Numbers In Korean [Full Beginners Guide]

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Being familiar with the Korean numbering systems will enhance your ability to engage with native speakers and grasp the intricacies of the language. 

It’s not just about memorizing sequences of digits; it’s about knowing when and how to use each system correctly.

Let’s get started.


Korean has two number systems, Native and Sino-Korean, each used in different contexts. Accurate pronunciation of numbers is vital for clear communication. Knowledge of number usage in Korean is necessary for real-life interactions.

The Korean Numbering Systems

In Korean, you will encounter two distinct sets of numbers: Pure Korean Numbers and the Sino-Korean Numbers. Each system is used in different contexts and has unique numerals that you’ll need to learn for daily communication.

Pure Korean Numbers

Pure Korean numbers are traditional numbers that originated from the Korean language and are used for counting items up to 99, as well as for telling the age of people.

Counting 1-10 in Pure Korean:

  • 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)

For numbers 11 through 99, you combine the words for ten (열, yeol) with the units one through nine. For example, 11 is 열하나 (yeolhana), and 21 is 스물하나 (seumulhana).

Sino-Korean Numbers

Sino-Korean numbers are derived from Chinese numerals and are often used in dates, phone numbers, prices, and times.

Counting 0-10 in Sino-Korean:

  • 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 form numbers from 11 to 99 in Sino-Korean, you combine units and tens. For instance, 20 is 이십 (isip) and 21 is 이십일 (isibil). This pattern continues throughout the numeral system.

Basic Korean Numbers

In Korean, numbers are essential for everyday use. They come in two systems: Native Korean and Sino-Korean. For basic counting, you’ll often use the Native Korean system.

Numbers 1-10

The foundation of Korean numbers lies within the first ten digits. Memorize these well:

  • 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)

Numbers 11-20

After ten, numbers are formed by combining the word for ten (십) with the numbers one through nine.

  • 11 – 십일 (십 (sip) + 일 (il))
  • 12 – 십이 (십 (sip) + 이 (i))
  • 13 – 십삼 (십 (sip) + 삼 (sam))
  • 14 – 십사 (십 (sip) + 사 (sa))
  • 15 – 십오 (십 (sip) + 오 (o))
  • 16 – 십육 (십 (sip) + 육 (yuk))
  • 17 – 십칠 (십 (sip) + 칠 (chil))
  • 18 – 십팔 (십 (sip) + 팔 (pal))
  • 19 – 십구 (십 (sip) + 구 (gu))
  • 20 – 이십 (이 (i) + 십 (sip))

Large Numbers

For numbers larger than ten, you’ll combine the multiple of ten with basic numbers 1 through 9. For instance:

  • 21 – 이십일 (이십 (isip) + 일 (il))
  • 30 – 삼십 (삼 (sam) + 십 (sip))

This pattern continues consistently, making it relatively easy to form larger numbers once you’re familiar with the basics.

Counting in Korean

When learning Korean, understanding its unique numbering systems is crucial. You will encounter different sets of numbers for various contexts like counting objects, stating age, and telling time.

Counters for Objects

In Korean, you cannot just state a number when counting objects; you must attach a counter word specific to the type of object. For inanimate objects, the counter -개 is often used. For example, “two books” would be 책 두 권 (chaek du gwon) with (gwon) being the counter for books. For counting people, use the counter -명; thus, “three people” is 세 명 (se myeong).

Number of ObjectsKoreanCounter Example (Books)
1하나책 한 권
2책 두 권
3책 세 권
4책 네 권
5다섯책 다섯 권

Age Counting

To state age in Korean, you use the native Korean numbers. It’s important to note that when you’re asked for your age in Korean culture, you should use the Korean way of counting age, which is typically one or two years older than the international age system. Your first birthday is considered “one year old” in the Korean system. For instance, if you’re twenty years old, you would say 스물 한 살 (seumul han sal).

Time Counting

For time, Koreans generally use the Sino-Korean number system. Hours are counted using Sino-Korean numbers, whereas minutes are counted with native Korean numbers. For example, 2:30 would be 두 시 삼십 분 (du si samsip bun). When expressing hours, you simply say the number followed by (si), and for minutes, you add (bun) after the native Korean number.

