Best Way to learn Korean Numbers

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Are you looking to learn a new language but not sure where to start? Learning a new language has never been easy and most people generally give up in the early stages. One of the best ways to start a foreign dialect is to begin with their number system, as this is something you will always come across on a day-to-day basis. This article would focus on how to learn Korean numbers. 

Why Learn Korean Numbers? 

Korean is the official language of the Korean peninsula which includes the nations of North Korea and South Korea. Even though it is the same language, the pronunciation and meanings may differ from north to south which I am sure a lot of you might have already picked up from K-Dramas. For someone from an English speaking background learning a European language is an easy task due to its similarity with the language but when it comes to Asian languages, it is slightly difficult and needs good understanding. 

How Does the Korean Number System Work? 

People of Korea use two different number systems – Native Korean and Sino-Korean and depending on what object you are counting you would select which number system to pick. For ex: 

Scenario 1

How much are these chocolates for?

They are 10 won (local currency) each. 

Scenario 2

Can I get 10 of these chocolates? 

In both these scenarios, 10 even though it’s the same number, it would be represented by different systems, and you need to follow the rules behind which number system you are using otherwise the person you are talking to would have no clue what you just said. 

Native Korean number system has been in use since the inception and is mostly used for counting small numbers of items (usually less than 100) except currency. It is also used when we need to count numbers of emotional value such as age, anniversary. 

The Sino-Korean number system was introduced into Korea around 1-2nd century BC and uses a lot of words from Chinese language and is used to count money and larger numbers. 

Object being countedNative Korean number systemSino-Korean number system
All objects except ones mentioned belowIf its under 100 more than 100
MoneyYes
AgeAge in official documentsCounting age
Postal AddressYes
Phone NumberYes
Date Yes
TimeIf its under 100More than 100
Unit of length area weight and volumeYes

Korean Numbers Chart And Its Pronunciation 

In this blog, we will teach you how to count Korean numbers, using both the native Korean number system and Sino-Korean number system

In Korean language you only need to remember how to count till 40 because once you master that then it’s easier for you to go till billions. But before we get into the details let’s start with counting the basics 1 – 10 just like how you did in your native language. The only thing that makes the Korean number system slightly complex as compared to others is the fact that they have two number systems. 

We have the Sino-Korean number system. It involves the following numbers:

일 (il), 이 (i), 삼 (sam), 사 (sa), 오 (o), 육 (yuk), 칠 (chil), 팔 (pal), 구 (gu), 십 (sip)

And then we have second number system the Native Korean number system which includes numbers like:

하나 (hana), 둘 (dul), 셋 (set), 넷 (net), 다섯 (daseot), 여섯 (yeoseot), 일곱 (ilgop), 여덟 (yeodeol), 아홉 (ahop), 열 (yeol)

If you compare both the number systems, you will see both the pronunciation and how you write the numbers the different and it is important that we know when to use which number system. 

Steps to Learn and Memorize Korean Numbers  

NumeralSino-Korean (China System)Native Korean (Korea System)
1 일 (il) 하나 (hana)
2 이 (i) 둘 (dul)
3 삼 (sam) 셋 (set)
4 사 (sa) 넷 (net)
5 오 (o) 다섯 (daseot)
6 육 (yuk) 여섯 (yeoseot)
7 칠 (chil) 일곱 (ilgop)
8 팔 (pal) 여덟 (yeodeol)
9 구 (gu) 아홉 (ahop)
10 십 (sip) 열 (yeol)
11 십일 (sibil) 열하나 (yeolhana)
12 십이 (sibi) 열둘 (yeoldul)
13 십삼 (sipsam) 열셋 (yeolset)
14 십사 (sipsa) 열넷 (yeolnet)
15 십오 (sibo) 열다섯 (yeoldaseot)
16 십육 (sibyuk) 열여섯 (yeolyeoseot)
17 십칠 (sipchil) 열일곱 (yeolilgob)
18 십팔 (sip-pal) 열여덟 (yeolyeodeol)
19 십구 (sipgu) 열아홉 (yeolahop)
20 이십 (isip) 스물 (seumul)
30 삼십 (samsip) 서른 (seoreun)
40 사십 (sasip) 마흔 (maheun)
50 오십 (osip) 쉰 (swin)
60 육십 (yuksip) 예순 (yesun)
70 칠십 (chilsip) 일흔 (ilheun)
80 팔십(palsip) 여든 (yeodeun)
90 구십 (gusip) 아흔 (aheun)

Do not get intimidated looking at the numbers in the above table. Yes, in the beginning it does look overwhelming, but we will break it down for you to make it look simpler. 

