it seems that most questions about the topic marker 은/는 relate to its distinction from subject markers.

I would like to ask if the following sentence attaching the topic marker to the object is correct (and natural):

기생충은 오늘 제가 봤어요

I realise that I could also have attached the topic markers to different words to obtain:

저는 오늘 기생충을 봤어요, or

오늘은 제가 기생충을 봤어요,

but since I want to steer the conversation towards the movie, I would argue it makes a lot of sense to attach the topic marker to 기생충. Then I might even follow up with 좋아요! (hopefully, I haven't watched the movie yet) and it would be obvious that the verb refers to the movie.

Is it possible to attach the topic marker to anything? Is it correct/natural when I place the topic first in the three sentences above? Are other word orders more natural?


Yes, you can attach the topic marker to many places, but the nuances may be subtle and don't necessarily match the notion of a "conversational topic": in particular, they don't mean "Let's talk about this now!", but more frequently, "Oh about this thing we've been just talking about..."

For example, "기생충은 오늘 제가 봤어요" would be a good sentence if we are already talking about the movie:

A: 주말에 영화나 같이 볼까요? 기생충 재미있다던데...

B: 기생충은 오늘 제가 봤어요.

"저는 오늘 기생충을 봤어요" would be a natural sentence, not particularly marked because the subject is kind of the "default position" for a topic marker.

"오늘은 제가 기생충을 봤어요" would be a natural sentence if the topic was "today":

A: 어제는 재미있는 일이 하나도 없었어요.

B: 그럼 오늘은 어때요?

A: 오늘은 (제가) 기생충을 봤어요.

  • By the way, to be more natural, it's usually better to drop "제가" altogether, because it should be obvious from the context.
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  • Ah, you've made many points I wasn't aware of. Nice. Just to be clear, if I followed up any of the above sentences (e.g. topic maker attached to 저 or 오늘) with "좋아요" or "좋아해요", would it then be obvious that what I'm really saying is "I like(d) the movie"? – M. B. May 28 at 12:16
  • @M.B. Yes, if you immediately follow up with "좋아요" people will understand it as a remark on the movie. (I'm less sure about "좋아해요".) A slightly more natural way would be to connect them together into a single sentence: "오늘 기생충을 봤는데, 좋아요." You can either say "좋아요" (it's a good movie) or "좋았어요" (it was a good movie, i.e., I liked it). – jick May 28 at 17:05
  • In my opinion, 좋아해요 is a bit awkward here, because it's more often used for an ongoing preference (i.e., I'm the kind of person who likes this) - so it sounds less natural for a movie you just watched. On the other hand, this would be very natural: "저 기생충 정말 좋아해요. 극장에서 세 번 봤어요." (I really love Parasite - I saw it three times in the theater.) – jick May 28 at 17:11

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