3, 2, 1… Start Counting in Korean!

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Gongdeuk Crossroad Bus Station” by Doo Ho Kim – Flickr
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

On our Hangeul 101 post, we showed you the basics on how to decipher the Korean alphabet, allowing you to read bus stop names, restaurant menus and anything written in the native Korean script. This time, we are tackling Korean numbers.

The Korean language makes use of two number systems, each used for a different set of purposes. Native Korean numbers are used to form ordinals (first, second and so on), to count quantities and to tell people’s ages, while numbers of Sino-Korean origin appear in all other situations like floor numbers, money, dates, etc. Telling the time is a tricky exception, as it requires you to use native Korean numbers for the hours, but Sino-Korean numbers for the minutes and seconds.

Sino-Korean Numbers

The following are the numbers from 0 to 10 in the Sino-Korean number system. If you are unsure of how to pronounce these numbers, take a look at our Hangeul 101 post first.

0 : 영 (yeong)
1 : 일 (il)
2 : 이 (i)
3 : 삼 (sam)
4 : 사 (sa)
5 : 오 (o)
6 : 육 (yuk)
7 : 칠 (chil)
8 : 팔 (pal)
9 : 구 (gu)
10: 십 (sip)

To say 11, all you need to do is add 10 and 1 in that order, like so: 십일 (sip il). The same goes for all the other teens; 17, for example, is 십칠 (sip chil).

Multiples of 10 are quite easy to form, too; for 20, simply add a 2 before the 10, like so: 이십 (i sip). Following this rule, 30 would be – you guessed it – 삼십 (sam sip), 3 and 10.

For numbers up to 99, then, all you do is combine these two rules. Say, if we want to form the number 65, we would need 6 and 10 (to create 60), followed by the 5, like so: 육십오 (yuk sip o).

Finally, you need to learn the words for 100, 1.000 and so on. The Korean language counts these large numbers differently from English, as it considers 10.000 as a unit. Here are the numbers you need to know to count from 100:

100 : 백 (baek)
1.000 : 천 (cheon)
10.000 : 만 (man)
100.000 : 십만 (sip man = 10 x 10.000)
1.000.000 : 백만 (baek man = 100 x 10.000)
10.000.000 : 천만 (cheon man = 1.000 x 10.000)
100.000.000 : 억 (eok)
1.000.000.000 : 조 (jo)

These numbers follow the same pattern as the one used for those up to 99, meaning 200, for example, is pronounced 이백 (i baek) – 2 and 100 –, and so on. A number like 15.000, then, is divided into 10.000 and 5.000, being pronounced as 만오천 (man o cheon – 10.000, 5, 1.000).

Native Korean Numbers

Native Korean numbers are used only up to 99, and they are formed by the same rules as Sino-Korean system numbers, meaning now you only need to learn how to pronounce them. Here is a simple guide on native Korean numbers:

1 : 하나 (hana)
2 : 둘 (dul)
3 : 셋 (set)
4 : 넷 (net)
5 : 다섯 (daseot)
6 : 여섯 (yeoseot)
7 : 일곱 (ilgop)
8 : 여덟 (yeodeol)
9 : 아홉 (ahop)
10 : 열 (yeol)
20 : 스물 (seumul)
30 : 서른 (seoreun)
40 : 마흔 (maheun)
50 : 쉰 (swin)
60 : 예순 (yesun)
70 : 일흔 (ireun)
80 : 여든 (yeodeun)
90 : 아흔 (aheun)

As you can see, each multiple of 10 in the native Korean system has its own designation, but do not worry about memorizing every single one of them perfectly, as bigger numbers are not that frequently used. Otherwise, these numbers follow the same principle used to form Sino-Korean numbers. As such, 39, for instance, is 서른아홉 (seoreun ahop), while 12 is pronounced 열둘 (yeol dul).

We know it is not easy for beginners to get a grasp of Korean numbers at first, so do not hesitate to ask if you are curious about something on this post!

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