Episode 22
Lesson Recap

How To Contract 은/는 Particle & Use Conjunctive Words in Korean

Key Points &

In colloquial speech, when the particle 는 follows a vowel-ending noun, it is often shortened to the Korean consonant ‘ㄴ' [nee-eun] whose sound value is the same as the English ‘n’ sound. That consonant in turn is added directly to the end of the vowel-ending word it follows.

     나는 → 난
     저는 → 전
    우리는 → 우린
    저희는 → 저흰
    토마스는 → 토마슨
    오빠는 → 오빤


1-1. 케이샘은 김밥 먹어요. 그리고 토마스는 쉬림프칵테일 먹어요 : As for Teacher Kay, she eats gimbap. And as for Thomas, he eats shrimp cocktails.

1-2. With contractions > 케이샘은 김밥 먹어요. 그리고 [ 토마슨 ] 쉬림프칵테일 먹어요. : As for Teacher Kay, she eats gimbap. And as for Thomas, he eats shrimp cocktails.

2-1. 토마스는 지하철하고 택시는 타요. 그런데 버스는 안 타요 : Thomas rides the subway and taxi on one hand. But he doesn’t ride a bus on the other hand.

2-2. With contractions > [ 토마슨 ] 지하철하고 [ 택신 ] 타요. [ 근데 ] [ 버슨 ] 안 타요 : Thomas rides the subway and taxi on one hand. But he doesn’t ride a bus on the other hand.


Directions: Find the phrase that corresponds to the given English from the Given and write the choice in the first blank; and 2) provide its contracted form in the second blank.

Given >  나는 / 우리는 / 수지는 / 저는 / 저희는 / 오빠는

  1. as for us (neutral) : ___________   ___________

  2. as for us (humble) : ___________   ___________

  3. as for me (neutral) : ___________   ___________

  4. as for me (humble) : ___________   ___________

  5. as for my older brother : ___________   ___________

  6. as for Susie : ___________   ___________

Episode 22

* In this transcript, the contracted forms in brackets [   ] represent how the phrases are pronounced in colloquial speech. For writing, the non-contracted form should be referenced

Hello, this is Kay from EssentialKorean.com. 안녕하세요. Essential Korean, Kay샘입니다 ~

In this episode, we will learn how the contraction of the particle 은/는 works in colloquial speech. This is the last episode to focus on the  은/는 particle in a three part series, so stay with me: I only spend this much time on the particle because of its importance in the Korean language. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Let’s begin with the party situation from the previous episode. Imagine ourselves at the party. We’re getting hungry there. Let’s get some 김밥 to eat– one of the most beloved foods for Koreans. One can prepare a sheet of dried seaweed, or 김 in Korean, on which one spreads a layer of cooked rice and places a variety of meat and vegetables, makes it into a wrap, and cuts it bite sized. So that’s what I’m getting from the buffet table at the party - 김밥. Thomas is getting shrimp cocktails.

How would you say in Korean Kay 쌤 eats 김밥. And Thomas eats shrimp cocktail, with the goal of emphasizing Teacher Kay and Thomas?

케이샘은 김밥 먹어요. 그리고 토마스는 쉬림프칵테일 먹어요.
As for Teacher Kay, she eats gimbap. And as for Thomas, he eats shrimp cocktails.

This sentence can also be translated more simply as Thomas and Teacher kay drink iced tea and wine, but remember that the 은/는 particle is emphasizing Thomas and Teacher Kay, which is the reasoning for including as for in the original English translation: 케이샘은 김밥 먹어요. 그리고 토마스는 쉬림프칵테일 먹어요.

What about you? Think of your favorite appetizer. Say what you’re eating and what Teacher Kay is eating, in Korean, while emphasizing yourself and Teacher Kay.

Did you say the sentence? If you did, you must’ve started your sentence with 나는 to mean as for I in the neutral form or 저는 which also means as for I but in the humble form. In colloquial speech, 나는 is often contracted to 난, a single syllable phrase, 난;   난;   난. And likewise, 저는 to also a single syllable sound, 전;   전;   전. Likewise, 우리 we in the neutral level followed by the particle 는, 우리는, is contracted to… can you guess? Yes - It becomes two syllable phrase, 우린;   우린;   우린. How do you think 저희, the humble counterpart of  우리, followed by 는 would be contracted to? Correct - It’d be shortened to two syllables 저흰.

