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이다 vs 있다 | What's the difference between 이다 and 있다

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

안녕하세요! It's Koreanstudyjunkie here. It's time again for another post. I've noticed many beginner Korean learners confuse 이다 (to be) and 있다 (to be/to have). While they may share an English translation of "to be", they are VERY different.

First we have to take a second to realize that in English TO BE has different forms.

We say: i AM, you ARE, it IS.

Am, Are, and Is are just different forms of "To Be"

Noun + 이다

이다 is a noun ending. It is attached to nouns in order to say "Is/Am/Are" Noun. 이다 is the unconjugated ending - visit this lesson here if you'd like to learn how to conjugate Korean nouns.


핸드폰 = cellphone

핸드폰이다 = to be a cellophone (It is a cellphone)

커피 = coffee

커피다 = to be coffee (It is coffee)

책 = book

책이다 = to be a book

Noun에 + 있다 or Noun이/가 + 있다

있다 is a VERB that can have a meaning of "to be" or "to have". This verb is not attached to anything and is used at the end of your sentence.

It will only have the meaning of "to be" when referring to locations. You can use 있다 in order to say "Is/Am/Are" at a location.


note: these sentences don't have subjects at the beginning for simplicity.

집에 있다 = to be at home (I am at home)

화장실에 있다 = to be in the bathroom (It is in the bathroom)

학교에 있다 = to be at school (we are at school)

For the meaning of "to have" we will attach the particles 이/가 to a noun and add 있다 at the very end of your sentence. This can also be translated as "Is" in English, which can be quite confusing.


핸드폰이 있다 = to have a cellphone (I have a cellphone)

화장실이 있다 = to have a bathroom (There is a bathroom)

커피가 있다 = to have coffee (There is coffee)

이다 vs 있다


티비다 = to be a tv (It is a tv)

티비가 있다 = to have a tv (I have a tv./there is a tv)

친구다 = to be a friend (he/she/they are my friend)

친구가 있다 = to have a friend

찬구는 집에 있다 = my friend is at home

공원이다 = to be a park (that is/this is/It is a park)

공원이 있다 = to have/be a park (there is a park)

공원은 도시에 있다 =  the park is in the city. / there is a park in the city.

이다 is used to say WHAT a noun is. 있다 is used to say WHERE something is or that there is an EXISTENCE of some noun.

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