The law of large numbers

The large numbers have really caused me trouble so I thought that others might have experienced the same frustrations. Unfortunately you cannot just conveniently forget to learn the large numbers because Korean prices tend to contain an aweful lot of zeros.
I have found it a bit ridiculous that I would have these problems in the first place, because after all “there is a system!!!”, but unfortunately not all books make that system clear.

Here are the notes I have made with my language partner. I hope they will help you as well.

기수 numbers
서수 ordinal numbers (not covered in this post)

Native Korean:
Counting real objects or people


Use of commas:
In Korean, commas are used the same way as in they are in English, but the numbers are named in sets of 4 zeros instead of 3. This is where problems start for most non-Koreans because this means that you need to think differently to name the numbers than you do in English; you cannot just go by the commas.

These numbers have individual names in Korean:
10,000: 만
100,000,000: 억
1,000,000,000,000: 조

Numbers are made by combining the above 만, 억, 조 with 일, 십, 백, 천

As in English, Korean numbers are made up of ones, tens, hundreds, thousands and so on. Where non-Koreans tend to get in trouble is that the numbers mentioned right above have separate names unlike in English.

When you need to identify a number, you count backwards from the “ones” to figure out what the highest valued number is named.
The following list shows the number categories in ascending order, so you will go from the last digit to the first when naming them – just like in English:

일, 십, 백, 천, 만, 십만, 백만, 천만, 억, 십억….

Did you notice?
1) the 일-value is only mentioned at the end of the number (e.g. fifty-five)
2) all the numbers above 10,000 are made up of “sets of three”: 십-something, 백-something, 천-something.

7,850: 칠천 팔백 오십
150,000: 십오만
92,345 : 구만 이천 삼백 사십오
105,456: 십만 오천 사백 오십육 (pass by 0 and continue to 천)
205,650: 이십만 오천 육백 오십


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