1:00한 시한 (han)시 (si)
2:00두 시두 (du)시 (si)
3:00세 시세 (se)시 (si)
4:00네 시네 (ne)시 (si)
5:00다섯 시다섯 (daseot)시 (si)

By understanding these specific contexts and using the appropriate counting system, you will sound more natural and precise when communicating in Korean.

Pronunciation Guide

Proper pronunciation is crucial when learning Korean numbers, as it ensures effective communication and understanding. This guide will focus on the pronunciation nuances of Korean numbers, including sound changes and syllable stress patterns.

Sound Changes

When pronouncing Korean numbers, be aware that certain sounds may change depending on their position in a word or in relation to other sounds. Here are some specific examples:

  • 0 (영, yeong) may sometimes be pronounced more like “young” to differentiate it from similar-sounding words.
  • Between numbers, such as in 30 (삼십, sam-sip), the ‘m’ in “sam” (3) blends slightly with ‘s’ in “sip” (10), creating a merged sound.
  • 1 (일, il) and 2 (이, i) can experience a slight ‘y’ sound when paired with other numbers, as in 21 (이십일, i-sib-il), pronounced more like “ee-sheeb-eel”.

Remember, these changes are subtle and come naturally with practice.

Number Syllable Stress

In Korean, the stress is typically placed on the first syllable of the number. However, when numbers combine to form larger numbers, stress each part of the number clearly. For example:

  • In 20 (이십, i-sip), stress is on the first syllable “i” and the first syllable “sip”.
  • 100 (백, baek) is stressed on the first syllable “baek”.

Here’s a simple breakdown of syllable stress for the first ten numbers, where the bold syllable is the stressed one:

NumberKoreanPronunciationSyllable Stress

As numbers grow larger, continue to apply these principles to maintain accuracy in pronunciation.

Number Usage in Everyday Life

Understanding how numbers function in everyday scenarios is crucial when navigating life in Korea. From monetary transactions to time-telling, your grasp of Korean numbers will deeply influence your daily interactions.

Currency and Shopping

When dealing with currency in Korea, you’ll primarily use the Sino-Korean number system. Here’s how the currency denominations break down in written Hangul and their Sino-Korean transliterations:

  • 1,000 won – 천 원 (cheong won)
  • 5,000 won – 오천 원 (o cheon won)
  • 10,000 won – 만 원 (man won)
  • 50,000 won – 오만 원 (o man won)

During shopping, price tags and totals at the register will necessitate your knowledge of larger numbers. For example, you might see a price such as 32,000 won, which would be read as 삼만 이천 원 (sam man i cheon won).

Dates and Time

In dealing with dates, both the Sino-Korean and Native Korean number systems are used. Months are typically referred to in Sino-Korean numbers, while days can be expressed in Native Korean numbers. A date like December 20th would be rendered as 12월 20일, pronounced 십이월 이십일 (ship i wol i ship il).

When it comes to telling time, hours are usually expressed in Native Korean numbers, while minutes are in Sino-Korean. If it’s 3:25 PM, you would say 오후 세시 이십오분 (ohu se si i ship o boon).

Addresses and Phone Numbers

Korean addresses can be lengthy and generally use the Sino-Korean system. An address such as “Seoul, Jongno-gu, Samcheong-dong, 123-45” would be 서울 종로구 삼청동 123-45, with the numbers being read as 일이삼 사오 (il i sam sa o).

Phone numbers in Korea are also stated using the Sino-Korean number system. A typical mobile number, which often starts with 010, would be stated as 공일공 – followed by the rest of the numbers. If your phone number is 010-1234-5678, you would say 공일공 일이삼사 오륙칠팔 (gong il gong il i sam sa oh ryook chil pal).

Ordinal Numbers

Understanding ordinal numbers in Korean allows you to convey sequences, such as first, second, third, in conversations and various contexts.

