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Lesson 3. Object Marking Particles : 을/를



What is an “object” in a sentence? 


From a grammatical point of view, the object of the sentence is the target that is directly affected by the verb/action of the sentence. 


For example, 


Sentence Subject Verb Object 
I do homework in the evening To do  Homework  
I already ate dinner To eat Dinner 
I like you To like You 
Jisoo doesn’t like me  Jisoo To not like  me 


Unlike in English, the object of a Korean sentence comes BEFORE the verb such that: 


English: Subject + Verb + Object 

Korean: Subject + Object + Verb 


e.g., I like you (English Order) >> I you like  (Korean Order)


Much like when marking the subject of the sentence with subject marking particles 이/가 and 은/는, you need to mark the object with the object marking particles 을/를  

When the noun has 받침, 을 is added but if there is no 받침, 를 is added 


Example sentences: 


  1. I do homework in the evening – 저는 저녁에 숙제 해요  
  1. I already ate dinner – 저는 저녁 이미 먹었어요  
  1. I like you – 나는 좋아해 
  1. Jisoo doesn’t like me – 지수는 안 좋아해 
  1. I know that word –  저는 그 단어 알아요 
  1. Mum didn’t watch that movie yet – 엄마는 그 영화 아직 안 봤어요  


It is important to remember that NOT EVERY sentence has an object. For example, in a sentence like “I am a student” there is no action that directly affects the noun “student” and so there is no object. This is also the case for the phrase “I am smart” where there is only a descriptive verb and thus no requirement for an object.  


Verbs to note when using object particles  


There are 3 groups of verbs to note when using object particles: 


  1. 수여 동사 – bestowal verbs (=verbs that have 2 objects; indirect and direct object) 

These are verbs that imply that you are giving something to someone (/bestowing) 


For example, “I gave mum a present” seems to have 2 objects “mum” and “present” 

In Korean, you would define them separately as either an indirect or direct object  

In this phrase, the direct object is the object that is directly affected by the action verb, here “present”, whereas the indirect object is the receiver of the verb, “mum” 


Therefore, only the direct object is marked with the object marking particle

The indirect object would be marked with either 에게 or 한테 to mean “to (a person)”. In some contexts, it can also mean “from (a person)” but the difference should be understood by context. 



Example sentence Particle used 
 Indirect object (receiver) Direct object 
 한테/에게 을/를 
I gave mum a present  mum a present 


This applies most commonly to these Korean verbs: 

주다 – to give  

보내다 – to send 

가르치다 – to teach  

말하다/ 말해주다 – to tell  

보여주다 – to show 

사주다 – to buy (for someone) 

가져다 주다 – to bring  


Example sentences: 


저는 선물 제 친구한테 줬어요 – I gave my friend a gift 

저는 비밀 엄마에게 안 말했어요 – I didn’t tell mum my secret  

저는 한국어 사람들한테 가르쳐요 – I teach people Korean  

아빠는 저한테 선물 사줬어요 – My dad bought me a gift 

에게 좀 가져다 주시겠어요? – Can you bring me some water


NB: 좀 can mean “ a little”, but in contexts like this it can be used to soften commands and make them sound politer 


한 시간 전에 사장님께 이메일을 보냈어요 – I sent my boss an email an hour ago 


NB: 께 is the honorific form of 에게/한테 and so would be used instead of these when wanting to show respect to the person it is attached to (e.g., boss, elderly etc.) 


저는 매일 엄마한테 편지 썼어요 I wrote mum a letter every day  

저는 지수에게 제 그림 안 보여줬어요 – I didn’t show Jisoo my drawing  

엄마한테 곧 전화할 거 에요 –  I will call my mum soon 

저희 가족은 저 귀염둥이라고 불러요 – My family calls me a cutie pie  

당장 지수 불러! – Tell Jisoo to come here this instance! 


  1. Verbs followed by  / not /  

There are some verbs where the seeming object of the verb needs to be marked with 이/가 instead of 을/를. You can think of these as fixed expressions.  

Some examples of this include: 

To become noun – noun 이/가 되다 

저는 최고 될 거예요 – I will become the best 


NB: The action of becoming is more like a change of state rather than an action that can be targeted to something.  


To have a noun – noun 이/가 있다 

저는 동생 있어요 – I have a younger sibling 

To not have a noun – noun 이/가 없다 


NB: Though the meanings of 있다/없다 can extend to mean “to have”, the main underlying meaning of the verbs are “for sth to be there/not be there” and so that something is always a subject and so will take the 이/가 subject marking particles.  

This is unlike the verbs 가지다/갖다 which only mean “to have/to possess/to take noun” and so will its noun will be marked with the object marking particles 을/를


to like/dislike noun – noun 이/가 좋다, 싫다 

to need noun – noun 이/가 필요하다 

NB: the actual translation of the verb 필요하다 is “to be needed” and not “to need” and so the noun is always a subject and so marked with 이/가 particle (e.g., the phrase “I need a spoon – 숟가락 필요해요” would literally be translated as “a spoon is needed”). 


  1. Passive Verbs  


Passive verbs ALWAYS follow by 이/가 particle instead of 을/를  

You can think of passive verbs as descriptive verbs since they describe the state of something and so will not require any object.  


For example: 


취소하다 (active) vs 취소되다 (passive) 
To cancel To be cancelled 
To cancel sth sth is cancelled 
주문 취소했어요 주문 취소됐어요 
I cancelled the order The order is cancelled 


More verb examples: 

제공하다 vs 제공되다 – to provide, offer (active) / to be provided, offered (passive)

열다 vs열리다 – to open (active) /to be opened (passive)

닫다 vs닫히다 – to close, shut (active) /to be closed, shut (passive)

잠그다 vs잠기다 – to lock (active) /to be locked (passive) 


NB: when saying “to be good at” in Korean, it is more natural to say “to do something well”. In this way, this something is always an object and so should be marked with the 을/를object marking particles.  

noun을/를 잘하다 = to be good at noun 

저는 한국어 잘해요 – I am good at Korean 

The antonym of this would be 못하다 which literally means “to not be able to do”  



When the object is marked with / instead of /  


Sometimes / is added to objects to add nuances to the sentence that only this topic marker can add. Commonly, this is used to show contrast or put emphasis on the noun. 


For example: 

A: Eunji likes all vegetables, right? – 은지 씨는 모든 채소 다 좋아하죠? 

B: She doesn’t like onions, but other than that, she likes them all – 양파 안 좋아하는데 그거 빼고 다 좋아해요 


A: I am good at singing – 저는 노래를 잘 불러요 

B: Good for you. I’m not good at singing, but I’m good at dancing – 좋겠네요. 저는 노래 못하는데 잘 춰요.