What Time is it?

Telling the time (시간 – shican) in Korean is a little complicated especially if you are not familiar with the Native and Sino-Korean Numbers.  Generally, in expressing time in Korea, the Native Korean numbers are used for the hours while for the minutes the Sino-Korean is used. Basic formula would be:

  • Hours: Native Korean number followed by -시 (shi) which stands for o’clock (this is to mark the hour)
  • Minutes: Sino-Korean number followed by -분 (pun) which stands for minutes

So to say 1:40, it’s 한 시 사십 분 (han shi saship pun).  There is also a marker used to express half past an hour.  Like when you normally would state in English half past 12 o’clock, half past the said hour is expressed using the marker 반 (ban). Therefore this will be 열두 시 반 (yeoldu shi ban) in Korean.

To be more precise in expressing the time, AM (in the morning) and PM (in the afternoon) is normally added after the time.   While in English this indicators are placed after the hour, in Korean, this can be found in the beginning of the time expression:

  • 아침 (achim) or 오전 (ocheon) for AM or morning
  • 오후 (ohu) for PM specifically afternoon
  • 밤 (bam) for PM specifically evening


  • 아침 한 시 사십 분 (achim han shi mahun pun) is 1:40 am.  Literally its Morning or AM 1:40.
  • 오후 한 시 사십 분 (ohu han shi mahun pun)  1:40 pm
  • 밤 열 시 일십 분 (bam yeol shi ilship pun) is 10:10 pm or 10:30 in the evening

Counting Years

This post reminds me of the song from my favorite Korean R&B singer 일년 이면 (ilyon imyon) which literally means One Year Passed but the English title is official A Year Has Passed.  Learning about numbers made me realize that 일년 does no necessarily mean year alone.

Anyway similar to how weeks are counted, both Native and Sino-Korean numbers can be used to count years, the only difference is the marker.  For Native Korean numbers it is followed by the marker 해 (hae) and for Sino-Korean number it’s 년 (nyon). So to say 2 years in Korean one may be able to hear 두해 (du hae) or 이년 (inyon).

However, it’s more common to hear counting of years using the Sino-Korean numbers rather than the native ones when its more than 2 years. 

Counting Weeks

It’s really all about numbers and counting right now. 

Counting weeks allows both the use of the Native and Sino-Korean numbers although the latter is preferred.  Numeral expression for weeks can be as follows:

  • 주일 (ju-il) which is literally weeks
  • 주간 (ju-kan) means similar to in weeks time or

So to say one week, we can either use 일 주일 (il ju-il) or  한 주일 (han ju-il).  Replace 한 with 세 or 삼 then you have 3 weeks in Native and Sino-Korean respectively.  Remember the rule with 하나, 둘, 셋 and 넷 when used before counter/noun it counts (the last sound is dropped).  Another tip is that when counting weeks the Sino-Korean way, removing 일 (il) would leave 주 (ju) and it will still mean week such that 일 주일  would still mean one week even if its 일 주.

For the expression like:

  • Q:  How long will it take to finish the project?
  • A:  In four weeks time.

The answer (A) can be expressed as 네 주간 있어요 (Ne jukan issoyo).  This expression is more suitable for stating limit or scope using week as period of measure as in completion of something.

Classifiers – Markers for Counting

I have been mentioning about markers on my previous posts regarding numbers.  This is one characteristics of the Korean Language.  They use certain markers to classify what is being counted.  They are normally called Classfier, Counter or Marker.  Today, I am posting about these markers and some of the rules to follow in using it.

It’s really hard to explain the counterpart in English as some do not have any equivalent.  Like when you want to say 5 dogs, that is it in English but in Korean it can be expressed as  개 다 마리 (kae da mari) which is directly translated as dog 5 mari.  Mari is the classifer which do not have an English counter part.  As mentioned in my previous post on Native Korean numerals, mari is used to indicate that animals or fish is being counted.

Below are Classifiers used with Native Korean Numbers, note that those preceeded with (-) cannot used independently as noun the other therefore can be used as a stand-alone noun if needed:

For the above mentioned classfiers, Sino-Korean numbers can also be used for numbers 20 and above, therefore, one can encounter 60 bottles as either 예순 병 (yesun byong) or 육십 병 (yokship byong).

Below are Classifiers used with Sino Korean Numbers:

It’s good to note that in both cases the classifier -분  can be used with Native or Sino-Korean number, the meaning (minutes or esteemed person) can be derived based on the content of the sentence.

Sino-Korean Numbers

Given that the native Korean numbers are just up to 99, the numbers borrowed from Chinese called Sino-Korean Numbers are therefore widely used purely or in combination with Native Korean numerals.  Check the link to know the Sino Korean Numbers.

Sino Korean numbers are generally used to express the following:

  • Dates (시월 십일 – shiwol ship-il or October 10)
  • Money (이천 원 – ichon won or 2000 WON)
  • Foreign loan words
  • Minutes and Seconds (hours are expressed using Native Korean numbers)

Years are normally counted using the Sino-Korean numbers followed by marker 년 (-nyon) which means year, an example would be 삼년 (samnyon) – 3 years.  Counting years in Native Korean number is acceptable although it is a common practice to use this numeral up 2 years and it is followed by marker 해 (hae) instead of inyon. 

Native Korean Numbers

On this post, I wanted to focus more on the Native Korean numerals which is surprisingly up to 99 only.  As mentiond in the Korean Number section for numbers above 99 the Sino-Korean are used.   The formula is also provided in that page.

