Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Object Marker ~을/를

~을/를 is the object marker. This is a very important grammar point in Korean. It is used to indicate the object of a phrase. You need to put 을/를 after the grammatical object. You need to use ~를 with an object that ends in a vowel and ~을 with an object that ends in a consonant.

I did not mention the object marker in the Wild Korean textbook. As this is quite basic grammar, I expected the readers to already know this concept and I personally think it's not very important for conversational Korean. But, I realized many people are still confused about the object marker, so I want to mention it here on the blog.

Although English does not use object markers, once you know the meaning of the verb and understand the phrase structure, it’s not that difficult to use. Understanding the verb is the first step to using the right object marker. Of course, real experiences are the most important.

Please see the phrases below.
마시다 (to drink) > 내가 맥주를 마셨어요.   I drank beer.  맥주 : object      를 : object marker 
먹다 (to eat) > 내가 김치를 먹었어요.   I ate kimchi.     김치 : object       를 : object marker
죽이다 (to kill) > 내가 사람을 죽였어요.   I killed a person.    사람 : object       을 : object marker
These are very simple examples of the object marker. They are quite easy to understand.
You just need to understand the meaning of the verb to use the object marker correctly.

Let’s have a simple quiz to check whether or not you can use it properly. Please read the phrases below and decide whether or not they are correct. 

1. 사람을 죽었어요.

죽다 : to die    죽었어요 : died      사람 : a person     ~을 : object marker
사람을 죽었어요 means “died a person”, which does not make sense.
죽었어요 cannot have an object. 
This phrase needs to be changed to 사람이 죽었어요 which means “A person died”.
Or, 사람을 죽였어요 is also fine. It means “I (or someone) killed a person”.
~을 : object marker    죽이다 : to kill    죽였어요 : killed

2. 영화를 봤어요.

보다 : to see, watch      봤어요 : watched    영화 : movie   ~를 : object marker
영화를 봤어요 means “I (or someone) watched a movie”. The subject is omitted.
This is a correct phrase.

3. 책이 읽었어요.

읽다 : to read   읽었어요 : read (past tense)       책 : book    ~이 : subject marker
책이 읽었어요 means “A book read”, which does not make sense.
It needs to be changed 책을 읽었어요 which means “I (or someone) read a book”.

4. 택시를 섰어요 
서다 : to stop, stand up (intransitive verb)    섰어요 : stopped, stood up
서다 is an intransitive verb, which cannot have any object. 
택시를 섰어요 does not make sense, it needs to be changed 택시가 섰어요 which means “A taxi stopped”. 
Or you need to change the verb to 세우다. The phrase becomes 택시를 세웠어요, which means “I (or someone) stopped a taxi”.
세우다 : to stop, make something stand up  (transitive verb)
세웠어요 ; stopped, made something stop, made something stand up

You may see the subject markers  ~이/가 in the above phrases. Please check this post to learn how to use them.

The object marker is easily omitted. 

Please see the phrase below.
맥주 마셨어요.  I (or someone) drank beer.
저녁 먹었어요  I (or someone) ate dinner.
맥주 and 저녁 are the object of the phrase. Although they don’t have any object markers, these phrases sound natural. People often like to omit the object marker in casual conversation to make it sound more natural and casual. If your aim with Korean is conversation and you are not confident to choose the right subject/object/topic markers, you can usually omit those markers.

Similarly, the subject marker (이/가) and the topic marker (은/는) also can be omitted. This is why people are easily confused about choosing the right marker. I will say again, the first step is understanding the verb and the phrase structure.

Please check more about the subject and topic marker here.

If you use the confusing Transitive Verb and Intransitive verbs, you will have a very hard time to use the right object marker and subject/topic markers.
Please see the other article about  Transitive and Intransitive Verbs.

Quiz - Please fill the right markers in the blanks. You can use not only the object marker  을/를  but also the subject marker 은/는   or the topic marker  이/가. Post your results in the comments or e-mail them to wildkorean1 (at) hotmail (dot) com

A : 어제 저녁에 뭐 먹었어요?
B : 파스타하고 피자        먹었어요.
A : 뭐       더 맛있었어요?
B : 파스타        더 맛있었어요.
A : 원래 파스타       더 좋아해요?
B : 아니요. 피자       더 좋아해요. 하지만 어제 피자      이상했어요.
A : 오늘 저녁에 무엇        할 거예요?
B : 친구       만날거예요. 같이 한국음식          먹을거예요.


  1. A:-

  2. A :
    B : 를
    A : 가
    B : 가
    A : 를
    B : 를, 는
    A : 을
    B : 를, 을