The Korean language has two regularly used sets of numerals: a native Korean system and Sino-Korean system. The Native Korean number system is used for general counting, like counting up to 99. It's also used to count people, hours, objects, ages, and more. Sino-Korean numbers on the other hand are used for purposes such as dates, money, minutes, addresses, phone numbers, and numbers above 100.
For both native and Sino- Korean numerals, the teens (11 through 19) are represented by a combination of tens and the ones places. For instance, 15 would be sib-o (십오; 十五), but not usually il-sib-o in the Sino-Korean system, and yeol-daseot (열다섯) in native Korean. Twenty through ninety are likewise represented in this place-holding manner in the Sino-Korean system, while Native Korean has its own unique set of words, as can be seen in the chart below. The grouping of large numbers in Korean follows the Chinese tradition of myriads (10000) rather than thousands (1000). The Sino-Korean system is nearly entirely based on the Chinese numerals.
The distinction between the two numeral systems is very important. Everything that can be counted will use one of the two systems, but seldom both. Sino-Korean words are sometimes used to mark ordinal usage: yeol beon (열 번) means "ten times" while sip beon (십번; 十番) means "number ten."
When denoting the age of a person, one will usually use sal (살) for the native Korean numerals, and se (세; 歲) for Sino-Korean. For example, seumul-daseot sal (스물다섯 살) and i-sib-o se (이십오 세; 二十五 歲) both mean 'twenty-five-year-old'. See also East Asian age reckoning.
The Sino-Korean numerals are used to denote the minute of time. For example, sam-sib-o bun (삼십오 분; 三十五 分) means "__:35" or "thirty-five minutes." The native Korean numerals are used for the hours in the 12-hour system and for the hours 0:00 to 12:00 in the 24-hour system. The hours 13:00 to 24:00 in the 24-hour system are denoted using both the native Korean numerals and the Sino-Korean numerals. For example, se si (세 시) means '03:00' or '3:00 a.m./p.m.' and sip-chil si (십칠 시; 十七 時) or yeol-ilgop si (열일곱 시) means '17:00'.
Some of the native numbers take a different form in front of measure words:
|Number||Native Korean cardinals||Attributive forms of native Korean cardinals|
The descriptive forms for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 20 are formed by "dropping the last letter" from the original native cardinal, so to speak. Examples:
Something similar also occurs in some Sino-Korean cardinals:
The cardinals for three and four have alternative forms in front of some measure words:
Korean has several words formed with two or three consecutive numbers. Some of them have irregular or alternative forms.
As for counting days in native Korean, another set of unique words are used:
The native Korean saheul (사흘; three days) is often misunderstood as the Sino-Korean sail (사일; 四日; four days) due to similar sounds. The two words are different in origin and have different meanings.
|Number||Sino-Korean cardinals||Native Korean cardinals|
|0||零/空||영, 령 / 공||yeong, ryeong / gong||—||—|
|6||六||육, 륙||yuk, ryuk||여섯||yeoseot|
|16||十六||십육, 십륙||sim-nyuk, sip-ryuk [note 1]||열여섯||yeol-yeoseot|
|60||六十||육십, 륙십||yuk-sip, ryuk-sip||예순||yesun|
|10,000||萬||만||man||드먼 / 골[note 2]||deumeon /|
|1052 or 1056||恒河沙||항하사[note 4]||hanghasa||—||—|
|1056 or 1064||阿僧祇||아승기[note 4]||aseunggi||—||—|
|1060 or 1072||那由他||나유타[note 4]||nayuta||—||—|
|1064 or 1080||不可思議||불가사의[note 4]||bulgasaui||—||—|
|1068 or 1088||無量大數||무량대수[note 4]||muryangdaesu||—||—|
The initial consonants of measure words and numbers following the native cardinals 여덟 ("eight", only when the ㅂ is not pronounced) and 열 ("ten") become tensed consonants when possible. Thus for example:
Several numerals have long vowels, namely 둘 (two), 셋 (three) and 넷 (four), but these become short when combined with other numerals / nouns (such as in twelve, thirteen, fourteen and so on).
The usual liaison and consonant-tensing rules apply, so for example, 예순여섯 yesun-yeoseot (sixty-six) is pronounced like [예순녀섣] (yesun-nyeoseot) and 칠십 chil-sip (seventy) is pronounced like [칠씹] chil-ssip.
Beon (번; 番), ho (호; 號), cha (차; 次), and hoe (회; 回) are always used with Sino-Korean or Arabic ordinal numerals. For example, Yihoseon (이호선; 二號線) is Line Number Two in a metropolitan subway system. Samsipchilbeongukdo (37번국도; 37番國道) is highway number 37. They cannot be used interchangeably.
906호 (號) is 'Apt #906' in a mailing address. 906 without ho (호) is not used in spoken Korean to imply apartment number or office suite number. The special prefix je (제; 第) is usually used in combination with suffixes to designate a specific event in sequential things such as the Olympics.
In commerce or the financial sector, some hanja for each Sino-Korean numbers are replaced by alternative ones to prevent ambiguity or retouching.
|English||Hangul||Regular hanja||Financial hanja|
For verbally communicating number sequences such as phone numbers, ID numbers, etc., especially over the phone, native Korean numbers for 1 and 2 are sometimes substituted for the Sino-Korean numbers. For example, o-o-o hana-dul-hana-dul (오오오 하나둘하나둘) instead of o-o-o il-i-il-i (오오오 일이일이) for '555-1212', or sa-o-i-hana (사-오-이-하나) instead of sa-o-i-il (사-오-이-일) for '4521', because of the potential confusion between the two similar-sounding Sino-Korean numbers.
For the same reason, military transmissions are known to use mixed native Korean and Sino-Korean numerals:
공 하나 둘 삼 넷 오 여섯 칠 팔 아홉
gong hana dul sam net o yeoseot chil pal ahop