Lesson 10: Korean Numbers

Lesson 10: Korean Numbers


The vocabulary in this section does not need to be separated. In my mind, they would all fall under the category of “Other.”

하나 = one
둘 = two
셋 = three
넷 = four
다섯 = five
여섯 = six
일곱 = seven
여덟 = eight
아홉 = nine
열 = ten
스물 = twenty
서른 = thirty
마흔 = forty
쉰 = fifty

일 = one
이 = two
삼 = three
사 = four
오 = five
육 = six
칠 = seven
팔 = eight
구 = nine
십 = ten
백 = one hundred
천 = one thousand
만 = ten thousand

영 = zero
공 = zero

Click on the English words below to see information and examples of that word in use. You probably won’t be able to understand the grammar within the sentences at this point, but seeing words being used in sentences is very helpful for understanding how they can be used.

A PDF file neatly presenting these words and extra information can be found here.

처음 = the first time/beginning

마지막 = last

번째 = counter for 1st/2nd/3rd/etc..

첫 번째 = first (1st)

두 번째 = second (2nd)

개 = counter for things

번 = counter for behaviors/actions

명 = counter for people

대 = counter for automobiles

잔 = counter for a ‘glass’ of ____

시 = “o’clock”

분 = minute

초 = second

살 = years old

For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.

Korean Numbers

Korean numbers are actually very easy once you get the hang of them. But, because they are so different from English numbers, it is often hard for English speakers to fully understand them at first.
First thing you need to know, there are two sets of numbers in Korean: The pure Korean numbers and the numbers derived from Chinese (called Sino-Korean numbers). Let’s look at the Sino-Korean numbers first, because they are easier:
Sino-Korean Numbers

These are the Sino-Korean numbers as provided earlier:

일 = one
이 = two
삼 = three
사 = four
오 = five
육 = six
칠 = seven
팔 = eight
구 = nine
십 = ten
백 = one hundred
천 = one thousand
만 = ten thousand

With only those numbers, you can create any number from 1 – 10 million. All you need to do is put them together:

일 = one (1)
십 = ten (10)
십일 = eleven (10 + 1)
이십 = twenty (2 x 10)
이십일 = twenty one (2 x 10 + 1)
이십이 = twenty two (2 x 10 + 2)
백 = one hundred (100)
백일 = one hundred and one (100 + 1)
백이 = one hundred and two (100 + 2)
백구십 = one hundred and ninety (100 + 90)
구백 = nine hundred (9 x 100)
천 = one thousand (1000)
천구백 = one thousand nine hundred (1000 + 9 x 100)
오천 = five thousand (5 x 1000)
오천육백 = five thousand six hundred (5 x 1000 + 6 x 100)
만 = ten thousand
십만 = one hundred thousand
백만 = one million
천만 = ten million

The Sino-Korean numbers are used in limited situations. As each of these are taught throughout the upcoming lessons, you will slowly learn when to use the Sino-Korean numbers over the Korean numbers. For now, don’t worry about memorizing when they should be used, as it will come naturally.

– When counting/dealing with money
– When measuring
– When doing math
– In phone-numbers
– When talking about/counting time in any way except the hour
– The names of each month
– Counting months (there is another way to count months using pure Korean numbers)

Pure Korean Numbers

These are the pure Korean numbers as provided earlier:
하나 = one
둘 = two
셋 = three
넷 = four
다섯 = five
여섯 = six
일곱 = seven
여덟 = eight
아홉 = nine
열 = ten
스물 = twenty
서른 = thirty
마흔 = forty
쉰 = fifty

Creating numbers 11-19, 21-29, 31-39 (etc..) is easy, and is done like this:

11: 열하나 (10 + 1)
12: 열둘 (10 + 2)
21: 스물하나 (20 + 1)
59: 쉰아홉 (50 + 9)

Notice that there are no spaces between the words representing numbers for both the Sino-Korean and pure Korean numbers. This is true, but only extends so far. I’ll discuss this in a later lesson. For now, it is more important to focus on how to use simple numbers in sentences.

After 60, regardless of what you are doing, pure Korean numbers are rarely used. I was talking to my wife about this once, and she said that she didn’t think there was even a pure Korean number for 60. I told her “yes, there is: 예순.” To which she replied “Oh yeah, I forgot.” When you get that high (even as high as 40-50) it is not uncommon to use the Sino-Korean numbers instead.

The pure Korean numbers are used when:

– You are counting things/people/actions
– Talking about the hour in time
– Sometimes used when talking about months.

