Learn numbers and counting in Korean: Charts, Pronunciation, Tools, and more

Posted by Habbi Habbi Guest Contributor on

In this post: We introduce numbers and counting in Korean. We start by laying out the two Korean number systems - how to pronounce them, when to use each, and a little bit of historical context. Learning Korean numbers and counting is an essential early skill for kids - which often comes naturally through exposure. Regardless of where you are, we hope this piece provides clarity and context for your Korean language journey!

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Table of contents 
  1. Two Korean number systems
  2. When to use Native vs Sino Korean numbers 
  3. Korean numbers: 0-20 (in both systems) 
  4. Korean numbers: 10-100 (in both systems) 
  5. Korean numbers: Above 100 (Sino-Korean) 
  6. Korean number systems within Habbi Habbi  

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Two Korean number systems

Counting Korean numbers is not as straightforward as it often is in other languages where 1, 2, 3 - is just that 1, 2, 3. In Korean, we have two number systems - what we call the Native Korean (순우리말) numbers and the Sino-Korean (한자) numbers.  

Both number systems are used regularly - but in different circumstances. At first glance, it may seem confusing when to use which. For example:

  • Typically, counting up uses Native Korean numbers while counting down uses Sino-Korean numbers

  • Telling time also uses both - with the “hour” being referred to in Native Korean numbers, and the minutes and seconds using Sino-Korean numbers. 

When do you use different Korean numbers (Native vs Sino Korean)?

As a general rule of thumb, one can use the following chart: 

Native Korean Numbers 
Sometimes called “Counting” #s 
Sino-Korean Numbers 
Derived from Chinese characters 
  • Counting people
  • Counting objects
  • Age
  • Time: hours 
  • Counting up numbers up to 99

     

     

         

    • Date (YYYY/MM/DD)
    • Money
    • Address
    • Time: minutes and seconds
    • Phone number
    • Distance 
    • Counting down numbers 
    • Typically used for 100+ (though Native Korean can also be used depending on the context) 

      For example: [Native Korean numbers] 

      • Age: “I’m 5 years old” → 나는 다섯(dă-sŭt)살이야
      • Counting people: “There were 10 people at the playground” → 놀이터에 열(yŭl)명이 있었어 

        For example: [Sino-Korean numbers]

        • Date: April 12 / 5월 12일 → 오(oh)월 십이(shib ee)일
        • Money: 10 dollars → 십(shib) 달러

          Korean numbers: 0-20 (in both systems)

          Native Korean Number System Sino-Korean Number System
          1 하나 (hă-nă) 일 (il)
          2 둘 (dool) 이 (ee)
          3 셋 (set) 삼 (săm)
          4 넷 (net) 사 (să)
          5 다섯 (dă-sŭt) 오 (oh)
          6 여섯 (yuh-sŭt) 육 (yook)
          7 일곱 (il-gob) 칠 (chil)
          8 여덟 (yŭ-dull) 팔 (păl)
          9 아홉 (ăhope) 구 (goo)
          10 열 (yŭl) 십 (shib)
          11 열하나 (yŭl hă-nă) 십일 (shib il)
          12 열둘 (yŭl dool) 십이 (shib ee)
          13 열셋 (yŭl set) 십삼 (shib săm)
          14 열넷 (yŭl net) 십사 (shib să)
          15 열다섯 (yŭl dă-sŭt) 십오 (shib oh)
          16 열여섯 (yŭl yŭ-sŭt) 십육 (shib yook)
          17 열일곱 (yŭl il-gob) 십칠 (shib chil)
          18 열여덟 (yŭl yŭ-dull) 십팔 (shib păl)
          19 열아홉 (yŭl ă-hope) 십구 (shib goo)
          20 스물 (soo mool) 이십 (ee shib)
          0 [Doesn’t exist!]  영 (young) OR 공 (gōng)
           
          Pronunciation
          • Vowels with curved sign above - short vowel sound (e.g. ă - /a/ as in apple, ŭ - /u/ as in umbrella)
          • Vowels with bar above - long vowel sound (e.g. ō - /o/ as in ocean) 

            Did you notice a pattern in the Korean number chart 0-20? 

            Did you notice that Korean numbers 11-19 in both number systems are just the words 1-9 with the word “ten” in front? Once we get to 20, the Sino-Korean number system uses the words “two” and “ten” to make “two tens,” or 20. 

            That’s the cool thing about numbers in Korean! Once you learn the first 10 basic numbers - and the groups of 10 (20, 30, 40, 50, etc.) - you can count up to 100 with ease in native Korean.

            Fun fact: There is no native Korean number “0”

            In the native Korean system, we don’t have a word for ‘zero.’ While there is much historical speculation about why this is the case, the general consensus is that there’s no native Korean word for ‘zero’ because the concept of ‘zero’ is Arabic, and therefore did not reach Korea until later. In fact, the word we use for zero - 영 (young) in Sino-Korean - is thought to have derived from the Chinese character 零 “fall out” or “nothing.”

