When you start learning any new language, learning the number system should be one of the first things you learn. After all, if you don’t know the numbers, how would you talk about your age, money, time and date, your height, weight… the list is endless. So in this post, we’re going to give you a complete guide to the Korean number system

Two Number Systems?

In Korean, we use two number systems. One is called Native-Korean numbers and the other is called Sino-Korean numbers - one is based on Korean language and the other is based on Chinese characters. As you continue to develop your Korean vocabulary knowledge, one thing you need to be aware of is that many Korean words (over 50%) originate from Chinese characters, and that’s why we have an entire number system based on Chinese characters.

You may be wondering whether you can just learn one number system and use it for everything. Unfortunately, a simple answer is no. In Korean, each number system has specific uses, so it’s absolutely vital that you learn both number systems and get used to them both as using both number systems is very common in everyday situations.

Native-Korean Numbers

The main use of Native-Korean numbers is to count things, so to count how many people there are in the room, how many cups of coffee you ordered, or how many books are in your bag, you use native-Korean numbers.

Good thing about Native-Korean numbers is that it’s only used up to 99, and to count numbers above 100, we use Sino-Korean numbers.

1. Numbers 1 to 10

Here are Native-Korean numbers 1 to 10.

  • 1 - 하나
  • 2 - 둘
  • 3 - 셋
  • 4 - 넷
  • 5 - 다섯
  • 6 - 여섯
  • 7 - 일곱
  • 8 - 여덟
  • 9 - 아홉
  • 10 - 열

2. Numbers 11 to 19

To make the numbers 11 to 19, you basically combine the word for 10 (열) and other single digit number words, so 11 is 10 (열) + 1 (하나), 열하나. Here are few other examples.
  • 13 - 열셋
  • 15 - 열다섯
  • 18 - 열여덟

3. Numbers 20 to 99

To make the numbers 20 to 99, we need to learn the double digit number words that end in 0.
  • 20 - 스물
  • 30 - 서른
  • 40 - 마흔
  • 50 - 쉰
  • 60 - 예순
  • 70 - 일흔
  • 80 - 여든
  • 90 - 아흔

Then to form the numbers between 20 and 99, we combine the double digit number words that end in 0 with single digit number words. So 24 is 20 (스물) + 4 (넷), 스물넷. Here are few more examples.

  • 32 - 서른둘
  • 48 - 마흔여덟
  • 67 - 예순일곱

4. How Native-Korean number is used.

The main use of Native-Korean numbers is to count things, so as mentioned before, we can use Native-Korean numbers to count people, objects, animals and so on. However, while we do use Native-Korean numbers to count most things, there are certain things where we may also use Sino-Korean numbers.

Read the blog post on ‘how to count in Korean’ to count in Korean’

Sino-Korean Numbers

Sino-Korean number is used from 0 to large numbers, so when we have to count things above 100 as well as many other things, such as talking about time and money, we use Sino-Korean numbers. Let’s take a look at how we form Sino-Korean numbers

1. Numbers 0 to 99

  • 0 - 영/공
  • 1 - 일
  • 2 - 이
  • 3 - 삼
  • 4 - 사
  • 5 - 오
  • 6 - 육
  • 7 - 칠
  • 8 - 팔
  • 9 - 구
  • 10 - 십

To form double digit numbers that end in 0, such as 20 and 30, we combine a single digit number word and the word for 10 (십). So 20 is 2 (이) + 10 (십), 이십. Here are few more examples.

  • 30 - 삼십
  • 50 - 오심
  • 80 - 팔십

Using the same principle, to form any number between 11 and 99, we then just add an additional single digit number word. So 24 is 20 (이십) + 4 (사), 이십사. Here are few more examples.

  • 17 - 십칠
  • 38 - 삼십팔
  • 59 - 오십구
  • 72 - 칠십이

2. 100’s & 1,000’s

To learn how to say the numbers in the 100 and 1,000 range, you just have to learn two more words,

  • 100 - 백
  • 1,000 - 천

And to form any number in 100 and 1,000 range, we use these words, as well as the numbers for 1 to 10. So to say 2350, it’s

  • 2,350 - 이천삼백오십
    • 2,000 - 이천
    • 300 - 삼백
    • 50 - 오십
So as you can see, we use 백(100) & 천(1,000) with other small number words to form large numbers. Here are few more examples.
  • 672 - 육백칠십이
    • 600 - 육백
    • 70 - 칠십
    • 2 - 이
  • 3,190
    • 3,000 - 삼천
    • 100 - 백
    • 90 - 구십
  • 4,052 - 사천오십이
    • 4,000 - 사천
    • 50 - 오십
    • 2 - 이

3. 10,000+

In English, there are specific number words at every 3 digits of 0, so these are:

  • 1,000 - thousand
  • 1,000,000 - million
  • 1,000,000,000 - billion

However in Korean, after thousand, we have a number word at 10,000, and every 4 digits of 0 after that, there are separate number words.

  • 10,000 - 만
  • 100,000,000 - 억
  • 1,000,000,000,000 - 조

Let’s first focus on the use of 만. Similar to how we formed numbers in 100 and 1,000 range, forming numbers in 10,000 range involves using the word for 만 and the words for smaller numbers. Here’s an example.

  • 60,520 - 육만오백이십
    • 60,000 - 육만
    • 500 - 오백
    • 20 - 이십
So as you can see, we use 만 with other smaller number words to form numbers in the 10,000 range. Here are two more examples.
  • 45,800 - 사만오천팔백
    • 40,000 - 사만
    • 5,000 - 오천
    • 800 - 팔백
  • 510,752 - 오십일만천칠백오십이
    • 510,000 - 오십일만
    • 1,000 - 천
    • 700 - 칠백
    • 50 - 오십
    • 2 - 이

Use of 억 (100,000,000) is, as you can imagine, not so common in everyday speech, but one of the most common uses of Sino-Korean numbers is to talk about money, and because of how the exchange rate works, ₩100,000,000 only equates to $100,000, so while it is a big number and it’s unlikely to be used too often in everyday speech, we can use it to talk about people’s salaries and to talk about property prices, so use of 억 is not that unusual in Korean.

Here are two numbers using 억 which could describe someone’s annual salary or a property price in Korea.

Annual Salary

  • 125,000,000 - 일억이천오백만
    • 100,000,000 - 일억
    • 25,000,000 - 이천(만)
    • 5,000,000 - 오백만
Property price
  • 450,500,000 - 사억오천오십만
    • 400,000,000 - 사억
    • 50,000,000 - 오천(만)
    • 500,000 - 오십만

4. How Sino-Korean number is used.

As mentioned before, although we generally use Native-Korean numbers to count things, we can also use Sino-Korean numbers to count certain nouns. However, the main use of Sino-Korean numbers is not to count things in Korean. The main use of Sino-Korean numbers is for the following.
  • To talk about money
  • To talk about time and date
    • We also use Native-Korean numbers to talk about time
  • To talk about phone numbers
  • To talk about any measurements, such as height, weight, speed, etc.

So in many ways, Sino-Korean numbers have a more broad range of uses as it’s used in many different areas, as well as for anything related to large numbers.

What next?

Now that you have learned how to form Korean numbers, why not read the following blog posts to learn more about how these number systems are used?

Related blog posts

[How to count in Korean]