Native Korean Numbers – Beginner’s Guide for Counting in Hangeul

The Native Korean numbers are one of the counting systems used in Korea. The numbers look like this:

  • 1: 하나 (hana)
  • 2: 둘 (dul)
  • 3: 셋 (set)
  • 4: 넷 (net)
  • 5: 다섯 (daseot)

If your goal is to be able to communicate comfortably in everyday situations, it’s important to get the hang of Native Korean numbers. We’ll cover everything you need to know in the article below.

Cards labeled 1 and 99, a clock and a birthday cake

By the end of this guide, you’re going to be able to count from 1 to 99, talk about your age, and express what time it is in Korean. 

Let’s get to it!

Quick Summary

  • Two number systems are used in Korea: Native Korean number and Sino-Korean number systems.
  • They serve different purposes. Native Korean numbers are mainly used for things like counting objects, age, hours, and quantifiable items.
  • Before learning Native Korean Numbers, learn Sino-Korean numbers first, as they tend to be simpler to pronounce and easier to remember.
  • The Native Korean number system only goes up to 99.

What are Native Korean Numbers?

Native Korean numbers were the original way Koreans counted and expressed numbers before the Sino-Korean system (일 (il), 이 (i), 삼 (sam), etc.) came into use.

The Native Korean counting system has been used since the early days of communication, and it has been growing and changing alongside the Korean language.

While Native Korean numbers are important for cultural and linguistic identity, they are also used in daily conversations for these specific contexts:

  • Objects: For small quantities (usually up to 99), though Sino-Korean numbers are also used depending on the context.
  • Age: When talking about someone’s age.
  • Hours: In telling time, especially the hours part of the clock.
  • Ordinal numbers: When expressing ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) in some contexts.
  • Quantifiable items: Certain items, such as the number of times an action is performed or the number of siblings one has.

Basics of Native Korean Numbers (1-10)

Now, let’s head on to the actual numbers! Let’s start with the Native Korean numbers from 1 through 10.

1: 하나 (hana)

2: 둘 (dul)

3: 셋 (set)

4: 넷 (net)

5: 다섯 (daseot)

6: 여섯 (yeoseot)

7: 일곱 (ilgop)

8: 여덟 (yeodeol)

9: 아홉 (ahop)

10: 열 (yeol)

We’ll cover some common examples in daily life below. 

Counting words used for Native Korean numbers

In Korean, specific Korean counters are used with Native Korean numbers to count objects, people, and animals. These counting words are a fundamental part of the Korean language. They are essential for specifying the type of object or action being counted.

Here are some of the most commonly used Korean counters and when they’re used:

개 (gae): This is the most common counter word for objects.


1. 사과 다섯 (sagwa daseot gae)

five apples

명 (myeong): only used for counting people.


1. 학생 세 (haksaeng se myeong)

three students

마리 (mari): Used for counting animals.


1. 고양이 두 마리 (goyangi du mari)

two cats

번 (beon): Used for counting occurrences or instances of an action.


1. 세 뛰어요 (se beon ttwieoyo)

Jump three times

채 (chae): Used for counting houses or buildings.


1. 집 두 (jip du chae)

two houses

대 (dae): Used for counting machines or vehicles.


1. 자동차 다섯 (jadongcha daseot dae)

five cars

장 (jang): Used for counting flat objects, like pieces of paper.


1. 종이 열 (jongi yeol jang)

ten sheets of paper

병 (byeong): Used for counting bottles.


1. 물 네 (mul ne byeong)

four bottles of water

Spelling changes when using counters with Native Korean Numbers

There are a few numbers that have spelling changes when used with counters. They are:

  • 하나 (hana) –> 한 (han) –> 한 개 (han gae)
  • 둘 (deul) –> 두 (du) –> 두 개 (du gae)
  • 셋 (set) –> 세 (se) –> 세 개 (se gae)
  • 넷 (net) –> 네 (ne) –> 네 개 (ne gae)

Examples of using counters with Native Korean Numbers

Below are some example sentences using the native Korean number system in various situations.

Counting objects and things

1. 사과 개 있어요. (sagwa han gae isseoyo)

I have one apple.

2. 저는 고양이를 마리 키우고 있어요. (jeoneun goyangireul du mari kiugo isseoyo)

I am raising two cats.

Telling time (hours)

1. 지금은 아홉 시입니다. (jigeumeun ahop siimnida)

It is nine o’clock now.

2. 학교는 여섯 시에 끝나요. (hakgyoneun yeoseot sie kkeunnayo)

School ends at six o’clock.

