Learning how to count in Korean is easy. And after this lesson, you’ll be a master with Korean numbers! But I see you’re itching to get started, so let’s dive right in with Korean numbers 1 – 10:
- 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)
That’s your quick answer. But keep reading, because there’s actually two ways to count in Korean: the Sino-Korean number system and the Native Korean number system.
We’ve got a lot of material to cover, so here’s what you can expect:
- Numbers in Korean 1 – 10: Counting in Korean with Sino and Native Korean Numbers
- Numbers in Korean 10 – 20
- Numbers in Korean 1 – 100 (with a chart!)
- Large Korean Numbers: 1 – 1 Trillion!
- Korean Ordinal Numbers
- Korean Days of the Month
- Korean Counters: How to Count Objects in Korean
- How to Say “Number” in Korean + Helpful Vocab
- Lucky Numbers in Korean
Learning Korean numbers and counting will help you level up your Korean skills and speak with ease. After all, we use numbers in most conversations! So while it’s a lot to learn, it’s easy to pick up and remember because you’ll use it often.
By the way, I highly suggest you learn how to read Korean hangul before getting started. It will help immensely with your pronunciation.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
Numbers in Korean 1- 10: Counting in Korean
Let’s start with the basics, Korean numbers 1 through 10. After all, these are the numbers you’ll use most often. Whether you’re asking for a table for two or asking for “one of those please,” we often use smaller numbers in everyday life.
So if you’re pressed for time, or just trying to apply the 80/20 rule of vocab, these are the Korean number words you’ll use the most.
The only challenging part? There are two Korean writing systems: Sino-Korean numbers and Native Korean numbers.
(If you’ve studied Japanese before, this may not surprise you. Japanese numbers are the same way.)
Why two systems?
Well, China influenced the writing systems of both Japanese and Korean. Both languages originally used Chinese characters, but then created their own native writing systems: Korean hangul and Japanese kana.
Despite coming up with their own way of writing, they both kept Chinese characters. You see this with hanja (Chinese characters) in Korean.
So, let’s first look at the China System.
Korean Numbers: Sino
The Sino-Korean Numbers, also known as the China System, are what we looked at already:
- 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)
I like using mnemonics to memorize vocabulary, and it’s easy to do here.
For instance, in Korean, 일 (il) can mean “one” or “work.” I remember it by saying, “I’ll work at one o’clock today.” See? “I’ll” is like il, and I’ve included both vocabulary words. Win!
You can also stack them in the same mnemonic sentence: “Oh, yuck. Chill, pal, you’re spitting when you talk. Try counting to calm down… That’s it… 5, 6, 7, 8…” The first four words sound like the Korean words for 5, 6, 7, and 8. I created a distinct image: A guy who’s super angry, he’s spitting while he talks. So, I tell him to count to 10 to cool his jets.
You’ll use the Sino-Korean number system for things like counting money, math, measurements, the names of the months, and phone numbers. It’s also used to talk about time in days, weeks, or years, but not the hour/time on the clock.
Korean Numbers: Native
Now let’s learn the Korea System of numbers. From 1 – 10, it’s:
- 1: 하나 (hana, but is usually shortened to 한 or han)
- 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)
You can use mnemonics here, too. For example, “I set 3 plates on the table.”
If you know other languages, you can use those to help with mnemonics, too! Hana in Korean means “one”, but “hana” in Japanese means “flower.” I remember it by thinking “hana hana: one flower!”
Find what works for you and take some time here. Memorizing these 10 in both systems will help you with every other number going forward!
The Native Korean numbers are used to talk about the hour in time (but not days, months, or years), age, and counting things and people. In fact, that’s its primary purpose: counting things.
You’ll use this system of numbers most with Korean words called “counters.” They help count different categories of objects or things, like people, books, or cars. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
Numbers in Korean 10 – 20
Counting from 10 to 20 is easy. In Korean, numbers are “stacked” onto each other to create larger numbers. You start with the “tens” number and then add the “ones”. This goes for both counting systems. Here’s an example:
Sino: 십 (sip, “10”) + 일 (il, “one”) = 십일 (sibil, “eleven”)
Native: 열 (yeol, “10”) + 하나 (hana, “one”) = 열하나 (yeolhana)
Based on that, how do you think you make 12?
You’re right, it’s 십 (sip, “10”) + 이 (i, “2”) = 십이 (sibi, “12”). Or, in Native Korean, 열 (yeol, “10”) + 둘 (dul, “2”) = 열둘 (yeoldul, “12”).