Forming Ordinals

To form ordinal numbers in Korean, you typically take the basic cardinal number and add the suffix 번째 (beonjjae) to it. Here’s how you can construct ordinal numbers from 1 to 9:

  • 1st: 1 (일) + 번째 = 첫 번째 (cheot beonjjae)
  • 2nd: 2 (이) + 번째 = 두 번째 (du beonjjae)
  • 3rd: 3 (삼) + 번째 = 세 번째 (se beonjjae)
  • 4th: 4 (사) + 번째 = 네 번째 (ne beonjjae)
  • 5th: 5 (오) + 번째 = 다섯 번째 (daseot beonjjae)
  • 6th: 6 (육) + 번째 = 여섯 번째 (yeoseot beonjjae)
  • 7th: 7 (칠) + 번째 = 일곱 번째 (ilgop beonjjae)
  • 8th: 8 (팔) + 번째 = 여덟 번째 (yeodeol beonjjae)
  • 9th: 9 (구) + 번째 = 아홉 번째 (ahop beonjjae)

It’s essential to note the irregularity with the first ordinal number: it changes from “일” to “첫”.

Ordinal Usage in Sentences

When you’re using ordinal numbers in sentences, they can help describe order or rank. For example:

  • 첫 번째 책을 읽어보세요.
    Read the first book.
  • 그는 반에서 세 번째로 똑똑해요.
    He is the third smartest in the class.

The ordinal numbers follow the noun they are describing and are typically preceded by a possessive particle when needed. It’s crucial to remember this structure when constructing sentences with ordinal numbers.

Korean Number Etiquette

In Korean culture, numbers carry meanings and are used with certain protocols, particularly in traditional and business settings.

Cultural Significance

Numbers in Korea are deeply intertwined with cultural beliefs and customs. Be aware that some numbers, such as four (사, sa), are considered unlucky because the word sounds similar to the word for ‘death’ (사, sa). In contrast, the number seven (칠, chil) is often associated with good fortune. You should consider these connotations when giving gifts or in situations involving numerology, such as choosing dates or apartment numbers.

Business Settings

In a business context, understanding the correct usage of Sino-Korean and Native Korean number systems is crucial. Use Sino-Korean numbers when dealing with money, addresses, phone numbers, and dates. For quantities, age, or counting items, opt for Native Korean numbers.

  • Sino-Korean examples: Prices, such as 10,000 won (만 원)
  • Native Korean examples: Counting items, like three books (책 세 권)

Being proficient in these nuances demonstrates respect and cultural understanding, which can be vital for forming strong business relationships in Korea.

Practice and Exercises

To effectively master Korean numbers, combining regular listening and speaking practice with writing exercises is crucial for reinforcing your learning.

Listening Practice

Start with audio resources dedicated to Korean numbers. Listen carefully to the pronunciation of both Sino-Korean and Native Korean numbers. Here is a basic exercise to engage in active listening:

  1. Find audio clips where numbers are pronounced and list them.
  2. Play each clip and write down the number you hear.
  3. Verify your answers by checking a transcript or a solution sheet.

Engage in practice sessions daily, focusing on:

  • Single digits: Zero (영) to nine (구)
  • Double digits: Ten (십) to ninety (구십)
  • Hundreds: One hundred (백) to nine hundred (구백)
  • Thousands: One thousand (천) to ten thousand (만)

Utilize online quizzes that play a number and ask you to select or enter the correct response.

Speaking and Writing Practice

To solidify your grasp, speaking out loud and writing numbers are key. Follow these steps:


  1. Repeat numbers after the audio clip during listening exercises.
  2. Use a language exchange to practice numbers with a native speaker.
  3. Try counting objects around you in Korean, switching between Sino and Native Korean systems as appropriate.


  • Handwrite numbers in Hangul to familiarize yourself with the script.
  • Create flashcards with the numeral on one side and its Korean equivalent on the other.
  • Fill out worksheets available online with various exercises, such as matching and filling in missing numbers.

Regular practice sessions with focused exercises for each skill area will accelerate your ability to comprehend and utilize Korean numbers both in everyday scenarios and formal situations.

Useful Phrases Involving Numbers

When engaging in activities such as shopping or scheduling in Korea, using numbers in conversation is essential. Understanding how to structure sentences with numbers can help you negotiate prices and make appointments effectively.

