Some insight needed


I’ve stumbled over the following sentence in the 4th part of the lingQ mini stories:

그녀와 가장 친한 친구는 은미예요.

I would have expected it to be 그녀의 instead of 그녀와 as I consider this to be her friend (so genitive). I can’t really make up a good explanation for what the idea behind this construct is and have never stumbled across this in other sources as well. So I hope that someone more advanced might be willing to aid me here so I can get the idea.

Thanks in advance.

Both the genitive form “그녀 가장 친한 친구” and the form in the lingQ mini story work. You can think of it like the English expression of “being friends with someone”. This form is used a lot in Korean too.

The topic marker 는 ties the first four words of the sentence together as one topic: [그녀와 가장 친한 친구]는, so translate it in your head as: “[the person who is best friends with her] is Eunmi.”

Just like in English, these two forms

  • Her best friend (i.e. “the best friend of her”) is Eunmi
  • Eunmi is (the person who is) best friends with her.

are not really different except in minute nuance. Hope this helps.

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on second thought, my two English sample sentences don’t really work because I switched the subjects. :blush: But I think you get what I mean!

Thank you. I though of it in a similar way, but wasn’t sure as I haven’t come across this construct yet. There is actually a similar way to express this in german, too.
Sie und Eundmi sind beste Freunde.
Would “그녀와 은미는 가장 친한 친구예요” also work, or does this sound unnatural?

그녀와 은미는 가장 친한 친구이예요 is probably the “most correct” way, but as you know Koreans don’t use 들 all that often to distinguish between singular and plural, so your way seems to work fine as well.

Then of course, it’s just important to remember you’ve changed the subject/topic of the sentence to “She and Eunmi”.

(Disclaimer: I could be wrong, as I’m not a native speaker, but pretty advanced, living in Korea for a long time and using LingQ mainly to improve literary/academic reading skills.)


Very glad that you joined LingQ! Not only because of your advanced Korean skills but also because of your ability to explain and clarify in a way that most people cannot (including me).

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Thanks! So far LingQ has been the only platform (besides 1:1 lessons) that has given me a consistent structure to keep improving at my level, as after all I’m a working person with no time to attend intensive classes. But I noticed the forum for Korean is a little dead. Hope to be of what help I can, and receive help occasionally too :slight_smile:

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There is another thing I’d came across in another platform I use for language learning.

의사 선생님는 그가 약이 필요하다고 생각해요

What bugs me about this sentence is the particle behind 약. Shouldn’t it be

의사 선생님는 그가 약을 필요하다고 생각해요

as 약 is the object of the sentence?

On another note: Is the usage of 선생님 typical for native speakers in this case? Because in this context you are not talking to the doctor himself but more about him most likely in his absence. I would expect 의사 to suffice (it’s not like everyone achieves a doctor title in his life).

Edit: Now that I think about it doctor probably isn’t the title but more the job?!

Hi there,

A few good questions here. First of all, note that the use of the 는 topic particle here is incorrect: since the word 선생님 ends in a 받침 (final consonant ㅁ), the topic marker is 은.

So, 의사 선생님 그가 약이 필요하다고 생각해요.

For your first question, 필요하다 is an interesting word because in English we shouldn’t properly translate it as “needs” but “to be needed”. Said another way, it’s already a passive verb. So the phrase, meaning “The medical doctor thinks he needs medicine” should be more accurately thought of as “The medical doctor thinks medicine is needed by him.”

필요하다 as a verb always requires a subject with 이/가 marker, not the direct object 을/를 marker. This is good to memorize even if it’s not intuitive at first (I had the same question that you do!)

As for your second question, 선생님 is such a common expression to native speakers it doesn’t even really translate to ‘teacher’ some of the time. It can be used as a polite way to refer to almost anybody. When I was a graduate student working with an experienced Korean artist who herself was a professor in Seoul, she would always call me “[my name] 선생님” despite me being 30+ years younger than her, and certainly I wasn’t her teacher. When I have to spend time at the immigration office I call the administrative worker I’m talking to ‘선생님’ no matter what their age or real title. It’s simply a respectful placeholder for saying someone’s real title/job/name, although it often, yes, does mean ‘teacher’.

So ‘의사 선생님’ here does mean medical doctor, but it’s just a common way to refer to doctors in general, since there are also many types of other ‘선생님’.


Thanks, 필요하다 beeing a passive verb makes sense in regards to 약, as it would indeed be the subject then.
That it also applies to 그 is a rule then, if I understood you correctly, even though it isn’t the subject? Like the subject marker is always used with 있다/없다?
But how would some differentiate between subject and object if it isn’t clear from the context? I mean, it is obvious that the medicine isn’t needing him :smiley: But what if I want to express that he needs her

그가 그녀가 필요해요

How do I know that it is meant this way and not the other way around she needs him?

Thanks again for your kind explanation.

Hi again,

This is tricky in Korean, but in a case like that you would show the hierarchy of subjects by choosing to use 은/는 for the ‘main topic’ and then 이/가 for a sort of secondary subject. Usually in sentences containing a lot of 이/가 markers there is one main 은/는 that binds the main topic together.

그는 그녀가 필요해요. - He needs her. (or… “To him, she is needed”)
그녀는 그가 필요해요. - She needs him. (“To her, he is needed”)

So in an intentionally weirdly nested sentence like this (just to show you how these things stack up) -
그녀가 필요하는 그는 그녀가 필요하다고 생각해요

you want to find the 은/는 that is kinda the master topic over all the other 이/가 markers: in that case it’s the first fragment here:
[그녀가 필요하는 그]
i.e. “He who needs her” / “The guy who needs the girl” / “The needing-the-girl guy”

with the latter half of the sentence (그녀가 필요하다고 생각해요) meaning the same as it did for your doctor.

So my silly example sentence is read as, “The guy who needs the girl thinks he needs the girl.”

Hope this helps!


That helps, indeed. I am still so stuck in the subject/object thinking that the topic marker didn’t came to my mind. Thanks again.