            Korean numbers: 10-100 (in both systems)

            Numeral Native Korean Number System Sino-Korean Number System
            10 열 (yŭl) 십 (shib)
            20 스물 (soo mool) 이십 (ee shib)
            30 서른 (sŭ reun) 삼십 (săm shib)
            40 마흔 (mă heun) 사십 (să shib)
            50 쉰 (shwin) 오십 (o shib)
            60 예순 (ye soon) 육십 (yook shib)
            70 일흔 (il heun) 칠십 (chil shib)
            80 여든 (yŭ deun) 팔십 (păl shib)
            90 아흔 (ă heun) 구십 (goo shib)
            100 백 (bek)
            200 이백 (ee bek)
            1000 천 (chŭn)
            2000 이천 (ee chŭn)
            10000 만 (măn)
            20000 이만 (ee măn)
             

            Korean numbers above 100: Use Sino Korean numbers 

            For rounded numbers (100, 1000, 10000, and beyond) - Koreans use Sino-Korean. Fun fact: Native Korean numbers for 100, 1K, 10K are no longer commonly used or even known! 

            For any specific numbers above 100, we tend to use the Sino-Korean number system for simplicity - even though you can accurately say the tens and ones digits in Native Korean terms.   

            • For example: 120 people - can be said as “백스무명” (native Korean system) or “백이십명” (Sino-Korean system) 
            • Koreans lean towards whichever expression of tens and ones digits feels more convenient within the context of the conversation or what you are referring to, because saying the numbers in either system will still make sense. However, on the news for example, you will still hear anchors and reporters using Native Korean numbers even beyond 100 when talking about people or ages of people.

              Korean number systems in Habbi Habbi books

              As when learning any new language or concept, understanding the Korean number systems can initially seem complicated. However, with exposure and practice, you will find that you only need to know about 40 number names in order to be able to count in Korean. 

              For those who have the Habbi Habbi books in Korean, you will notice how these concepts manifest in our books: 


              Habbi Habbi Korean numbersHabbi Habbi Book of First Words | We printed both number systems so that children can hear both ways of counting. When tapping the illustration, you will hear the illustrated object counted in native Korean numbers since it involves counting. In addition, you will notice that the number is followed by a counter word which explains the kind of object you are counting.

              For example, we use the counter word “대” (dae) to count transportation/vehicles such as planes, cars, and buses, so when you tap on the plane, you will hear “비행기 한 대” (literal: airplane one *counter dae), where as for animals, you will hear “마리” (mări), like this: “물고기 네 마리” (literal: fish four *counter mări).

              Habbi Habbi Korean counting timeHabbi Habbi Book of First Phrases | In this book, we read time. We say the hour in native Korean numbers, and the minutes and seconds in Sino-Korean numbers. The times in the speech bubbles only show exact hours. Therefore, you will hear native Korean numbers: It’s 7am - 아침 (acheem - morning) 7시야 (il-gob - seven; shi - hour counter). 

              The clock in the middle however shows 9:10 (AM), which means that when you tap, you will hear the hour in native Korean, and the minutes in Sino-Korean: 

              • 아침 (acheem - morning) 
              • 아홉시 (ăhope - nine; shi - hour counter) 
              • 십분 (shib - 10; boon - minutes counter).

                Habbi Habbi Korean countingHabbi Habbi Apples + Arithmetic | The book itself is great at modeling Korean counting and arithmetic expressions, but we paid particular attention to the “counting up/down to 10” pages. 

                In this book, kids will hear both ways of counting: 

                • Native Korean numbers when tapping on the apples 
                • Sino-Korean numbers when tapping on the numerals
                • Both when tapping on the printed words (depending which word tapped) 

                  Tapping apples: Why we count in Native Korean - We count up and down with apples on the first pages, and you can arguably count in multiple ways: 

                  • Option 1: Koreans usually count up in Native Korean and count down in Sino-Korean.
                  • Option 2: Use Native Korean for both counting up and down - because we are counting apples and counting objects is done in Native Korean 
                  • We decided to go with Option 2 but wanted to acknowledge the consideration and options that might come up! 

                    Tapping numerals: We count in Sino-Korean - Even though this is different from the apples, we used Sino-Korean for the numerals to provide additional vocabulary - and because this is the number system used for adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing. 


                    Habbi Habbi Korean months of yearHabbi Habbi Book of Seasons | When saying names of the month, we use Sino-Korean numbers, which you will see reflected throughout every page of the Book of Seasons, especially when you tap the last page with the twelve months of the year.

                    In summary, we put a lot of love, consideration, and thought in our content - what and how to lay it out. We hope you find it useful and have fun learning and practicing through them! 

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                    Habbi Habbi _ Korean Numbers & Counting

                    Check out more bilingual resources from Habbi Habbi 

                    We have lots more (fun stuff!) here at Habbi Habbi. You can explore our library of free bilingual printables or resource blog. And of course, we have our much loved magical Reading Wand, books, puzzles & flashcards. Our tools are currently available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Korean, and Hindi. 

                    About our lovely guest Contributor: Joohee 

                    Joohee Baik, Ed.M & Habbi Habbi's Korean Language Lead - I am an early childhood/elementary educator, and have taught kindergarten (traditional and dual language programs), 2nd grade, and 4th grade in U.S. public schools across several states. I recently moved to California and am taking some time away from teaching as my family expands! Personally, I have always loved learning languages – language is so powerful! I am fluent in 3 languages, still practicing 2 others, and ambitiously wanting to learn a new 6th. Professionally, my passion is in multilingual education and development of diverse, accessible language and literacy resources for educators, students and families, and am ecstatic to have the opportunity to contribute to Habbi Habbi in its work.

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