Telling Time in Korean: What Time Is It?  (with Audio!)

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Being able to tell time is essential when learning Korean and living in Korea. Luckily telling time in Korean isn’t too difficult once you get it down. 

In this lesson you will learn how to ask ‘What time is it?’ and how to answer that question for yourself in Korean. 

Let’s get started with a list of expressions and words we will learn today. 

KoreanEnglish
몇 시예요?What time is it? (polite)
몇 시야?What time is it? (informal)
—는 몇 시에 있어요?What time is — at? (polite)
몇 시에 —?What time do –?
–시 –분 이에요It is —. (polite)
hour
minute
second
지금now
half, thirty
새벽dawn
오전morning
오후afternoon
저녁evening
아침morning
점심lunch, lunchtime
night
day
시계clock
시간time
before
after

How to Ask the Time in Korean

몇 시예요? – What time is it? (myeot shi-eh-yo)

This is the polite way to ask ‘what time is it?’. When asking this question to friends, you would say 몇 시야? instead. 몇 means ‘how many’ and 시 means ‘hour’. So this question is literally asking ‘How many hours is it?’.

 —는 몇 시에 있어요? – What time is — at? (–neun myeot shi-eh eeseoyo)

Use this expression when you want to ask what time an event is at. Here are some example sentences, to show when you would use this expression.

Example Sentences:

  • 기차는 몇 시에 있어요? – What time is the train at?
  • 파티는 몇 시에 있어요? – What time is the party at?
  • 몇 시에…? – What time do… ? (myeot shi-eh…)

This expression is used when asking what time an action is taking place. To complete the sentence, a verb needs to be placed at the end. Here are some examples of this expression being used. 

Example Sentence:

  • 몇 시에 만나요? – What time do we meet at?
  • 몇 시에 먹어요? – What time do we eat at?
  • …시 –분 이에요 – It is …. (…shi –bun ee-eh-yo)

When you ask someone the time, you’ll probably want to understand what they say back to you. In Korean, you can say ‘it is —’ by saying (hour)시 (minutes)분 이에요. 시 means ‘hour’ in Korean and 분 means ‘minute’. 

Hours are said with Korean numbers and minutes with sino-korean numbers. Check out the examples below to better understand how time is said in Korean.

Example: 

  • 12:54 – 열두시 오십사분
  • 2:06 –  두시 육분
  • 5:00 – 다섯시
  • 8:30 – 여덟시 반 / 여덟시 삼십분

Example Conversation: 

  • 몇 시예요? – What time is it?
  • 세 시 사십칠 분이에요 – It is 3:47.
  • 몇 시야? – What time is it?
  • 열두 시 반이야 – Its 12:30.

* A note on spaces

Usually, words have spaces in between them in Korean. When it comes to time, there are no spaces between the numbers and hour and minute words. 1 o’clock is written as 한시, not 한 시. This is the proper way to write the time, but if you mix up the spaces, don’t worry, the time will still be understandable.

If you are unfamiliar with Sino-Korean and native Korean numbers check out the list of numbers below to learn the numbers necessary to tell time.

Native Korean Numbers

  • 1 – 한
  • 2 – 두
  • 3 – 세
  • 4 – 네
  • 5 – 다섯
  • 6 – 여섯
  • 7 – 일곱
  • 8 – 여덟
  • 9 – 아홉
  • 10 – 열
  • 11 – 열한
  • 12 – 열두

Sino Korean Numbers

  • 1 – 일
  • 2 – 이
  • 3 – 삼
  • 4 – 사
  • 5 – 오
  • 6 – 육
  • 7 – 칠
  • 8 – 팔
  • 9 – 구
  • 10 – 십
  • 20 – 이십
  • 30 – 삼십
  • 40 – 사십
  • 50 – 오십

전 후 – Before, After

You might hear these words used when someone is describing when something is going to take place. 전 is the word for ‘below’ and 후 is the word for ‘after’. Here are some examples of how to use these words in sentences.

Example Sentences: 

  • 대회는 십오 분 후에 시작합니다 – The conference starts after 15 minutes.
  • 삼십 분 전 왔습니다 – I came 30 minutes before.

Korean Clock System

Koreans use both the 12-hour and 24-hour clock systems. For daily life, the 12-hour clock system is used the most often.

 The 24-hour clock system is often used in scheduling and timetables. At the bus station or train station, your train or bus will likely be scheduled on a 24-hour system. 

Time of the Day

There are several words to describe the time of day in Korean. We will go over each one below with examples. 

새벽 – Dawn

This word is used to describe the early hours of the morning. As a general role, 새벽 is between the hours of 2 am to 7 am. 

Example: 

  • 겨울이라 새벽에는 밖이 아직 어두워 – It’s winter, so in the morning it’s dark outside
  • 아침 – morning/breakfast
  • 아짐 is used for the hours between 7 a.m. and noon. It can also be used as the word for ‘breakfast’

Example: 

  • 아침에 눈이 왔어요 – It snowed in the morning.
  • 아침을 먹었어요? – Did you eat breakfast?
  • 점심 – afternoon/lunch

점심 is used in a few different situations. It can be used to describe the time between noon and 5 p.m. It is also used as the word for ‘lunch’. 

Example: 

  • 점심에 만날래요? – Shall we meet in the afternoon?
  • 점심 먹어러 갈래? – Do you want to eat lunch?
  • 저녁 – evening/dinner

저녁 is used to describe the evening hours between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. It is also used as the word for ‘dinner’. 

Example: 

  • 저는 저녁에 퇴근해요. – I leave work in the evening.
  • 저녁은 6시 반에 먹어요. – Dinner is eaten at 6:30.
  • 오전 – a.m.

오전 is the word to describe the hours before noon and after midnight. You would use this word to clarify the time. If you say a meeting is at 10, that could mean 10 in the evening or ten in the morning. 오전 helps clarify that the meeting is in the morning. 

Example: 

  • 모임은 오전 10시에 시작해요 – The meeting starts at 10 am. 
  • 오후 – p.m.

This word is used to describe the hours after noon and before midnight. Just like 오전 it is used to clarify the time. 

Example: 

  • 비가 오후 내내 계속 내렸어요 – The rain kept up all afternoon.
  • 밤 – night

밤 is the word for ‘night’. This is usually from the time the sun sets to when it rises. 

Example: 

  • 저는 밤에 클럽에 가요. – I go to the club at night.
  • 낮 – day

낮 is the daytime. It is from when the sun rises to when it sets. 

Example: 

  • 나는 밤에 자고 낮에 일해 – I sleep at night and work during the day.

Korean Time Culture

Everything in Korea is done fast. Koreans call it 빨리 빨리 culture. This means that Koreans work fast and expect others to work fast. Koreans will often get frustrated if the food comes out too slowly, or if they have to wait in line for too long. 

Koreans expect people to work to the best of their capabilities and if something takes too long, then it’s because people aren’t working hard enough. 

As for formal appointments Koreans are very punctual. Tardiness to work or school is frowned upon. 

On the other hand, when meeting with friends, it is common for people to be up to an hour late. As you can see, once again, Koreans take formal situations very seriously but are very casual with their friends.

Conclusion

In this lesson, you learned how to ask the time, how to tell the time, words related to the time of day, and about Korean time culture. 

Now you know everything you need to know to deal with time in Korea. Try practicing what you learned by saying the time in Korean whenever you look at a clock. 

You can also practice by asking Korean friends the time and listening to their answers or by writing the time-out in Hangul. Thank you for sticking with this lesson to the end. See you on another one of our blogs!

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