How to Read Numbers in Korean – Numbers #2

Korean has 3 number systems, they are pure Korean numbers, Sino-Korean numbers, and the ordinal numbers. The ordinal numbers are like first, second, third in English, and that is not our topic today. In this episode, I'll tell you about pure Korean numbers and Sino-Korean numbers and how to use them.

Pure Korean Numbers

Pure Korean numbers are like below.

하나(1), 둘(2), 셋(3), 넷(4), 다섯(5), 여섯(6), 일곱(7), 여덟(8), 아홉(9)
열(10), 스물(20), 서른(30), 마흔(40), 쉰(50), 예순(60), 일흔(70), 여든(80), 아흔(90)

Like English, you should remember 10 words separately. Other words are combination of these words, if you want to say 34, then it is 서른 넷. If 57, it's 쉰 일곱. As for 98, it's 아흔 여덟.

There used to be pure Korean words for 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000,000 like 온, 즈믄, 골, 잘, 울, but they are all dead. They are quiz show words.

Pure Korean numbers are used to count below 100. If you really want to count more than 100 with pure Korean words, then you should use hybrid style, Sino-Korean numbers for over 100 and pure Korean numbers for below 100 like 백 열 둘(112), 삼백 쉰 여섯(356), etc.

Sino-Korean Numbers

Sino-Korean numbers are like below.

일(1), 이(2), 삼(3), 사(4), 오(5), 육(6), 칠(7), 팔(8), 구(9)
십(10), 이십(20), 삼십(30), …

Unlike English and pure Korean numbers, it's really easy to count 10 numbers. Just insert the related number in front of 십, then it becomes the word. For example, if you want to speak fifty, then it's 오십. Eighty is 팔십. Seventy is 칠십.

Like pure Korean numbers, just add number after it to speak numbers below 100, 52 is 오십이, 63 is 육십삼, etc.

One thing to note is that when 육(6) is next to some bigger numbers, it sounds like [뉵]. The basic sound for 육 is actually, [륙]. As ㄹ is after ㅂ, ㅂ becomes ㅁ and ㄹ becomes ㄴ, it is like [삼심뉵] for 36, [구심뉵] for 96.

Numbers are finished, so let's learn how to count items.

How to count

The general rule of counting is this:

When the number of item is below 20, then use pure Korean numbers. Otherwise, use Sino-Korean numbers.

Let's see them with examples.

다섯 사람이 모여서 사업에 대해 이야기하고 있다.
Five people are talking about their businesses.

연필은 여섯 자루면 충분하겠지?
6 pencils are sufficient. Right?

종이 삼십 장을 써 봤는데 다 실패했어.
I've used 30 sheets of paper, but failed everything.

한, 두, 세, 네, 스무

We've learned pure Korean words, 하나(1), 둘(2), 셋(3), 넷(4), 스물(20). Sadly, when these words are in front of counting words, they change. They become 한, 두, 세, 네, 스무.

한 명이 할 수 있는 일이 아니야.
It's not a work that can be done alone.

두 장이면 충분하지?
2 sheets are sufficient. Isn't it?

스무 개나 줬는데 벌써 다 썼다고?
I gave you 20, but you used all of them?

Over 20.

You can also use pure Korean numbers even if it is over 19. However, Sino-Korean numbers are used more frequently because it's easier.

종이 서른 장을 써 봤는데 다 실패했어.
이십 개나 줬는데 벌써 다 썼다고?

However, don't use Sino-Korean numbers for 1-19. It's really awkward. No Korean speaks like 오 장(5 sheets), 칠 병(7 bottles), etc.