How To Use Particle 만
Key Points &
The particle 만 immediately follows a noun phrase and simply means ‘only.’
Placing the particle right after the noun relevant to the meaning is critically important.
The particle 만 will replace the topic particle, the subject particle and the object particle, namely 은/는, 이/가, and 을/를; it is not to be used with those particles.
너 is the Korean pronoun ‘you,’ but you should not equate 너 with the English you. 너 is used only to someone with whom you talk to in 반말, the intimate speech style, and to someone who is the same age or younger than you.
(noun) 만 only (noun)
몇 명 how many people
한국어 Korean language
한국어 문법 Korean grammar
나는 파스타만 먹어요. 그리고 화이트와인만 마셔요. I only eat pasta and only drink white wine.
나는 한국어 수업만 들어요 I only take Korean class.
한국어 수업은 저만 들어요 As for the Korean class, only I take it.
한국어 뭐가 제일 어려워요? What aspect of the Korean language is most difficult?
저는 한국어 문법만 어려워요 As for me, only Korean grammar is difficult.
저는 샐러드를 먹어요 I eat salad.
저는 샐러드만 먹어요. I eat only salad.
제 친구는 이메일을 써요 My friend writes emails.
제 친구만 이메일을 써요. Only my friend writes emails.
Select the Korean sentence which most closely reflect the meaning of the English sentence.
1. "I eat only salad."
a) 저는 샐러드를 먹어요.
b) 저는 샐러드만 먹어요.
c) 저는 샐러드를만 먹어요.
2. "Only my friend writes emails."
a) 제 친구는 이메일을 써요.
b) 제 친구만 이메일을 써요.
c) 제 친구는만 이메일을 써요.
3. "As for the Korean class, only I take it."
a) 한국어 수업은 저만 들어요
b) 나는 한국어 수업만 들어요
Hello, this is Kay from Essential Korean. 안녕하세요. EK Kay샘입니다.
In this episode, we continue our series on particles with the particle 만, meaning “only”. I do have a song for us to listen to today, titled 말이야, meaning “I’m Saying” by 이홍기. The song is from a classic drama many of you may know, 상속자들 The Heirs. Finally, we have a special announcement at the end of today’s episode, so stay tuned until the end. Are you ready for another episode? Let’s get right to it!
The particle 만 immediately follows a noun phrase and simply means ‘only.’
Let’s go through an example. You’re at an Italian restaurant with your colleagues, and you’re all choosing what to order. Your reputation as a picky eater precedes you, and so your colleagues single you out and ask what you will have. How would you say “I only eat pasta. And I only drink white wine” using the 만 particle?
나는 파스타만 먹어요. I only eat pasta. 그리고 화이트와인만 마셔요. And I only drink white wine.
If we were to get rid of the 만 particle, the sentence would be 나는 파스타 먹어요 meaning I eat pasta and 나는 화이트와인 마셔요 I drink white wine. Without the 만, there is no indication of exclusivity with your preference for pasta and white wine.
Let’s repeat “I only eat pasta and only drink white wine.” using the 만 particle:
나는/ 파스타만 / 먹어요. / 그리고 / 화이트와인만 / 마셔요.
나는 파스타만 / 먹어요. 그리고 / 화이트와인만 / 마셔요.
나는 파스타만 먹어요. 그리고 화이트와인만 마셔요.
Let’s go through a few more examples:
Let’s say you’re taking a Korean class at the local community college after work, and one of your peers asks which classes you’re taking at the college. He asks, '수업 뭐 들어요?' where 수업 is class, 뭐 is what, and 들어요 is to take, which in this case refers to the class. If you were to answer that and say I’m only taking a Korean class using the particle 만, what would you say?
You would say 저는 한국어 수업만 들어요, where the particle 만 follows the noun phrase 한국어 수업 to signify only Korean class.
Repeat after me to say I only take Korean class.
나는 / 한국어 수업만 / 들어요
나는 한국어 수업만 / 들어요
나는 한국어 수업만 들어요
Let’s imagine a new situation, with a slight twist. You’ve told your Korean class peers that your company is paying the tuition for any class of the employees’ choice as part of a professional development program, and you chose the Korean class. One classmate asks, 한국어 수업은 몇 명 들어요? How many people are taking the Korean class? : 한국어 수업은 as for the Korean class, 몇 명 how many people 들어요 taking?