Again, don’t worry about memorizing each of those yet. Whenever I talk about numbers, I will tell you which set you are expected to use.

Using Numbers


When counting anything in Korean, you need to use the pure Korean numbers. In addition, one thing that is very hard for English speakers to wrap their head around is that, when counting most things in Korean, you need to also include a ‘counter.’ The most common counters are:

개 = counter for things
명 = counter for people
번 = counter for behaviors/actions

There are many more counters, but if you can’t remember the specific counter of something, you can usually substitute “개” (the counter for “thing”) instead. You will learn the more difficult counters as you progress through future lessons. For now, the goal is to get you accustomed to using these three simple counters.

When counting in English, we usually don’t use counters. Rather we just say: “two people,” as in:

I met two people

But some things in English require the use of these counters. For example, you could not say “I bought two films” (referring to the film in a camera, not a ‘movie’). Instead, you have to say “I bought two rolls of film.” The word roll in that sentence is a counter, and is similar to the counters in Korean. The main difference is that counters are used to count almost everything in Korean.

The words 1, 2, 3, 4 and 20 change when adding a counter:

1 = 하나 -> 한
2 = 둘 -> 두
3 = 셋 -> 세
4 = 넷 -> 네
20 = 스물 -> 스무

All counters can be written in 2 different ways with no difference in meaning:

사람 두 명 OR 두 명의 사람 = 2 people
사람 한 명 OR 한 명의 사람 = 1 person

펜 다섯 개 OR 다섯 개의 펜 = 5 pens
펜 마흔네 개 OR 마흔네 개의 펜 = 44 pens

When writing out the word instead of using the numeral (for example, writing “한” instead of “1”) the correct form is to have a space between the written number and the counter. For example:

한 개 instead of 한개
두 번 instead of 두번
세 명 instead of 세명

When the Korean numbers are used (i.e. when counting things or actions), the numeral is more typically used than the word. In our lessons, you will usually see the Korean word written out when a counter is used.

In other situations where Sino-Korean numbers are used, there is no difference if you use the Sino-Korean numeral or the word. I will come back to this in the next lesson when you learn applications for Sino-Korean numbers.

These nouns that we have counted can now become the object of a sentence:

나는 펜 네 개를 샀어 = I bought four pens
나는 햄버거 두 개를 먹었어 = I ate two hamburgers
나는 어제 친구 다섯 명을 만났어 = I met five friends yesterday


나는 네 개의 펜을 샀어 = I bought four pens
나는 두 개의 햄버거를 먹었어 = I ate two hamburgers
나는 어제 다섯 명의 친구를 만났어 = I met five friends yesterday

Notice the difference in placement of ~를/을 in the first and second examples.

Although the placement of the particles is important for your initial understanding of Korean grammar, eventually, you will become more comfortable with omitting particles altogether. Omitting particles is not something I recommend for a beginner because it is very important that you understand how to use them perfectly for more complex sentences. Nonetheless, most often in speech, particles in this situation are often omitted. For example, you might hear something like this:

나는 펜 네 개 샀어 = I bought 4 pens

But like I said, at this stage, it is crucial that you continue to use particles in all of your sentences so you can continue to familiarize yourself with them.

Here are some more examples of counters in use:

그 사람은 차 네 대가 있어요 = That person has four cars
저는 우유 두 잔을 샀어요 = I bought two glasses of milk
저는 땅콩 두 개를 먹었어요 = I ate two peanuts


I figure since I am talking about numbers, I should mention something about how/when the number zero is used. Just like other numbers, there are two ways to say “zero” in Korea. However, unlike other numbers, both ways of saying “zero” are of Chinese origin.

영, which is (from what I understand), the way Chinese people say “zero”
공, which is sort of like the meaning of “nothing”

That isn’t really very important, but what is important is knowing which word to use in which situation.

You should use “영” when talking about:

Points that can be given or taken away, like in a game. For example, when saying the score “2 – 0”, you would say “이 대 영”. Another example would be if you are in a quiz show, and you ask your friend how many points she has, she could say “영점”
The temperature “zero”
When using numbers in math (which, if you’re just learning Korean now, you probably won’t do for a long time)
You should use “공” when talking about:

Phone numbers. For example, when saying “010 – 5555 – 5555”, all the zeros should be read as “공.” If you don’t live in Korea, you probably won’t know this, but “010” is the typical area code for a cell phone (in Seoul, at least). Therefore, when giving your phone number, you usually start out by saying “공-일-공”.

번 – Counter of Behavior or Action

번 is a common counter that counts behavior or actions, and is not directly counted with a noun in a sentence. Putting a number before “번” creates an adverb that tells you how many times something was done. It is an adverb, so 를/을 is usually not attached to it.

