I was considering adding my own answer to What are the differences between 는 / 은 and 가 / 이?. The basic thrust of my answer was going to be that the two are actually logically quite different; 이/가 is mostly a question of indicating grammatical subject, while (ㄴ)은 is a kind of selector or indicator. In that sense, I was going to say that they shouldn't be too confusing.

However, if it is true that the two are so different, that raises the question : why can't the Topic Particle be attached to the Subject Particle, given that it can be attached to other particles:

저는 아침엔 바빠요 - I'm busy in the mornings.

이 버스는 종로론 안 가요 - this bus doesn't go to Chongno.

돈이 있으면은 사껬어요 - I'll buy it if I have the money.

It wouldn't seem illogical to be able to say '사과를은 먹고 싶어' or '그 사람인 파리에 갔어요', but I don't think those are possible. Why not? I am interested in reasons from evolution of the language as well as logical grammatical reasons.

  • The subject marker and the topic marker can be used together in 께서(honorific subject marker) + 는(topic marker). So it's not totally impossible. Also, 는 also can come after adverbial case markers 에, 으로, etc so it seems 을/를 and 이/가 are the special ones. – MujjinGun Jul 23 '16 at 15:10
  • Note that 도 is also unusable with 이/가 and 을/를. – MujjinGun Jul 23 '16 at 15:35
  • Essentially, the particles 이/가 and 을/를 are the only ones get replaced by the other particles, the rest get appended (sometimes with a contraction involved like 에는>엔)... Just remember that and you will be pretty much set. Usually 에 or 에서 come before the other particles, not after. I'm sure there are more rules and exceptions here and there, but you will rarely need to worry about much more than I just wrote. – B. Alvn Feb 14 '17 at 8:29
  • Arguably, '-가는' can be a valid construction, with a very restricted usage. Consider: "누군가는 해야하는 일이지만 내가는 하기 싫다. Somebody has to do it, but hopefully not me." It may sound awkward to some, but OK to others (thus "arguably"). Even for speakers who accept this, it would sound very colloquial. – Ignatius Apr 3 '19 at 7:45

Both the subject marker and the object marker are optional, unlike other case markers (격조사). But there is another kind of noun marker called 보조사, including the topic marker -는/은, the marker -도 (also), -만 (only), -까지, -(이)나, -(이)든, 보다, -조차, etc. Whenever they are combined with the subject or object marker, the subject/object marker must be elided; but the word is nevertheless still a subject or object.

So when you see an ending like -는, -도 or -만, you always need to remember that it could be a subject, it could be an object, or it could be neither - especially with -는, since the topic does not need to be an argument of the verb.

On the other hand, other case markers like -에 are not elided, so you can see endings like -에만, -에도, -에는, etc.

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  • All case markers are optional, including adverbial(부사격), attributive(관형격), etc. Think of 학교(에) 가다 and 철수(의) 책상. – MujjinGun Jul 30 '16 at 16:29
  • @MujjinGun Define "all" here please, would you? If you left off something like 까지 or 보다 how could you express these kinds of meanings unambiguously? – B. Alvn Feb 14 '17 at 8:33
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    @B.Alvn 까지 and 보다 are not case markers(격조사). They're auxiliary particles(보조사), and dropping them will make the sentence incorrect or change the meaning drastically. – MujjinGun Feb 14 '17 at 11:42
  • I see. It was the "etc." that threw me there...thanks. – B. Alvn Feb 14 '17 at 12:57

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