Confusing location marking particles: 에 vs 에서

The difference between this two location markers can confuse beginners. Most of you are not happy with the explanation from books and forums.

Like what we always do here at Slang Korean, we’ll give you simple rules to help you understand this once and for all.

에서 and 에 can both mean ‘at’ or ‘in’. But here are some rules you need to know.

RULE 1: Always use 에 to mean ‘to’

I go to home (or I’m going home)

RULE 2: Always use 에 to say where you are.

Are you at home? At school? Or at a concert?

Always use 에 to say where you are

RULE 3: Always use 에서 to mean ‘from’

미국에서 왔어요
I came from America

에서 왔어요
I came from home.

Rule 4: Always use 에서 to say a location where an action is HAPPENING.

식당에서 밥을 먹고 있어요
I’m eating at the restaurant now.

공원에서 이민호 봤어요
I saw Lee Min Ho at the park

This will be clearer after you see the examples below.

Examples of 에서 vs 에

Example 1

한교 가고 있어요
I’m going to school now

You use 에 because you want to say ‘to.’ You saying a direction you’re heading. Rule 1: Always us 에 to mean ‘to.’

Example 2

Compare these 2 sentences:

I came home (or I’m home)

에서 왔어요
I came from home

See the difference? Always use ~에서 to mean from.

This second sentence is not naturally spoken. I’m just helping you to see the difference.

Example 3

한국 살고있어요
I’m living in Korea.

Why is this not 에서? Because you’re saying where you are. Rule 2: Always use 에 to say where you are.

One example to summarize 에 vs 에서

Understand this and you’ll never be confused with location marking particle again.

학교 있어요.
I’m at school

학교에서 싸웠어요.
I fought at school.

This is the main source of confusion. Here’s the key point of this lesson:

  • Use to mean ‘where you are’
  • Use 에서 to mean a location where an action is HAPPENING.


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