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Korean Counters


Learn how to count things in Korean. Counting uses pure Korean numbers, not Sino-Korean (Hanja) based numbers.

Detailed Explanation

In our previous Post on Korean Numbers, we went over the fact that:

Counting stuff primarily happens in Pure Korean (as opposed to Sino-Korean).

However, most other uses of numbers are Sino-Korean. This presents an interesting challenge when dealing with the following three questions:

  1. How much?
  2. How many?
  3. How long?
  • "How much?" is answered in Sino-Korean numbers.
    "얼마예요?" = "How much is it?" and a typical answer is "오천 원이예요."
  • "How many?" is answered in Pure Korean numbers AND requires a Counter.
    " 있어요?" = "How many are there?" and a typical answer is "다섯 있어요." (Here, is the counter. is the question word.)
  • "How long?" is answered in Sino-Korean numbers.
    "얼마나 걸려요?" = "How long will it take?" and a typical answer is "분만 걸려요." (This question uses the same 얼마 for "how much [time]" as the first question.)

To make matters even more confusing, 개 is not the only Counter in Korean. Rather, nearly anything that can be counted has its own Counter. For example, you can count:

  1. People (분/명)
  2. Animals (마리)
  3. Books (권)
  4. Bottles (병)
  5. Papers (장)
  6. Glasses (잔)
  7. Cars/Appliances/Large Electronics (대)
  8. Age (살)
  9. Flowers (송이)
  10. Shoes (켤레)

Additionally, the Pure Korean counting numbers are occasionally modified for smoother counting:

  1. 하나 (1) becomes 한 개
  2. 둘 (2) becomes 두 개
  3. 셋 (3) becomes 세 개
  4. 넷 (4) becomes 네 개
  5. 스물 (20) becomes 스무 개


  1. All the other Pure Korean numbers (like 다섯, 여섯, etc) don't change when counting.
  2. Even if you can't remember the specific Counter, you can use 개 as a default. It isn't right, but you'll be understood, especially while you're learning Korean.
  3. 몇 is the question word preceding all Counter questions. ("How many people?" = 몇 명/분? ; "How many things?" = 몇 개?)
  4. Time in hours is counted (한 시; 한 시간), but time in minutes and seconds is spoken with Sino-Korean (이십오 분; 삼십 초).


[table id=35 /]

One more thing to note: positions are counted with 번째 or 째:

  • 1st = 첫쩨/처 번째
  • 2nd = 둘째/두 번째
  • 3rd = 셋째/세 번째
  • 4th = 넷째/네 번째
  • 5th = 다섯 번째
  • 6th = 여섯 번째
  • 7th = 일곱 번째
  • 8th = 여덟 번째
  • 9th = 아홉 번째
  • 10th = 열 번째
  • 11th = 열한째
  • 12th = 열두 번째
  • etc...

More info about Korean Numbers.

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