Here is what’s going on with the contraction of the 은/는 particle. In colloquial speech, when the particle 는 follows a vowel-ending noun, it is often shortened to the Korean consonant ‘ㄴ' [nee-eun] whose sound value is the same as the English ‘n’ sound. That consonant in turn is added directly to the end of the vowel-ending word it follows. Note that when the particle 은 follows a consonant-ending noun, for example 케이샘은, or 와인은, or 서울은, or 뉴욕은, the contraction does NOT take place; it is only when 는 follows a vowel-ending noun is there room for a consonant to be added, and we see this contraction. Thus, vowel-ending nouns plus 는, like 나는 can become 난; 저는 becomes 전; 우리는 becomes 우린;  저희는 becomes 저흰.

Do you remember the Korean singer Psy’s phenomenal international hit, Gangnam Style, back in 2012? You know, that song begins with ‘오빤 강남 스타일…’ The phrase 오빤 is actually the contraction of 오빠 and the particle 는 following it. The primary meaning of 오빠 is older brother of a female; but is also used as an endearing and intimate term to refer to or address a man for a female. So, when Psy says “오빤 감남스타일,” in a flashy outfit with black sunglasses in the music video, one cannot help but only to interpret that, as he refers to himself 오빠, he’s boasting to women that he’s a man of posh and chic style of GangNam, the south side of the Han River in Seoul.

One additional note on the opening and recurring line: the contraction 오빤 is used over 오빠는 for likely two reasons: one, Psy is speaking colloquially, and two, 오빤 감남스타일 rolls off the tongue easier than 오빠는 감남스타일.

Let’s listen to a few sections of the the song, 강남스타일, starting with “오빤” at the beginning:

(Music plays… )

Oh my… That music video still makes me laugh...with those quirky moves and hilarious scenes that are raw renditions of things that I consider quintessentially Korean. Now that you have some background knowledge about the opening of that song, GangNam Style, you should watch it again for a good laugh :)

Ok, getting back to the lesson, let’s do more speaking practice. Let’s start with the phrase, As for teacher Kay and Thomas: 케이쌤하고 토마스는.

Remember one of the key points of the previous episode -- that we only add a particle after the last noun in a string of nouns connected with 하고? Also, in case you ‘re wondering, 토마스 ends with a vowel ‘ㅡ' [eu] when written in Korean,  so we add 는, not 은, after 토마스. Thus, as for teacher Kay and Thomas in Korean is 케이쌤하고 토마스는.

We can take this one step further with the use of contractions. Since 토마스 ends with a vowel and is followed by the particle 는, we can contract this to the three-syllable sound, [ 토.마.슨. ] and sound casual and very native-like. Repeat after me to say ‘as for teacher Kay and Thomas’ in Korean where the particle 는 is contracted: 케이샘하고 [ 토마슨 ].

And, now, repeat after me to say Teacher Kay and Thomas eat gimbop and shrimp cocktails:

케이샘하고/  [ 토마슨 ] /  김밥하고 쉬림프칵테일 / 먹어요.
케이샘하고 [ 토마슨 ]  /  김밥하고 쉬림프칵테일 / 먹어요.
케이샘하고 [ 토마슨 ] 김밥하고 쉬림프칵테일  먹어요

Now, let’s use the sentence connector 그리고 and say Teacher Kay eats gimbop. And Thomas eats shrimp cocktails in Korean:

케이샘은 김밥 먹어요. 그리고 [ 토마슨 ]  쉬림프칵테일 먹어요.

You can also use another conjunctive word we learned 그런데 which has a meaning between and and but. In colloquial and casual speech, you’ll frequently hear Its short form 근데. Why don’t we use the short form and say Teacher Kay is eating gimbop. And/but Thomas is eating  shrimp cocktails  in Korean:

케이쌤은 김밥 먹어요./ 근데/ [ 토마슨 ]/ 쉬림프칵테일 / 먹어요.
케이쌤은 김밥 먹어요. 근데 [ 토마슨 ] 쉬림프칵테일 / 먹어요.
케이쌤은 김밥 먹어요. 근데 [ 토마슨 ] 쉬림프칵테일 먹어요.

- - - - - - - - - -

Ok. Imagine we’re still at the party, and the conversation takes us to the topic of means of transportation we prefer to use in 서울. Let’s ask Thomas, who is relatively new to Korea, if he rides the bus, subway, and taxi.

To ask this question, we need to know the verb 타요, the informal polite style of the verb  ‘to ride.’ Let’s now ask: 토마스 씨는 버스하고 지하철하고 택시 타요? Which means Thomas, do you ride the bus, subway, and taxi?

Let’s examine the sentence closely now. Firstly, did you notice the 씨 after 토마스? With those whom you speak in the polite style, you should add something after the name or title to mark respect, such as 씨 like 토마스 씨, or 님 like 선생님 which means teacher. So we have 토마스 씨, addressing Thomas politely, followed by the particle 는. Here we can contract 토마스 씨는 to 토마스 씬. After that in the sentence, we have the phrase for bus, subway, and taxi, 버스하고 지하철하고 택시; and the verb for ride, with a rising intonation for it’s a question, 타요( ↗ ).