There are peculiarities in using the Native Korean numbers.  하나 (hana), 둘 (dul), 셋 (set) and 넷 (net)  which are 1..2..3…4 respectively drops the last sound before the word it counts.  Note that the character ㅅ in 셋 (set) and 넷 (net) are pronounced as ‘t’ when it occurs as final consonant.  As an example, instead of saying 하나 잭 hana chaek , you will only hear ha chaek which means one book.  This goes the same for 둘, 셋 and 넷 which will be written and pronounced du, se and ne.  This rule applies to count number 20 스물 (seumul) which drop the sound ‘l’ as well when used right before the word that its counting.

Furthermore, 셋 (3)  and 넷 (4)  are pronounced as sok and nek respectively if the noun or counter it follows begin with ㄷor ㅈ.

There are also counters that is being used along with Native Korean numbers.  Counters are like identifiers of the item being counted, its hard to tell the counterpart for in some there is non.  Like we can say 3 chickens or 3 head of chicken in English but in  Korean its just 3 chicken –>닭 세 마리 (dal se mari) literally this is chicken (닭) 3 (세, remember the rule drop the last sound).  Now 마리 (mari) is actually a counter or classfier. This is something which do not have counter part in English maybe comparable to school as in school of fish or herd of cows etc.  This classifier is used for counting animals and fish.

There are a lot of classifiers or counters that goes with Native Korean numerals I will discuss this in my next post.

Dealing with Numbers

My post for new year  of 2008 was mainly numbers in Korean.  I specifically learned to count 1 to 10 and suceeding numbers in mutiples of 10 such as 20, 30, 40 etc.  I was a bit reluctant to to learn further on numbers as I am more interested in learning the parts of speech, particles and rules.  There is one chapter of the book Elementary Korean that deals with number.  I did not know what I am missing until I read this chapter.

The first set of numbers I have learned are the native Korean numbers.  So if there is native way of numeral expression then there is borrowed which is the Sino-Korean.  This form of counting is borrowed from Chinese as the name Sino suggests.

Some general information on numeral expression, first, the native Korean numbers are up to 99 only anything up is counted or expressed using the Sino-Korean numbers.  Due to the list of numbers, i have decided to put up a separate page for this numbers.   Just click on the link to see the numerals.

The page also explains the system or pattern in stating and writing compound numbers like 101, 32 or 1450.  Numbers are important, when I went to Korea last April, I was foolish not to give importance to this so I end up doing sign language when paying food or merchandise on the street/market.  Keeping in mind the Sino-Korean numbers are helpful as money is counted using this.

Ways to say ‘Like’

This post is all about ways to say ‘like’ or similar to make it clear.  Like as in ‘I like you’ is expressed as 좋아해요 (choahaeyo).  There are two way to say like<something>, where something pertains to a noun actually in the Korean structure the order is <something>like or <noun>like.

The two new words for today is 처럼 (cheoreom) and 같이 (kati). So the formula is <noun>처럼 or 같이.  So when you want to say like a man, this phrase can be said two ways 남자처럼 or  남자같이. 

Now that is easy, however to express ‘be like a noun’ the word used is 같아 (kata) or 같아요 (katayo).  Here is an example:  Our teacher Ms.Lee is like a singer.  이 선생님은 가수을 같아요 (Lee Seonsaengnim is like a singer)

Expressing ‘I want to be…’

My previous post is on the use of the descriptive auxilliary verb -고 싶어 (-go shipo). As I mentioned it’s used to express own desires, wishes or wants.  Exemptions are mentioned in the post, it cannot be used to express other’s people’s wishes.  Another exemption is what I am posting today.

When you want to say ‘I want to be a pilot’,  this auxilliary verb cannot be used along with the copula 이에요 (i-e-yo).  This copula as mentioned in my previous post could mean to be like or establish existence.  So you can’t say  초종사가 하고 싶어이에요 (chojongsaga hago shipoieyo).  Instead, to express I want to be or to become <noun>,  the verb 되 should be used (dwe which means to become).  Therefore,

나는 초종사가 고 싶어요 (Nanun chojongsaga dwego shipoyo) is the right way to say I want to become a pilot. Removing Nanun would still mean the same, as subject can be removed is Korean statements.

Expressing Wants using 싶어 (Shipo)

This is one of the most useful words in Korean.  싶어 is an auxilliary verb in the infinitive form, the base is 싶.  When used it is usually follows this pattern base form of a processive verb with -고 (go) attached to it and then  싶어 (shipo).  In formula its like:

base form of verb+고<space> 싶어

A classic example is 보 (bo) which means ‘see’ it’s commonly used with 싶어.  This phrase 보고 싶어 (bogo shipo) means want to see, it likewise means I miss you.  You might be wondering where is ‘you’ in that phrase, as you know in Korean subject in a sentence can actually be dropped such that 보고 싶어  is already an intimate way of saying I want to see you or I miss you.  Add 요 (yo) then the statement becomes in  polite form, 보고 싶어요 (bogo shipoyo) that is.  

  • 살고 싶어 (salko shipo means want to live or wish to leave)
  • 하고 싶어 (hago shipo mean want to do or wish to do in this case the verbal noun or noun marked by particle 를/을 should preceed 하고 )

싶어 is used in a sentence to express 1st person (I/we want) wants, desires or wishes and can not be used to express want or desires of another person.  It  can be used in though 2nd person (do you want..) questions. 

To use this auxilliary verb for 3rd person statements or questions (he,she, they, it) the pattern should be <base form of processive verb>+고 then followed by 싶어요.  Instead of 싶어, the verb takes the form 싶어하.

Always remember descriptive verb cannot be directly attached to 고. As discussed previouslt descriptive verb are those that are non-separable.  By saying non-separable, it means the verb cannot be transformed to pattern verb+object particle 을/를 followed by 해요 (haeyo is the versitile processive verb which means does or performs something). Most importantly this is used to express ONE’s wish or desire.

I’ll be posting more on this auxilliary verb…