Time and Numbers – Korean Numbers #3

One of the complaints I hear a lot from Korean learners is how to read time in Korean. It's really weird. When Koreans read time, it's like 한 시 사십오 분. The number for 시 is pure Korean and the number for 분 is Sino-Korean. They say, when they first learn Korean, they got amazed by the ease of Hangeul, but when they learn on, they become mad because there are so many ways of speaking the same thing.

Anyway, today's topic is this notorious time and numbers. Let's dig in.

Time of the Day

When we read the time of the day, Koreans use pure Korean numbers for hour and Sino-Korean numbers for minutes and seconds. So, it's like 열 시 십육 분, 아홉 시 삼 분, 네 시 이십칠 분, etc.

When you are talking about the exact hour, it's "the number o'clock sharp" in English like 4 o'clock sharp, or 8 sharp. It's 정각 in Korean.

6시 정각에 시작한다고 써 있기는 한데, 광고 때문에 정확히는 6시 10분에 시작해.
It says that the show will start on 6 o'clock sharp, but it will start at 6:10 because of the ads.

4시 정각에 보자고 했는데, 5시에 오는 거는 뭐냐?
I said that we should meet at 4 sharp, but why did you come here at 5?

A.M. and P.M. are 오전 and 오후 in Korean. You can use them like 오전 여섯 시 삼십 오 분, 오후 여덟 시 사십 분, etc. These words came from the word, 정오 meaning 12 o'clock or noon. 전 means before and 후 means after. You should notice that these 오전, 오후 is in front of the time, not after. It's the difference between Korean and English. Sadly, some people doesn't know this difference, so you can see some phrases like AM 6:00, PM 8:15 in some Korean documents.

오늘은 오전 6시부터 일을 해야 했다.
I had to work from 6 a.m. today.

내일 오후 10시.
10 p.m. tomorrow.

You can see this phrase a lot in KDrama ads.


When reading dates, you should use Sino-Korean numbers only.

오늘은 2016년 6월 13일이다.
Today is June 13th, 2016.

The order of date elements is different. In American English, it's month, date, year. In British English, it's date, month, year. However, it's year, month, date in Korean. Koreans don't use 6월 13일 2016년 or 13일 6월 2016년. It's really awkward.

Sadly, another exception here. 6월 is not [유궐], it's [유월]. 10월 is not [시붤], it's [시월]. You can find some people use [유궐] and [시붤], but 유월, 시월 are standard.

When reading years in English, you should read 2 numbers at a time. So, 1998 is not one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. It's nineteen ninety eight. But it's just 천 구백 구십 팔 년 in Korean. Number words are short in Korean, so we don't use that trick.

In our next episode, we'll learn more about time words. I'll tell you how to speak the period of time.