Pretend to be the classmate for a second and ask the question to find out how many are taking Korean class. Repeat after me:
한국어 수업은 / 몇 명 / 들어요?
한국어 수업은 / 몇 명 들어요?
한국어 수업은 몇 명 들어요?
Now, how would you answer if you are the only one taking the Korean class, using 만? Where do you place the particle 만? You’re correct if your answer is: 한국어 수업은 나만 들어요 in which the particle 만 is added after 나 ‘I,’ making the meaning As for the Korean class, only I take it. Please repeat after me to say the sentence:
한국어 수업은 / 저만 / 들어요
한국어 수업은 저만 / 들어요
한국어 수업은 저만 들어요
By the way, if you placed 만 after 한국어 수업 and had 한국어 수업만 저 들어요, or 저 한국어 수업만 들어요, then you’re alternatively saying, Only the Korean class, I take. Thus, placing the particle right after the noun relevant to the meaning is critically important.
Should I give you a sentence with a step up in the difficulty? What would be the meaning of the sentence, 저만 한국어 수업만 들어요? It means I am the only one who is taking only the Korean class. In other words, there may be other people who are taking a few classes, but I am the only person who is taking only one class, which is the Korean class.
One more example. Imagine we’re at a live meetup and I ask you what aspect of the Korean language is most difficult: 한국어 뭐가 제일 어려워요? 한국어 the Korean language, 뭐 what followed by the particle 가, 제일 most, 어려워요 is difficult, putting them all together again, 한국어 뭐가 제일 어려워요 means What aspect of the Korean language is most difficult?
For a moment, assume the role of me, Teacher Kay, or 케이 샘, and ask the question yourself :) Please repeat after me:
한국어 / 뭐가 / 제일 어려워요?
한국어 뭐가 / 제일 어려워요?
한국어 뭐가 제일 어려워요?
Since we’re on the topic of the live meet-up, thank you to everyone that showed up; it was a lot of fun meeting you all and being able to practice live. Future events are posted on the calendar, so if you missed it, you can always check there. Ok, back to our lesson.
Let’s say you’re good with everything but the sticky Korean grammar fills your nightmares and causes hours of frustration. How would you answer the question, 한국어 뭐가 제일 어려워요, knowing 한국어 문법 means Korean grammar? You’re right if you answered, 저는 한국어 문법만 어려워요: 저는 as for me, 한국어 문법 Korean grammar, followed by the exclusive particle 만, and 어려워요 is difficult. Let’s practice to say “As for me, only Korean grammar is difficult.”
저는 / 한국어 문법만 / 어려워요
저는 한국어 문법만 / 어려워요
저는 한국어 문법만 어려워요
Please remember that the particle 만 will replace the topic particle, the subject particle and the object particle, namely 은/는, 이/가, and 을/를; it is not to be used with those particles. Thus, you can say
저는 샐러드를 먹어요 I eat salad; or
저는 샐러드만 먹어요. I eat only salad; but you cannot say
X 저는 샐러드를만 먹어요.
Similarly, you can say
제 친구는 이메일을 써요 My friend writes emails; or
제 친구만 이메일을 써요. Only my friend writes emails; but you cannot say
X 제 친구는만 이메일을 써요. Only my friend writes an email.
Ok, now, let’s look at the song for today’s episode! You know the drill: love songs are the best for teaching Korean, and the best songs to represent “only” would of course be about a guy looking at just one girl. A lot of our original K-drama fans may get nostalgia listening to this piece– it’s a highlight song for a classic K-drama, 상속자들, or the Heirs. The song’s name is 말이야, meaning I’m saying, and you’ll find 만 to be paired up with 너 at the beginning of the lines, meaning “only you”. One quick note on the word 너: 너 is the Korean pronoun ‘you,’ but you should not equate 너 with the English you. 너 has relatively limited usage in Korean: it’s used only to someone with whom you talk to in 반말, the intimate speech style, and to someone who is the same age or younger than you. Let’s first listen to the song. Pay attention to the new particle 만, as well as the 을/를 particle for review, and the phrase 말이야 which means I’m saying.