저는 어제 학교에 세 번 갔어요 = I went to school three times yesterday
저는 그 영화를 다섯 번 봤어요 = I saw that movie five times
저는 오늘 두 번 운동할 것입니다 = I will exercise twice (two times) today
저는 어제 고기를 두 번 먹었어요 = I ate meat twice yesterday
저는 오늘 축구를 네 번 할 거예요 = I will play soccer four times

This is fairly simple to use, but you will continue to learn about this word in the next lesson when you learn how to say “this time,” “next time,” and “last time.”

Telling Korean Time

There are so many different ways to talk about time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc…). You will learn more about how to indicate when you did/do/will do something using these ‘time’ words in the next lesson. In this lesson, however, you will learn about telling time, as in the time on a clock.

When talking about the hour, as in ‘2 o’clock’ all you need to do is put 시 after a number:

2시 = 2:00 (2 o’clock)

When talking about the minute, add 분 after the number:

2시 30분 = 2:30

The pure Korean numbers are used when saying the hour number, whereas the Sino-Korean numbers are used when saying the minute number. For example:

2시 30분 = 2:30, or
두 시 삼십 분 = Two thirty

Earlier in the lesson I said that when a pure Korean number is used with a counter, it is more commonly written out instead of using the numeral. In this case, “시” could be seen as a counter as we are counting “hours.” However, writing the numeral or the word is equally as common and acceptable when referring to the time. In my case, I much prefer to use the numeral instead of the word.

To indicate the minute, Sino-Korean numbers are used and (just like all times when Sino-Korean numbers are used) there is no difference if you use the numeral or the word. I prefer to use the numeral in these cases.

The spacing of these also needs to be discussed. As I mentioned earlier, when a written number is placed before a counter, there should be a space between the number and the counter. This is true for the number before “분” as well. For example, if you were writing the words out:

두 시 should be written instead of 두시
삼십 분 should be written instead of 삼십분

However, when using the numeral, it is acceptable to omit the space and attach the numeral directly with the following counter. For example:

2시 30분

Officially, there should be a space. However, most people do not include a space and it is also seen as correct to omit it. Other examples:

3시 10분 = 3:10
세 시 십 분 = Three ten

12시 50분 = 12:50
열두 시 오십 분 = Twelve fifty

You will see more examples of this in the next lesson when you learn more applications of numbers (specifically Sino-Korean numbers). If you can’t get it into your brain yet, it will be easier when you see more examples in the next lesson.

These times can now go in a sentence as usual by adding 에 to indicate a time:

나는 5시에 먹을 거야 = I will eat at 5:00
나는 2시 30분에 왔어 = I came at 2:30
우리는 야구를 1시에 할 거예요 = We will play baseball at 1:00
우리는 7시 20분에 시작할 거예요 = We will start at 7:20


When indicating how old a person is, you should use pure Korean numbers along with the word “살” which is a counter for ages. For example:

저는 열 살이에요 = I am ten years old
저의 여자 친구는 스물여섯 살이에요 = My girlfriend is twenty six years old

It would sound weird to use the Sino-Korean numbers to indicate the age of somebody who is under thirty. However, after thirty, it is not uncommon to use the Sino-Korean numbers instead of the pure Korean numbers. The older the age, the more likely you will hear the Sino-Korean number used instead of the pure Korean number. After 50, you are most likely to exclusively hear the Sino-Korean numbers.

You haven’t learned how to ask questions yet, so it is difficult for me to explain how to ask about a person’s age. You will understand the following sentence better once you are confident with the content introduced in Lessons 21 and 22. Nonetheless, it would be good to memorize this sentence because of how common of a question it is:

(나이가) 몇 살이에요? = How old are you?

번째: First, Second, Third, etc…

번째 can be used after a number like a counter to mean first/second/third/etc. When saying “first”, “첫” replaces “한”.

For example:

첫 번째 = first
저의 첫 번째 친구는 착했어요 = My first friend was nice
저는 첫 번째 차를 싫어했어요 = I didn’t like that first car
If you think that is confusing, explain how ‘one’ gets changed to ‘first,’ ‘two’ gets changed to ‘second’ and ‘three’ gets changed to ‘third.’