1-9

1 is written as 일 (il) in Sino-Korean System and 하나 (hana) in Native Korean System, similarly all other single digit numbers have their own distinct sound and script in both language systems in Korea

10-19

When we move to a two-digit number, it is quite simple as all you must do is add 10 and the following single digit numbers. For ex: 

In Sino-Korean system 10 is written as 십 (sip) and 4 is written as 사 (sa), so 10 + 4 = 14 becomes sip + sa which is 십사 (sipsa)

Similar in Native Korean system 10 is recorded as 열 (yeol) and 6 is recorded as 여섯 (yeoseot) so 10 + 6 = 16 becomes 열여섯 (yeolyeoseot)

20-29

To form numbers after 19, you must follow a small rule and rest everything would stay the same, this rule would also be used when it comes to hundreds and thousands:

In Sino-Korean system, 20 would be written as 2 times 10 which means 2 is penned as 이 (i) and 10 is penned as 십 (sip) which means 20 would be 이십 (isip)

Using the same logic

30 is 삼십 (samsip)

40 is 사십 (sasip)

In Native Korean system, unlike the Sino-Korean System, there is no such rule, but they have unique names and signs for all multiples to 10 which is mentioned in the table above. In case you are worried about how you would remember everything then don’t worry. Usually at this stage even native Koreans have started to shift to the Sino-Korean System. 

20 스물 (seumul) 

Once you remember what the name is for 20, then you can easily come up with numbers from 21-29 as all you need to do is add the last number from the appropriate number. For ex: 

23 = 20 (스물 | seumul) + 3 (셋 | set) ➜ 스물셋 (seumulset)

How to Use the Korean Number System? 


When it comes to counting nouns, things can get a little complicated or complex. The Korean number system has a concept of counter words, which is simply a specific word for a category or group of nouns. According to Korean number system these words are written as 

Noun + number + counter words


The most common counter word most nonliving things is 개 (ge). Apart from this there are various counter words in the Korean number system as shown below. The concept is almost like the English language system but then learning so many different words at once might make it look difficult. 

English NounKorean Counter Nouns
People (General)명 (myeon)
People (Respectful)분 (boon)
Animals마리 (mari)
Books권 (gwon)
Bottles병 (byung)
Glasses잔 (jan)
Age살 (sal)
Socks and Shoes켤레 (kyulrae)

Three students – 학생 세 명 (student + three + counter for general people)

Seven dogs – 개 일곱 마리 (dog + seven + counter for animals)

How to count time in the Korean number system?

When it comes to counting time, you need to have an understanding of both number systems in Korea which can be slightly tricky in the beginning but then the more you practice the easier it gets. You will have to use Native Korean numbers in front for “hour” 시 (shi) and Sino-Korean numbers in front of 분(bun) for minutes. 


Tips for Learning the Korean Numbers Fast 

The Korean language is not as easy as other languages who use similar alphabets as the English Language system. Since, Korean has their own language script and rules some people are scared to learn this language but when you look at the number system you would realise how easy it is. There is no shortcut to learning a new language, but it has been observed that once you remember how to say 1-10 in both number systems in Korean then it’s easy to learn the following numbers.

FAQs

How long does it take to learn Korean Numbers? 

Since Korean language is different to other languages due to its rules and script, if you want to reach a high intermediate level then you need anywhere between 6 months to 12 months. 

How do you count months in the Korean number system? 

Counting months in Korean number system is quite easy as it is just Sino number for the month + Korean word for month월 (wol): 

  • January: 일월 (irwol)
  • February: 이월 (iwol)
  • March: 섬월 (samwol)
  • April: 서월 (sawol)
  • May: 오월 (owol)
  • June: 유월 (yuwol)
  • July: 칠월 (chirwol)
  • August: 팔월 (parwol)
  • September: 구시월 (guwol)
  • October: 시월 (siwol)
  • November: 십일월 (sibirwol)
  • December: 십이월 (sibiwol)

There are just two changes – June and October, they drop their last consonant so that you can easily pronounce it. 

How do you count three digit or more numbers in the Korean number system? 

By the time you cross 99, the Sino-Korean number system is commonly used. 

  • 100 – 백 (baek)
  • 1,000 – 천 (cheon)
  • 10,000 – 만 (man)

Taking an example – 

  • 240– 이백사십 : 240 is written as two 이 and hundred 백, and then add the number 40 사십. 
  • 3240 – 삼천이백사십 – 3240 is written as three 삼 and thousand 천 and then add number 240 이백사십
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