Negotiating Prices

When shopping in Korea, particularly in markets, you can often negotiate prices. Use the following phrases to discuss prices or discounts:

  • 이거 얼마예요? (Igeo eolmayeyo?) – “How much is this?”
  • 조금 깎아 주세요. (Jogeum kkakka juseyo.) – “Please give me a little discount.”

To specify the amount you want to decrease, use the structure:

  • [Desired Discount Amount] 만큼 깎아 주세요.
Korean PhraseTranslation
천 원 만큼 깎아 주세요.Knock off 1000 won.
오천 원 만큼 깎아 주세요.Reduce it by 5000 won.

Making Appointments

To make appointments or plans that involve a specific time or date, you’ll need to use the following phrases:

  • 예약하고 싶어요. (Yeyak-hago sipeoyo.) – “I would like to make a reservation.”
  • [Date and Time]에 예약하고 싶어요.


  • Time:
1 o’clock한 시
2 o’clock두 시
3:30세 시 반
7:45일곱 시 사십오 분

Combining the date with time, the structure is as follows:

  • [Date] [Time]에 예약하고 싶어요.

    For example:
    • 금요일 오후 두 시에 예약하고 싶어요. – “I would like to make a reservation for Friday at 2 PM.”

Common Mistakes and Confusions

When you begin learning Korean numbers, you may face several common mistakes and confusions. It’s important to recognize these early on to streamline your learning process.

Mixing Number Systems

Korean uses two distinct number systems: Sino-Korean and native Korean. The Sino-Korean system is derived from Chinese numerals and is used for dates, money, addresses, phone numbers, and numbers above 100. On the other hand, the native Korean system is traditionally used for numbers up to 99, ages, and counting objects.

Don’t mix the systems. Reserve each set for its appropriate context.

Miscounting the Units

Korean numbers require you to count units of tens and thousands differently than English. For example, ‘ten thousand’ in Korean is 만 (man) rather than simply a ten and a thousand. Remember to use the proper unit, like 십 (sip) for ten.

Pronunciation Difficulties

Keep an eye on pronunciation nuances. For instance:

  • 하나(hana), 둘(dul), 셋(set), and 넷(net)
  • 일(il), 이(i), 삼(sam), and 사(sa)

Ensure you use the right sound for each number to avoid misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding the Context

Even if you know both systems, knowing when to use each can be tricky. Note the common contexts for each system:

  • Sino-Korean: formal and mathematical purposes
  • Native Korean: informal and everyday counting

Tip: When in doubt, listen to the natives or ask for clarification to catch which system is being used.

Remember, mastery of Korean numbers comes with practice. Pay close attention to the context in which numbers are used, and mimic native speakers for accuracy. Keep practicing, and soon, navigating Korean numerals will become second nature to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you will find straightforward answers to common queries regarding Korean number systems, pronunciation, and usage to enhance your understanding and learning process.

How can I correctly pronounce Korean numbers from 1 to 10?

To pronounce Korean numbers from 1 to 10 in the Sino-Korean system, you can follow these phonetic representations: 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).

What is the difference between Native Korean and Sino-Korean numbers?

Native Korean numbers are used for counting age, numbers of items up to 99, and hours of time, while Sino-Korean numbers are used for minutes, dates, money, addresses, phone numbers, and numbers above 100.

What are some tips for easily learning Korean numbers?

Begin by learning the basic digits and their order, practice counting objects around you, use them in daily situations for practice, and incorporate number-based games or flashcards into your study routine.

How do you say numbers 1 through 100 in Sino-Korean?

You combine units and tens to form numbers. For example, 11 is 십일 (sip-il), 20 is 이십 (i-sip), and numbers like 21 are formed by saying the ten and then the unit: 이십일 (i-sip-il).

In what situations are Sino-Korean numbers typically used?

Sino-Korean numbers are predominantly used in business, banking, science, dates, addresses, phone numbers, and for any counting beyond 100.

Can you explain how to count to 20 using Native Korean numbers?

To count to 20 in Native Korean, know the first ten numbers and then combine them with ‘yeol’ which means ten. For example, 11 is ‘yeol han’ and 20 is ‘seu-mool’.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it – your beginner’s guide to Korean numbers! Whether it’s counting, shopping, or telling time, these number skills are a must-have in your Korean learning toolkit.

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