Counting in Korean: Beyond the basics. Part 1

This lesson assumes you can count in both pure Korean and in Sino Korean numbers. Pure Korean being 하나 둘 셋 and Sino Korean being 일 이 삼.

This first part of the lesson will introduce when to use each system and then an overview of counting duration. The second part of this lesson will teach how to count the “nth” instance, or the “nth” thing and other important counting concepts.

When to use each system

1) When to use pure Korean numbers (하나, 둘, 셋 etc)

  • Counting the number of things
  • Age
  • Telling the hour part of the time
  • Counting the duration of days or months, or the nth day/month

2) When to use Sino Korean numbers (일, 이, 삼 etc)

  • Counting the number of things when they get to a large number. There isn’t a hard and fast rule but anything beyond 40 starts transitioning into Sino Korean
  • Same with age. But if you use the Sino Korean number you say 세 instead of 살. (e.g. 구십구 세 to say 92 years old)
  • Telling the minute and second part of the time
  • Counting the duration in weeks or years, or the nth week/year
  • Telephone numbers, with the exception of 0, which is 공
  • Street numbers
  • Scores in sports
  • Maths

3) When to mix the two

  • Telling the time. The hour is Pure Korean and the minute is Sino Korean. For example 2:30 would be 두시 삼십분 (아침/오후)
  • When counting anything in large number. Generally speaking from 40 onwards, you can mix the two together. For example 오십다섯 개, 오십다섯 살, 오십다설 달.

Counting duration


Some phrases that involve counting duration

  • 한시간 기다리세요. Wait one hour.
  • 미국에 간지 한달 됐어요. It’s been a month since I went to America.
  • 일년 돼서 다시 갈거예요. I’ll go again in a year.
  • 이분도 안 될거예요. 좀 더 기다리세요. It’ll take less than 2 minutes. Please wait a bit.

2 thoughts on “Counting in Korean: Beyond the basics. Part 1

  1. i still can’t say the pure korean numbers for 50 60 70 80 since on korean tv they always show the number in numerals when they caption in korean and say the number in the pure korean number way and i vaguely hear what they say (I’m not even sure if i’m catching the sounds correctly) and remember nothing lol but I do know how old someone siad they were or how many things there are. i refuse to memorize it from a list lol. it took me a while to remember 20, 30, 40 for the pure korean numbers since i’m remembering it purely from repetition when they say it on korean tv etc.

    I recently learned the pure korean number for 90 because I watched produce 48. at first i would remember it started with an “ah” and i wasn’t sure if i was cathcing the second syllable correctly and i would also forget constantly lol. however by the end of the show I learned how to say 96!


    1. I actually still dont know 60 70 80 and 90 fluently off the tip of my tongue. They are not that common in everyday conversation. Even my in laws refer to 60 year old as 육십


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