like these is a direction.
계단에 있어요= It is at the stairs.
계단에 가세요 = Go to the stairs.
로 also has another usage. It can mean “using.” If I say, 펜로 (pen ro) it means, “using a pen.” If I say, 젓가락 로 (jotkarak ro), it means “using chopsticks.”
Another one is 려 (ryeo). 려 means “in order to.” It is found on the end of verbs. 가려 (ka ryeo) means “in order to go.” 하려 means “in order to do it.” 밀 히려 means “in order to speak.”
There are many particles or post position articles like this in Korean, but if you learn just these, you will have a good beginning. I had a Korean book once upon a time that had a lot of grammar lessons. That is how I learned these. There are probably many more than I know, but these are pretty common, so if you learn these, it would get you started understanding Korean post position articles or particles.