Category Archives: Numbers and counters

Worksheet: Numbers

It has taken me quiiiiite a while to get the hang of the Korean numbers.
Therefore I was really happy when I found several exercises in Chapter 9 of Basic Korean – A Grammar and Workbook (by Andrew Sangpil Byon).

I have taken 4 of the exercises from the book and written into a practice sheet so that you guys also have the possibility to practice.

There are two exercises for native Korean numbers and two for sino-Korean numbers. The first consists of translating translate numbers written in 한글 into figures, and the second is translating figures into 한글. Great practice.

I could have sat down and just made a list myself (as you can as well), but the beauty of the exercises from the book is that all of them have answer keys so I won’t end up misleading you through any systemic mistakes I might make. I will, however, not add more exercises for numbers from this book for copyright reasons.

I rediscovered this book just a few days ago can greatly recommend it. I will add doing a review of it to my to-do list so you can see what it contains and why I like it.

Answers will be added shortly in a separate document.

Download worksheet in pdf-format:Worksheet, numbers

Numbers revisited

I have moved a bit closer to remembering the Korean number systems and learned a new term relating to age 🙂 here are my notes in case you can use them too.

Native Korean numbers:
– Age
– Ordinal numbers, e.g. giving orders and telling someone what to do first, second, and third. Notice 첫 번제 for “first”.
– Before counters
– Telling the time: Hours only

20: 스물
30: 서른
40: 마흔
50: 쉰
60: 예순
70: 일흔
80: 여든
90: 아흔

More about age:
Since all Koreans age by one year on Korean New Year rather than on their birthdays there is a term for those who were born in one calendar year, but are considered a year older since they were born before Korean New Year that year:
빠른 xx : 빠른 92 [빠른 구이] ~ born in ’92 but as old as those born in ’91. Literally someone who was born “quickly” in ’92 and therefore happens to be a year older than someone born later in the same calendar year.

More about time:
정오: noon
오전: before noon
오후: after noon
This is said before telling the time so the listener is already mentally prepared for whether you mean before or after noon when hearing the time.

Chinese numbers:
– Floors in a building
– Telling the time: minutes and seconds
– ID/social security numbers

Really, really formal situations can warrant using Chinese numbers rather than native Korean numbers in cases where you would normally use Native Korean numbers. For instance in the army they take formality a notch higher than regular society and will use Chinese numbers in the following instances – even if sounds odd to a regular Korean:
– Age
– Hours
– Before counters

More about the number zero:
영: zero (0.0000001%)
빵: zero (빵 점 ~ zero points e.g. in an exam)
공: zero (in phone numbers. Many Korean mobile phone numbers start with 010- which is pronounced 공-일-공-에, the “에” being the dash).

살 and 살

살 ~ counter for age
몇 살이에요? ~ how old are you?
스물세 살이에요 ~ I’m 23 years old

살 ~ flesh, fat
살이 찌다 ~ to gain weight
저 사람은 찔까요? ~ didn’t she gain weight?

My own mnemonic:
What do most women not want? To be considered old or fat – and especially not both at the same time. The Koreans have just been kind enough to provide us with one word that can be used to express both…

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