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How To Count Numbers In Korean

1,2,3, Go!

Did you know that counting numbers in Korean required two systems? Counting numbers are the basic necessity for living. But, what we usually learn is there’s only one number system in our language, but that’s not the case in Korean language.

Wait, do not sweat yourself. Take a deep breath and continue reading, you will get it!

In Korean language, there are two number systems. The first one is called Sino-Korean numbers and the other one is Native Korean numbers.

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Sino-Korean Numbers

Sino number system came from Chinese characters (一, 二, 三, and so on.). The first 10 numbers are important in this context!

Let see the numbers:

0영 (yeong)
1일 (il)
2 이 (i)
3삼 (sam)
4사 (sa)
5오 (o)
6육 (yuk)
7칠 (chil)
8팔 (pal)
9구 (gu)
10십 (sib)

Number 11 to 99

Starting from 11 – 99 it is so easy! You just take the first number and the second number that you want to add!

So for 11 = 10 (sib) and 1 (il) = 11 (Sib-il).

Well for 20 there is a slight tweak there. Let’s check:

20 = 2 (i) and 10 (Sib) = 20 (i-sib) and not (Sib-i) which is 12.

[Note: it’s not plus, but you just put the number in front and replace the one in ten with 2, and the pronunciation will be starting with the front number and the number ten pronunciation].

So you can say in English that the ten in sino number is similar to the “ty” in “twenty” starting from 20 to 99. 

Still unsure? Let’s try different numbers:

40 = 4 (Sa) and 10 (Sib) = 40 (Sa-sib).
58 = 5 (O) and 10 (Sib) and 8 (Pal) = 58 (O-sib-pal).
99 = 9 (Gu) and 10 (Sib) and 9(Gu) = 99 (Gu-sib-gu).

[However, when it comes to number 16, the pronunciation is 심뉵 (Sim-nyuk) not (Sib-yuk) This is due to sound change rules and because it based from Chinese characters.

Got it? Now it’s your turn to try this numbers:

13, 30, 45, 55,91.

Number 100 and 1000

For 100 and above, we can’t say 10 and 0 (Sib and yeong). It has its own word and it is 백 (Baek).

Alright, so starting from now, you may replace the two zeros in 100 with number 1-99.

Example: 159: 100 and 50 and 9 = Baek and O-sib and Gu = Baek-o-sib-gu (159).

What about 200? 200 until 900, you just need to place its original number in front of the word Baek.

Example: 552 = O-Baek-o-sib-i.

As for 1000 천 (cheon), you just need to combine the hundred numbers (100-999) to the three zeros in 1000. 

1552 = Cheon-baek-o-sib-i (1000 and 500 and 50 and 2).
5521 = O-cheon-o-baek-i-sib-il (5000 and 500 and 20 and 1).

For the rest 1000 – 9000, you just need to replace the number in front with the basic number from 1-9! Simple right?

Numbers from 10,000 onwards

10,000 in Korean is  만 (man).

For 10,000 we are using a similar concept to previous numbers. You just add the numbers that you want based on 천, 백, and 십 in the three zeros!

Few examples: 
59,432 = O-man-gu-cheon-sa-baek-sam-sib-i (50,000 and 9,000 and 400 and 30 and 2).

11,111 = Man-cheon-baek-sib-il (10,000 and 1000 and 100 and 10 and 1).

So, it's not = Sib-il-man-baek-sib-il (eleven ten thousand one hundred and eleven)

The front part is just the number from 1 to 9. Another easy method, right?

Here’s the list of the numbers for you to try and add on the zeros!

20,000이만 (i-man)
30,000삼만 (sam-man)
40,000 (sa-man)
50,000 (o-man)
(Pronounced as yung-man)
80,000 (pal-man)

Number from 10,000 onwards

It is pretty simple from the information that you read above. Here’s the lists:

100,000십만 (sib-man)
1,000,000백만 (baeng-man)
10,000,000천만 (cheon-man)
100,000,000일억 (il-eok)
1,000,000,000십억 (sib-eok)
10,000,000,000 백억 (bae-geok)
100,000,000,000천억 (cheon-eok)

Usage of Sino-Korean Numbers

To be exact, Sino-Korean numbers is used in many settings, but the most common usage of it is when counting money, the Korean Won (원). You just need to put the 원 after the numbers.

Example: 100원/ 백원.

The Sino-Korean numbers are also used in conceptual numbers, units of measure, scores, date and addresses. 


  • 3rd January (삼월 삼일).
  • 3 months (삼 개월).
  • 7 cm (칠 센티미터).

Native Korean Numbers

Alright, here comes the next part. Native Korean numbers. These numbers may sound different than Sino-Korean numbers. Let’s start with 1 – 10.

1하나 (ha-na)
2 둘 (dul)
3셋 (set)
4넷 (net)
5 다섯 (da-seot)
6 여섯 (yeo-seot)
7 일곱 (il-gob)
8 여덟 (yeo-deol)
9아홉 (a-hob)
10열 (yeol)

Similar structure with Sino-Korean numbers, for 11, you just take the 10 and add number 1 after that. 

So it will be: 10 (열) and 1 (하나) = 11 (열 하나)  Same goes to 12, 13, 14, 15 until 19!

But here’s some unique thing where Native Korean numbers are only up to 99. After that, you are good to go and use Sino-Korean numbers! Not to worry, explanation will follow. 

Here’s the list for 20 until 90! The usage is just slightly different to Sino-Korean numbers. In Native Korean numbers, you can’t use number 10 for each multiple of 10 (20,30 etc.) but Native Korean numbers have their own number for each multiple. Similar to English (Ten, twenty nine, thirty five). 


  • 29 스물 아홉 (20 and 9).
  • 39 서른 아홉(30 and 9).
  • 49 마흔 아홉 (40 and 9).
20스물 (seu-mul)
30서른 (seo-reun)
40마흔 (ma-heun)
50쉰 (swin)
60예순 (ye-sun)
70일흔 (il-heun)
80여든 (yeo-deun)
90아흔 (a-heun)

Short Fact:

Actually there are numbers above 99 but it’s archaic and rarely used in quite a long time. 
Example: hundred (온), a thousand (즈믄).

Usage of Native Korean numbers

Native Korean numbers are used primarily for counting physical things ( cups, books, animals and other tangible things) but you have other applications where you used the counters. 

Here’s examples used with unit counters:

명 (Use for people)
한 명

마리 (Use for animals)
세 마리

개 (Use for general thing)
사과 한 개

살 (Use for age)
다섯 살

When counting, some numbers drop and silent the sound to make it easier for Korean to pronounce them. The numbers that usually drop are 1 to 4, and 20. 

  • 하나 ->한
  • 둘 -> 두
  • 셋 -> 세
  • 넷 -> 네
  • 스물 -> 스무 

Exception for usage of Sino-Numbers and Native-Korean numbers:

It seems that both numbers have their own purposes. You are right. But, there are certain cases that the numbers can be used for the same thing such as counting months. 

Korean used 개월 (Based on Chinese characters) and 달 (Native Korean). 

Example: Five months (오 개월 / 다섯 달).

Another exception is when counting time. Korean count time in hours using Native Korean numbers but use Sino-Korean numbers when counting the minutes and seconds.

Example: 오후 세시 삼십분 (3:30 p.m.).

Now try putting them to use. Whenever you see prices in supermarket, quiz yourself mentally. It helps to incorporate practice in your daily lives!

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