Talking about age

1. 저는 스물세 살입니다. (jeoneun seumulse sarimnida)

I am twenty-three.

2. 우리 강아지는 일곱 살이에요. (uri gangajineun ilgop sarieyo.)

Our puppy is seven years old.

When ordering food or drinks

1. 김밥 주세요. (gimbap du jul juseyo)

Please give me two rolls of kimbap.

2. 맥주 병 주세요. (maekju se byeong juseyo)

Please give me three bottles of beer.

Counting number of times

1. 저는 일주일에 네 번 운동해요. (jeoneun iljuire ne beon undonghaeyo)

I exercise four times a week.

2. 이번 주에는 세 번 만났어요. (ibeon jueneun se beon mannasseoyo)

We met three times this week.

Forming Double-Digit Numbers (11-99)

Heading on to the next level of learning to count in Korean: double-digit numbers.

How to form numbers 11 through 19

To form numbers 11 through 19 in Native Korean, you start with the number 10 (열) and then add the numbers 1 through 9. Here’s the pattern:

Pattern: Ten (열) + number

11: 열하나 (yeolhana) – Ten (열) + One (하나)

12: 열둘 (yeoldul) – Ten (열) + Two (둘)

13: 열셋 (yeolset) – Ten (열) + Three (셋)

14: 열넷 (yeolnet) – Ten (열) + Four (넷)

15: 열다섯 (yeoldaseot) – Ten (열) + Five (다섯)

16: 열여섯 (yeolyeoseot) – Ten (열) + Six (여섯)

17: 열일곱 (yeolilgop) – Ten (열) + Seven (일곱)

18: 열여덟 (yeolyeodeol) – Ten (열) + Eight (여덟)

19: 열아홉 (yeolahop) – Ten (열) + Nine (아홉)

The pattern for creating numbers 20 through 99

For numbers 20 through 99, you use the tens (20, 30, 40, etc.) followed by the units (1 through 9). There is no pattern for the tens in Native Korean numbers, so you have to memorize them as you did for 1 -10. Here are the tens from 20 to 90:

20: 스물 (seumul)

30: 서른 (seoreun)

40: 마흔 (maheun)

50: 쉰 (swin)

60: 예순 (yesun)

70: 일흔 (ilheun)

80: 여든 (yeodeun)

90: 아흔 (aheun)

For numbers in between the tens, there is a pattern. Here is how it works.

Pattern: tens + number

21: 스물하나 (seumul-hana) – Twenty (스물) + One (하나)

37: 서른일곱 (seoreun-ilgop) – Thirty (서른) + Seven (일곱)

42: 마흔넷 (maheun-net) – Forty (마흔) +Four (넷)

86: 여든여섯 (yeodeun-yeoseot) – Eighty (여든) + Six (여섯)

Beyond 100: Large Numbers in Native Korean

To count in hundreds, thousands, and beyond, Koreans typically use the Sino-Korean number system rather than the Native Korean system.

In historical contexts, there were some Native Korean words used for large numbers, such as 온 (on) for 100, 즈믄 (jeumeun) for 1000, and 골 (gol) for 10000. However, these are rarely used today.

How to use Native Korean Numbers

Here’s a guide on how to use Native Korean numbers for age, counting objects, and describing the order in sequences correctly.

Counting Age

Native Korean numbers are used to express age up to 99 in general. However, it’s common to use Sino-Korean numbers for ages as well, in formal settings. For this reason, a different counter word that is derived from the Chinese word, 세 (se), is used instead of 살 (sal).

Common Mistake: Using Sino-Korean numbers for informal conversations about age

✅ Correct Usage (Using Native Korean):

저는 스물다섯 살이에요. (jeoneun seumuldaseot sarieyo)

I am twenty-five years old.

❌ Incorrect (Using Sino-Korean):

저는 이십오 살이에요. (jeoneun isibo sarieyo)

I am twenty-five years old.

Common Mistake: Using Native Korean numbers for formal context, with the counter word 세 (se).

✅ Correct Usage (Using Sino-Korean, in formal context):

그들의 평균 연령은 사십오 세입니다. (geudeurui pyeonggyun yeollyeongeun sasiboseimnida)

Their average age is 45.

❌ Incorrect Usage (Using Native-Korean, in formal context):

그들의 평균 연령은 마흔 다섯 세입니다. (geudeurui pyeonggyun yeollyeongeun mageundaseot seimnida)

Their average age is 45.

Counting Objects

For counting tangible objects, Native Korean numbers are used for numbers up to 99. After 99, Sino-Korean numbers are typically used.