In the Sino system, once you get to the next “ten” – which would be 20 — you stack the “ones” number in front of the “tens”. So it becomes “two tens.”
Sino: 이 (i, “2”) + 십 (sip, “10”) = 이십 (isip, “20”)
But, this changes in the Native Korean system. Instead, “20” becomes 스물 (seumul). You still stack the numbers between the “tens” the same way. But like in English with “twenty, thirty, forty,” each “tens” word changes in Native Korean, too.
Numbers in Korean, a chart of 1 – 100:
In Sino-Korean numbers, we do this same stacking method all the way up to 100. So the only new word you need to learn to count to 100 is, well, 100!
백 (baek) means “100” in Korean. And from this point forward, you would only use Sino-Korean numbers. After 99, Native Korean numbers are no longer in use, so you don’t need to know them.
Anyway, here’s the numbers 1 – 100 in the Sino-Korean system:
|Sino-Korean Numbers: 1-100|
Now let’s wrap up the Native Korean numbers. As we discussed, you can still stack the “ones” to the “tens.” But we still need to know all the “tens” vocab! So here they are, 10 – 90:
- 10: 열 (yeol)
- 20: 스물 (seumul)
- 30: 서른 (seoreun)
- 40: 마흔 (maheun)
- 50: 쉰 (swin)
- 60: 예순 (yesun)
- 70: 일흔 (ilheun)
- 80: 여든 (yeodeun)
- 90: 아흔 (aheun)
You won’t hear these too often, but the most common use would be to tell someone your age.
Now here’s the chart of 1 – 99 in the Native Korean system:
|Native Korean Numbers: 1-100|
|100||백 (baek, Sino-Korean numbers begin)|
Large Korean Numbers: 1 – 1 Trillion!
Now, the number stacking method to create numbers 11-99 works past 100, too. It’s how we can create all the numbers up to 999:
- 156: 백오 십육 (baek-o sibyuk)
- 489: 사백 팔십 구 (sabaek palsibgu)
- 950: 구백 오십 (gubaek osib)
So, we only need to know the next big number to keep going up to a trillion! Here they are:
- 1,000: 천 (cheon)
- 10,000: 만 (man)
- 100,000: 십만 (simman)
- 1,000,000: 백만 (baekman)
- 10,000,000: 천만 (cheonman)
- 100,000,000: 일억 (ireok)
- 1,000,000,000: 십억 (sibeok)
- 1,000,000,000,000: 일조 (iljo)
As you can see, from 10,000, smaller numbers start getting added in front of man to make larger numbers.
Simman is just 10 + 10,000, or 10 x 10,000, which makes 100,000. The same is true for baekman which combines 100 + 10,000.
Basically, once you hit 10,000, you start counting in 10,000’s instead of 1,000’s like you do in English.
But notice you don’t need 일 (il, “one”) for these words, except once you hit one trillion. That’s because the word itself explains it.
This is because how Koreans break up their large numbers doesn’t quite match how we do it in English. But don’t worry about that too much! You’ll get used to it naturally as you count in Korean.
You may think you won’t have much need for these larger numbers, but actually, Korean won (원 in hangul) is very small compared to the dollar or euro. For instance, $1 US dollar equals roughly ₩1,180 Korean won. So, you’ll actually see these numbers quite often.
Zero in Korean
There are two ways to say “zero” in Korean. One is 영 (yeong) and the other is 공 (gong). Why two ways? Well, it’s like in English. We often say “oh” or “zero.”
In Korean, they use them very similarly. Where you might say “oh” in English – like in Korean phone numbers – you would use 공 (gong).
But 영 (yeong) is used when you would need to say “zero,” like in math problems.
Korean Ordinal Numbers
We use Native Korean numbers when using ordinal numbers like “first,” “second,” and “third.”
The ordinal number counter word is 번째 (beonjjae). It gets added to the end of each number. But the first four ordinal numbers are a bit different.
“First” changes from 헌 (han, “one”) to 첫 (cheos) and adds the counter 번째 (beonjjae). So “first” in Korean is 첫번째 (cheosbeonjjae).
“Second”, “third”, and “fourth” in Korea use the Native Korean words for “two”, “three”, and “four” but drop the bottom hangul character:
둘 (dul, “two”) → 두번째 (dubeonjjae, “second”) 셋 (set) → 세번째 (sebeonjjae, “third”) 넷 (net) → 네번째 (nebeonjjae, “fourth”)
But, after that, you say the number as normal and add -번째 (beonjjae) to the end. So “fifth” would be 다섯번째 (daseosbeonjjae).
Months and Days in Korean
Now that you know how to count in Korean, learning the days of the month in Korean will be a cinch.
That’s because the months are just the Sino number + the word for month, which is 월 (wol). Take a look:
- 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)
A quick note here: You’ll usually use the Arabic numeral for the month, such as 1월 instead of 일월. They’re both said *irwol. But to how the months use the number words, I included the hangul instead.*
There two notable changes though: June and October. These two months drop their last consonant to make it easier to pronounce the word.
To say the day, you’ll need to know a couple more words: 년 (nyeon, “year”) and 일 (il, “day”). So if you want to say the date is August 26th, 2020, you’d say 이천이십년 팔월 이십육일 (icheon isibnyeon parwol isib yuk-il). Using Arabic numbers, it’s written like: 2020년 8월 26일.
Notice that in Korean, the year comes first, then the month and day: 2020/08/26.
Korean Counters: How to Count Objects in Korean
In Korean, they have specific words used to count different object categories. These words are called counters.
These counters are used with the Native Korean numbers.
Counters can seem pretty strange to a native English speaker because they’re so many more in Korean than English. But we do use them in English, too. Words like a bundle of hay or a stack of books are similar counters.
In Korean, 개 (gae) is the most common and general counter. You can use it for most non-living things, especially if you don’t know what counter you should be using.
Here are a few other common counters:
- For people: 명 (myeong)
- For animals: 마리 (mari)
- For books: 권 (gwon)
- For cars, vehicles, and machinery: 대 (dae)
- For age: 살 (sal)
- For paper: 장 (jang)
- For slices: 조각 (jogak)
- For time/hours: 시 (si)
So how do you use these counters?
When saying how many of something there are, you say the noun + the Native Korean number + the counter. It looks like this:
빵 한 조각 ppang han jogak “One slice of bread”
딸기일곱개 ttalgi ilgobgae “Seven strawberries”
넷명 net myeong “Four people”
How to Say “Number” in Korean + Helpful Vocab
“Number” in Korean is 숫자 (sutja). It refers to numbers as figures or numerals. So you can’t use it for “numbers” as in a phone number. That would be 번호 (beonho).
Sometimes you may find yourself trying to do simple math in Korean, like when counting money or making change. Here are some words to know:
- Math: 수학 (suhak)
- Plus: 더하기 (deohagi)
- Minus: 빼기 (ppaegi)
- Multiply: 곱하기 (gophagi)
- Divide: 나누기 (nanugi)
- Point: 소수점 (sosujeom)
- Half: 반 (ban)
- Equals: 와 같다 (wa gatda)
- Total: 총액 (chong-aek)
Lucky Numbers in Korean
Korean superstitions are pretty unique (and this is a great list of many of them!). And like in other countries, they have Korean lucky numbers… and unlucky numbers.
Lucky numbers in Korea are 3, 7, 8, and 9.
3 is a lucky number because of its practicality. It’s related to hard work and generally thought to provide balance.
8 is considered to be a lucky number for wealth, luck, and happiness. Some people may plan important business meetings on the 8th, or even pick the 8th of the month as their wedding day for good luck.
9 is also a lucky number in Korea (whereas it’s an unlucky number in Japan). That’s because it sounds like the word for “long-lasting” in Chinese. So like with 8, this is a popular number to pick for wedding dates, business meetings, or anything important that you want to last.
Like in Chinese and Japanese, the number “4” is a bad number because it’s like the word for “death” in Chinese. It’s avoided whenever possible. Sometimes you’ll see buildings without a 4th floor, for example. And like “Friday the 13th”, some view the 4th of the month to be unlucky, too.
Learning How to Count in Korean is Easy!
See, mastering Korean numbers isn’t so bad. Even considering there are two systems, they’re easy to memorize. I hope you used mnemonics to help the words stick!
Now try putting them to use. One of my favorite tricks for learning numbers is to count down with the microwave when I cook food. Since I have to count backward, it helps me avoid rote memorization and it’s simple to include in my day.
How can you start practicing your numbers? Can you count to 10 in Korean when you’re mad? Or practice telling time in Korean?
The more you use it, the easier it gets!
Study hard! 화이팅! (hwaiting, “fighting!” or “do your best!”)