After “first,” you can use the regular Korean numbers. Just like with counters, the numbers 2 – 4 change when 번째 follows. For example:

두 번째 = second
그 두 번째 선생님은 똑똑했어요 = That second teacher was smart
저는 두 번째 남자를 골랐어요 = I chose the second man

세 번째 = third
이 여권은 저의 세 번째 여권이에요 = This is my third passport
저는 세 번째 문을 열었어요 = I opened the third door

네 번째 = fourth
저는 네 번째 사람이었어요 = I was the fourth person
이 아이는 저의 네 번째 아들이에요 = This person is my fourth son

After the number four, the words don’t change when adding 번째. For example:

이 수업은 오늘 저의 열 번째 수업입니다 = This is my tenth class today
저는 백 번째 페이지를 읽었어요 = I read the 100th page

Sometimes you might see these numbers + counters used in the following way:

첫 번째 = 첫째 = first
두 번째 = 둘째 = second
세 번째 = 셋째 = third
네 번째 = 넷째 = fourth

These shortened formed can’t be used in as many situations as their longer counterparts. The most common situation where these are used is when talking about your first/second/third/etc children. For example:

우리 둘째 아들은 고등학생이에요 = Our second son is a high school student
우리 셋째 아이는 야구를 좋아해요 = Our third child likes baseball
이 아이는 우리 첫째 아들이에요 = This (child) is our first son

In these cases, it is common to just refer to the child as “one’s first” or “one’s second.” We often do the same thing in English. For example:

우리 둘째는 고등학생이에요 = Our second (child) is a high school student
우리 셋째는 야구를 좋아해요 = Our third (child) likes baseball
이 아이는 우리 첫째예요 = This (child) is our first (child)

However, as I mentioned, it would be unnatural to use these words in sentences like this:

저는 셋째 문을 열었어요 (very understandable, but awkward)
저는 넷째 사람이었어요 (very understandable, but awkward)

Another place you will see words like 첫째 and 둘째 is when making lists about things that need to be done, and the speaker/writer is indicating “Firstly… and then secondly…” For example:

첫째, 저는 야채를 많이 먹겠습니다 = First, I will eat a lot of vegetables
둘째, 저는 매일 운동하겠습니다 = Second, I will exercise everyday

I didn’t make audio recordings for the above sentences because I feel they would more likely be written than spoken.

Another useful word is ‘마지막’ which can be used in many ways. One way it can be used it to talk about the ‘last’ something. Note that there are two similar but different meanings for the word “last” in English. 마지막 is used for only ONE of those meanings. 마지막 is used to talk about something that is the last thing in the end of sequence… as in “first meal… second meal… third meal… fourth meal… last meal.” It is NOT used to talk about something in the past, as in “last night I went to bed late.” Notice the difference between these two usages of “last night”:

Last night I went to the movies
The last night of our trip was the best

The second example would be where you could use 마지막, because you are talking about the last night of a sequence of nights on a trip. In the first example, you are talking about the previous night. Both usages of ‘last’ can be used in the same sentence:

Last night I ate my last meal

Again, ‘last night’ refers to the previous night… and ‘last meal’ refers to the last meal of a sequence of meals. Let’s confuse you one more time:

Last night was the last night of our trip.

Ha! Can you get that one?

Here’s some examples of 마지막 in use:

이것은 저의 마지막 수업이에요 = This is my last class
저는 마지막 것을 안 봤어요 = I didn’t see the last thing (I didn’t see that last one)

In these examples, 마지막 is being used as an adjective, even though it is not an adjective in its original form (it is not an adjective because it does not end in 다). Words can be used in this same way in English, as well. The word “face” is a noun. But in the sentence “I put on face paint last night”, “face” acts as an adjective which describes what kind of paint you used. Similarly, you could say “that is a computer room,” where the word “computer” is telling you about the room.

처음– First Time

처음 is a very complex word that be used in many situations. I have been studying Korean for years and I still don’t know how to use it perfectly in all situations. It can be used in sentences when you are talking about the first time something is being done. It can be used as a noun or an adverb, depending on the situation (which adds to it’s complexity). The two most common situations are:

1) 처음에 … (at first/in the beginning)
처음에 그 여자를 싫어했어요 = I didn’t like that girl at first
저는 처음에 체육 수업을 싫어했어요 = At first I didn’t like PE class

2) Put in a sentence as an adverb to indicate this is the first time something has happened:
저는 어제 선생님을 처음 만났어요 = I met my teacher for the first time yesterday
저는 내일 한국에 처음 갈 것입니다 = I will go to Korea for the first time tomorrow

You’ve gotten this far! You can’t stop now! Haha. The learning curve now is still fairly steep, but it will get much easier in the future. As I keep saying, having a good solid base in the fundamental grammar concepts of Korean will help you tons later on!


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