Counting in Korean: A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Numbers

Counting numbers 1-10 in Native & Sino Korean

Learning the Korean numbers is necessary to read, write, and speak in Korean. In this article, we’ll show you how to count in Korean from 1–10.

The Korean number system is complex, but with a little practice, anyone can learn it! There are two different categories of numbers in Korean: Korean numbers and Sino-Korean numbers.

The two categories can cause some confusion, so let’s look at the differences between them, so you can learn how to count in Korean.

An Intro to Korean Numbers

What is Sino-Korean?

Sino-Korean refers to actual Korean words that originated in China or were influenced by Chinese words. About 60 percent of Korean vocabulary is Sino-Korean.

Tofu is a great example. Tofu is written as 두부 in Korean (read as dubu) and written as 豆腐 in hanja (Chinese characters).

Sino-Korean vocabulary also includes the Korean numbers used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Below is a list of numbers 1 to 10 in (native) Korean and Sino-Korean, so that you can see the difference in pronunciation and writing.

Korean Numbers 1-10

  • 1  하나 hana
  • 2  둘 dhul
  • 3 셋 sehtt
  • 4  넷 nehtt
  • 5  다섯 da-seot
  • 6 여섯 yeo-seot
  • 7  일곱 il-gop
  • 8 여덟 yuh-deol
  • 9 아홉 ah-hop
  • 10  열 yeol

Sino-Korean Numbers 1-10

  • 1 일 il
  • 2 이 i (pronounced as “e”)
  • 3  삼 sam
  • 4 사 sa
  • 5  오 o
  • 6 육 yuk
  • 7 칠 chil
  • 8 팔 pal
  • 9 구 gu
  • 10 십 ship

Remember, Sino-Korean numbers are used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Here’s an example:

If your friend asks you how long it’s been since you started studying Korean, you could answer: “나는 한국어 공부 시작한지 “셋” 일” (native Korean numbers).

This answer will show that it’s only been three days since you started studying Korean, but it will sound really awkward. The correct reply is:
“나는 한국어 공부 시작한지 “삼”일 됐어,” since you must use Sino-Korean when you’re talking about dates.

Patterns in Korean Numbers

Now that you know the difference between (native) Korean and Sino-Korean numbers, let’s look at the basic logic in the two numbering systems.

Consider this example:일, 이, 삼, 사, 오, 육, 칠, 팔, 구, and 십. You know now that this is a Sino-Korean numbering set. It’s used for dates, money, time, addresses, and numbers above 100.

Obviously, there are numbers, like 11, that go over 10. So how do you say/write 11 in Korean? Again, there is a logical consistency with numbers in Korean. You know 11 is a product of adding the numbers 10 and one.

You also know that 십 is 10 and 일 is one. When you add those two together, you get 11, algebraically, and you get “십일” in Korean.

What about 12? The same rule applies: 10 is 십 and two is 이. Add those two together and you get 십이. Can it be really be that easy? Yes!

The same rule applies to (native) Korean numbers: 하나, 둘, 셋, 넷, 다섯, 여섯, 일곱, 여덟, 아홉, and 열. These are the Korean numbers 1 – 10, so what’s 11? 열 is 10 and 하나 is one. When you add these together, you get 11, which is “열 하나” in Korean.

When the number exceeds 19 (열아홉 in Korean or 십구 in Sino-Korean), you will need a new number for 20, which is 스물 in (native) Korean  and 이십 in Sino-Korean.

After that, the counting logic still applies, so here’s how you can figure out 21 in Korean: It’s the product of  스물 (20) and 하나 (One). In Sino-Korean, combine 이십 (20) and 일 (one).

Whether you’re using Korean or Sino-Korean numbers, the same logic applies when it comes to adding numbers. For a visual reminder of Korean and Sino-Korean numbers, see the infographic below!

 

numbers 1-10 in native and sino Korean infographic

There you have it! The numbers in Korean may seem complex at first, but once you understand the basic principles and logic behind these two systems, it will be much easier to master counting.

Is there a certain Korean number you need help spelling or saying? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re ready to start learning more Korean today, search for a Korean teacher near you.

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