If you knew that Thomas rides the subway and taxi, but he does not ride the bus, can you explain that in Korean? Sure. We’re going to talk about the means of transportation Thomas uses and the means of transportation he does not use. This is a perfect place to employ the 은/는 particle as a contrastive particle: Add 는 after 지하철하고 택시, the string of the means of transportation Thomas uses,; and add 는 after 버스, the means of transportation he doesn’t use, to contrast the two. So we have 지하철하고 택시는 and 버스는.

Let’s get ready to say As for Thomas, he rides the subway and taxi; but he does not ride the bus in Korean. Repeat after each phrase:

토마스는 as for Thomas 지하철하고 택시는 subway and taxi 타요 rides. 그런데 but 버스는 bus 안 타요 does not ride.

Please note that we don’t mention Thomas in the second sentence which starts with 그런데 because it’s already established in the first sentence and we don’t want to sound redundant. Let’s say the two sentences without any translation interrupting the flow of the sentence which means Thomas rides the subway and taxi on one hand. But he doesn’t ride bus on the other hand: 토마스는 지하철하고 택시는 타요. 그런데 버스는 안 타요.

Should we do something fun here and get right on the key lesson point for today? I see four phrases in the sentence just introduced that can be contracted to sound more colloquial and casual. If you applied what you learned earlier in the episode, we can do it:

토마스는 can be contracted to [ 토마슨 ] ; 지하철하고 택시는 to 지하철하고 [ 택신] ; 버스는 to [ 버슨 ]; and also 그런데 to 근데 which is the colloquial version of the conjunctiva word.

In colloquial speech, many contractions like these take place. I can give you an English example like this: People contract the phrase ‘going to’ to ‘gonna’ in colloquial speech. For example, the sentence I am going to listen to Essential Korean Podcast  can be contracted to going to I’m gonna listen to Essential Korean Podcast.

Please note that contractions are NOT mandatory and it’s up to the speaker as for which ones to contract – all or none, or anything in between.

Alright. Now, listen carefully and see how the sentence 토마스는 지하철하고 택시는 타요. 그런데 버스는 안 타요 transforms, from the 23-syllable sentence to the 19-syllable sentence where 토마스는 has been contracted to [ 토마슨 ]; 택시는 to [택신 ]; 그런데 to 근데 ; and 버스는 to [ 버슨 ].

Do you want to try? Why not?  Repeat after me. You’ll really sound like a native speaker. Here you go:

  • [ 토마슨 ] as for Thomas ; 지하철하고 [ 택신 ] the subway and the taxi at least ; 타요 ride; 근데 but ;  [ 버슨 ] the bus on the other hand ; 안 타요 not ride.

  • One more time, without the translation: [ 토마슨 ]/ 지하철하고 [ 택신 ]/ 타요. / 근데 / [ 버슨 ] / 안 타요.

  • [ 토마슨 ]  지하철하고 [ 택신 ] 타요. / 근데 [ 버슨 ] 안 타요.

Study Tips >

Very good! We’re done with the practice. The transcripts for our podcasts are now available on our website, essentialkorean.com. They’ll help you follow the lesson points better so I hope you make good use out of them. On the transcript of this episode, I placed brackets around the contracted phrases to represent how they are pronounced in colloquial speech and also to mark that the non-contracted forms should be used in writing. I did NOT, however, place brackets around the contracted form consisting of a pronoun, namely 나, 저, 우리, or 저희, and the 는 particle because we DO see those forms in casual writing.

I want to also note that I’ve introduced the contraction of the 은/는 particle today because it is indeed prevalent in colloquial speech, and not discussing the topic would only cause greater confusion. However, do not concern yourself with the contraction for speaking as a beginning student. Rather, your focus should be on when and where to appropriately place the 은/는 particle, so you can become more familiar with the sentence structure of the Korean language and in turn continue to build a sound foundation for advancing to the intermediate level.

One more thing. If you have any questions about the Korean language, email them to me at kay@essentialkorean.com. I used to tell my students, if you have a question on anything, chances are, more than half the class probably has the same question, so be the first one to ask and help your fellow learners. I’ll feature your questions on our podcast and try to help you out. So, again send questions with your name and where you’re turning in from, and let’s connect!

Ok, that’s it for today’s episode. I’ll be back soon, I promise, with a lesson on counting in Korean, so please be on the lookout for it.

Take care and stay healthy! 안녕히 계세요 :)