With 말이야 repeated in each line, we see and feel how much the guy is trying to be heard, of course, by the girl in his heart. Let’s look at how 만 and other particles are used, going line by line:
1. 너만 보인단 말이야
너만 only you 보인단 말이야 I’m saying I see
So, bringing these parts together, you get
너만 보인단 말이야 I’m saying that I see only you
The key takeaway here is that adding the particle 만 to the pronoun 너, meaning you, becomes only you.
2. The next line
널 사랑한단 말이야
널 the contraction of the pronoun 너, which means you, and the object particle, 를; 사랑한단 말이야 I’m saying that I love
So, bringing these parts together, you get
널 사랑한단 말이야 I’m saying I love you
What do you think the 를 in 널 does here? It marks that 너, “you”, is the object of this line, which means that 너, you, is not the doer of the action, but rather the person on the receiving end. This makes sense: the girl, who is the “you”, is on the receiving end of the guy’s love. One takeaway from this, once again, is that the word order in Korean is not fixed, but with particles, we can anticipate, expect, and draw meanings with what’s going to come later in the sentence. In this case, the 을/를 particle prepares the listener to expect an action affecting the “너": 널 사랑한단 말이야 means I’m saying that I love you.
Moving onto the next line.
3. 눈을 감아도
눈 means eyes followed by the object particle 을, marking 눈 to be the object for the verb; 감아도 even when I close
Together, 눈을 감아도, means even when I close my eyes
Notice how in Korean, there’s no mention of “I” or “my” with 내 or any other way to say I, but in the English translation, we include the pronouns. This is because those can be omitted in the Korean language when they are implied in the context.
You may have also noticed there’s a 도 in the 감아도, but be careful if you thought this to be the particle 도! In this case, 도 is not the particle but is part of the verb conjunction to mean even though or even if.
Now, the lines begin to repeat.
4. 너만 보인단 말야 I’m saying I see only you
This is the same as the first line, except 말이야 is cut down to 말야 as a natural contraction. If you try saying 말이야 really fast, you’ll begin saying 말야 instead!
The next line is a repeat from earlier:
5. 너만 부른단 말이야
너만 only you 부른단 말이야 I’m saying I call out
Together, it’s I’m saying I call out only you
The next line, also a repeat from earlier:
6. 널 사랑한단 말이야
I’m saying I love you
The next line is new:
7. 입을 막아도
입 mouth followed by the particle 을 (Hopefully, YOU can now explain what the 을/를 does here :)
막아도 Even though I block
Which together, means Even though I block my mouth
And here comes the last line of the part we’re listening to today:
8. 너만 부른단 말야
너만 only you 부른단 말야 I’m saying I call out
Together, it means I’m saying I call out only you
Alright, we made it! Let’s listen to the chorus one more time, now armed with our knowledge of particles and the meaning of 만.
With that, I’ll conclude today's lesson on the particle 만 here, but don’t leave yet: I have two announcements I want to make!
First, I wanted to try something fun, so I’m hosting a challenge for Essential Korean Podcast listeners. The terms are simple: with one of the songs I’ve had featured in a previous podcast episode, record yourself reciting or, if you’d like, singing the part I’ve covered and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The catch, and what makes this an excellent practice opportunity is that it must be memorized. Why memorized? Because once you have a few sentences or clauses memorized, they’ll stick with you, and in turn, you can use them to substitute different words for real-life communication spontaneously when appropriate situations call for them. I’ll be going off an honor system for this!
The best work will be selected to have a one-hour private lesson with me, as well as the audio clip having a feature in our podcast. With the release of this podcast, the deadline is in two weeks! Remember, all our lesson recaps and transcripts for podcast episodes are on our website for your reference.
Second, we’re launching the Essential Korean Forum, where you can talk with other Korean learners and ask me questions about the language. I’ll go over this more in next week’s episode, where I’ll be covering how to study Korean with general tips and tips specific to Essential Korean content, but I’m beginning with members introducing themselves in Korean and English on our welcome post.
I really hope all of you try it out: it’s great practice, you get to learn about other listeners around the world, and, as a bonus, a member will be randomly selected from the comments for a one-hour lesson. Note that you must be a premium member on the site to access the forum, so please use the limited-time Founding Members offer before July ends.
With that, we truly conclude today’s episode. I hope to hear from all of you through the forum and via the challenge!
Thank you again and see you next time! 고맙습니다!
*Featured Song >
Title: 말이야 I'm saying (2013)
Artist: Yi Hong Gee 이홍기