Common Mistake: Using Sino-Korean numbers for small quantities of objects.

✅ Correct Usage (Using Native Korean):

1. 사과 다섯 개 주세요. (sagwa daseot gae juseyo)

Please give me five apples.

❌ Incorrect (Using Sino-Korean):

1. 사과 오 개 주세요. (sagwa o gae juseyo)

Please give me five apples.

Description of the Order in Sequences

When expressing the order of something in a sequence or list, Native Korean numbers are used for 1st through 99th, with a counter word, 째 (jjae). However, Sino-Korean numbers might be used in formal or academic contexts.

Common Mistake: Incorrectly using Sino-Korean numbers for ordinal numbers.

✅ Correct (Using Native Korean):

1. 둘째 아들이 곧 결혼해요. (duljjae adeuri got gyeolhonhaeyo)

My second son is getting married soon.

❌ Incorrect (Using Sino-Korean):

1. 이째 아들이 곧 결혼해요. (ijjae adeuri got gyeolhonhaeyo)

My second son is getting married soon.

For ordinal numbers beyond the first few (e.g., 21st, 22nd), it’s more common to switch to Sino-Korean numbers. However, for simplicity and small numbers, Native Korean is preferred.

✅ Correct:

1. 오늘은 내 스물한 번째 생일이에요. (oneureun nae seumulhanbeonjjae saengirieyo)

Today is my 21st birthday.

✅ Correct but not common:

1. 오늘은 내 이십일 번째 생일이에요. (oneureun nae isibilbeonjjae saengirieyo)

Today is my 21st birthday.

It is more natural to use Native Korean numbers in everyday conversation. Especially when talking about ages and counting small quantities. However, it can be different depending on personal preference and context.

Differences between Native Korean and Sino-Korean numbers

Native Korean numbers are used for numbers from 1 up to 99. They are often used for counting age and hours and for counting people and things.

Sino-Korean numbers are used for dates, money, minutes, and seconds in time. It is derived from the language, and it goes up to higher than 99.

Tips and Tricks for Learning Native Korean Numbers

Here are some important things to take note of when using Native Korean Numbers in your daily life.

How to remember Native Korean numbers

There are three strategies we recommend for remembering Korean numbers.

Native Korean Number Associations

Associate each number with a word or an object that sounds similar or has some connection in your mind. For example, 하나 (hana) sounds like “Hannah,” which could be a friend’s name.

Native Korean Number Songs

Create a simple rhyme or song with the numbers. The rhythmic pattern helps in memorizing the sequence (하나, 둘, 셋…).

Native Korean Number Stories

Create a story where each number from 1 to 10 plays a character or represents a part of the plot. This narrative technique makes remembering numbers more engaging.

Common Difficulties with Learning Native Korean Numbers

Here are the common difficulties associated with learning Korean native numbers.

Why is the pronunciation of Korean numbers so difficult?

Native Korean number words are more complex, so pronunciation can be more difficult than Sino-Korean numbers. Pay attention to the pronunciation, especially for numbers like 여덟 (yeodeol) with double consonants as 받침 (batchim). Other numbers like 넷 (net) and 여섯 (yeoseot) have pronunciation change in their 받침. Practice speaking, focusing on pronouncing them correctly.

Understanding Number Patterns

Unlike the Sino-Korean numbers, it can be hard to remember words like 20, 30, 40, etc. There is no pattern for them, so getting used to these words first will help to build numbers beyond ten more intuitively.

Order for learning Counters

It can be overwhelming to learn ALL of the counter units that are used with Native Korean numbers at once. Start with the most common words like 살 (sal) for ages, 개 (gae) for objects, and 명 (myong) for people. Practice writing your sentences to get used to them.

What to do after learning the Native Korean Numbers

After learning the Native Korean numbers, here are the three lessons that you can focus on next:

1. Korean Numbers –  Learn the fundamentals of both Korean number systems and how they go hand-in-hand.

2. Korean Words –  Learn the most common Korean vocabulary used for daily conversation.

3. How to Remember Korean Words –  Learn skills and effective methods for memorizing Korean words easily.


In this article, you learned how to count using the Native Korean Number System. Also, how these numbers are used for counting objects, age, hours, and quantifiable items.

Remember, Native Korean numbers only go up to 99. And if you use them with counters, the spelling for 하나 (hana), 둘 (deul), 셋 (set), and 넷 (net) will change to 한 (han), 두 (du), 세 (se), and 네 (ne).

What questions do you have about native Korean numbers? Let us know in the comments below!

Was this post helpful?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *