Counting in Korean: Beyond the basics. Part 2

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.

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

Counting the “nth” instance

The third day, the 10th hour, the 5th person. These expressions are much harder than counting duration. There are multiple ways of saying each, and there is a striking difference to English in many metrics.

For each item on the table below, I suggest learning just one to start out with and using only that one. Whilst there are multiple ways to say each one with some having three ways, the meaning is basically the same.

1st 2nd 3rd 55th
Second, minute, hour See below
Day 첫날
첫째 날
두번째 날
둘째 날
세번째 날
셋째 날
오십다섯째 날
Week 첫번째 주
첫(째) 주
둘째 주
오십다섯째 주
오십오주 째
Month 첫번째 달
첫(째) 달
두번째 달
둘째 달
새번째 달
오십오번 째 달
오십다섯째 달
Year 첫해
두번째 해
새번째 해
오십오번째 해
Person 첫번째 사람
첫 사람
두번째 사람 세번째 사람 오십다섯번째 사람
Item 첫째 두번째
두번째 것
세번째 것
오십다섯번째 것

Second, minute, hour
Korean doesn’t have the same concept of counting the nth second, minute, or hour. There isn’t always a direct translation such as 첫번째 초, 첫번째 분, 첫번째 시간, and if you try to directly translate it like then at best, people will think you’re talking strange and at worst, not understand what you’re saying.

And if you ask Koreans “how can you not have these phrases in your language?” they’ll probably ask you when you would need to use these kinds of expressions and then give you the natural way to say it in Korean. I’ve taken a number of examples where you would want to refer to the nth instance, and how you would say it in Korean:

  • The goal was scored in the 47th second of the soccer match —> 축구 경기 사십칠초에 골을 넣었다
  • The 5th second of the experiment is the most important —> 실험 중 5초가 가장 중요해요. Or 실험 시작하고 5초 지났을 때가 가장 중요해요
  • The second hour of the movie was boring —> 영화가 한시간후에 좀 재미없어요. 영화 후반이 재미 없어요
  • The second minute of the movie was boring —> 영화 이분에서 삼분까지 재미없어요
  • The third hour of the marathon was the hardest —> 마라톤 네 시간 구간 중에 3번째(시간)구간이 가장 힘들었어. Or 마라톤 3시간 이후가 가장 힘들었어. However if they have the context of what you’re talking about it is ok to say 3번째 시간

Sentences like “the 2nd minute of the movie was boring” is very feasible in English grammar, but you really wouldn’t say these kind of things very often right?

Counting the nth item

  • The first, second, third, 55th apple —> 첫번째 사과, 두번째 사과, 세번째 사과, 오십다섯번째 사과
  • I ate the second apple —> 두번째(사과)를 먹었다
  • Contrasted with I ate two apples —> 사과 두개를 먹었다

Counting order

  • I am the second biggest person —> 난 두번째로 큰 사람이다
  • China is the second biggest country in Asia —> 아시아에 중국이 두번째로 큰 나라다


  • Divide one day into 6 time periods —> 하루를 6(여섯) 기간으로 나눠요
  • Finish the work in the 4th period —> 4(네)번째 기간에 일을 마무리해요
  • This is my 3rd year living in America —> 미국에 사는게 올해는 3년째예요 or 미국에 산지 삼년됐어요
  • This is the 2nd week —> 이번주는 2주째예요

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