Korean Counters Part 1

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Today we will talk about Korean count words and numerals. Korean language uses specific counting words for specific objects and events. The concept of counter may be unfamiliar to English speakers. Let me give you an example. This is a piece of blank paper. And I have another paper. What do you call these in English? We say there are “two sheets of paper”. In this sentence “sheet” is the counting word. 

Korean numerals

Korean language has two sets of numerals, a native Korean system and a Sino-Korean system. Sino-Korean words are also called Hanja, they refer to Korean words of Chinese origin. Like I said in the previous video, many Korean words are from Chinese characters.

And even numbers are from Chinese characters! Let’s read these numbers together.

<Sino-Korean Numerals>

1 일

2 이

3 삼

4 사

5 오

6 육

7 칠

8 팔

9 구

10 십

20 이십

21 이십일

100 백

Sino-Korean numerals are used with some counting words, some words of Chinese origin. We’ll talk more about it later. Now let’s read native Korean numerals.

<Native Korean Numerals>

1 하나 (한)

2 둘 (두)

3 셋 (세)

4 넷 (네)

5 다섯

6 여섯

7 일곱

8 여덟

9 아홉

10 열

20 스물 (스무)

21 스물하나 (스물한)

100 백 


ore counters!

개 – things

The most common counter is “개”. This is a counter for things in general, so you can use it with almost every item. If you are not sure what the correct counting word is for a specific item, use 개.


젤리 맛있어? 나 한 개만 줘. Does that gummy taste good? Give me one.

하나는 너무 작으니까 세 개 줄게. One is too little, I’ll give you three.


참외 얼마에요? How much does the Korean melon cost?

다섯 개에 만 원입니다. KRW 10,000 for five.


명/사람/분 – people

There are 3 ways to count people in Korean. 명 and 사람 are both informal. 사람 means human or people in Korean. The correct counter for people is 명, but 사람 is also used as a counter. The honorific noun of 사람 is 분, so the formal counter of people is 분. 


너희 반에 학생이 몇 명이야? How many students are there in your class?

우리 반에는 스무 명밖에 없어. There are only 20 people in my class.


어제 영화 보러 갔는데 영화관에 사람이 나 외에 두 명밖에 없었어. I went to see a movie yesterday, and there were only two people except myself in the theater.

영화관에 세 명만? 좋았겠다! Only three people in the theater? Cool!

나머지 두 사람이 커플이어서 내가 방해하는 것 같았어. The other two were a couple. I felt like I was interrupting them.


(on telephone)

오늘 저녁 여섯 시에 식사 예약할 수 있을까요? Can I make a dinner reservation for 6PM this evening?

네 가능합니다. 몇 분이신가요? Yes it’s possible. How many people will you need the reservation for?

네 사람이요. 제 이름은 김수현입니다. Table for four please. My name is Suhyun Kim.

김수현 님 성함으로 네 분 오늘 저녁 여섯 시 예약되었습니다. 감사합니다. Table for four is reserved under your name. See you at 6 PM this evening, Ms Kim. Thank you.


마리 – animal

마리 is the count word for animals, and is used with native Korean numerals. 마리 is used for counting animals and insects. 


어제 자는데 방에 모기 한 마리가 들어와서 잠을 설쳤어. A mosquito came into my room last night. I could not sleep well.


집에 고양이 몇 마리 키워? How many cats do you have? 

세 마리. 세 마리 다 수컷이야. Three. They are all boys.


백한 마리 달마시안 영화 속편이 나온대! The sequel of 101 Dalmatians will be released soon!

정말? 어렸을 때 정말 좋아했던 영화인데! 강아지 한 마리도 키워본 적이 없어서 부러웠어. Really? I didn’t have any puppies in my life, so I really loved that movie when I was young!



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