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Want to learn all about telling time in Korean? You came to the right place! No Korean learning plan is complete without knowing the time.
We’ll give you the essential Korean vocabulary and phrases you need so you’ll need for telling the time so you’ll never be late for your next appointment. If you’d like to know how to say “time” in Korean, that’s a separate blog post. This post is all about telling the time itself.
Much of this article will use the Hangeul (한글) so if you can’t read it yet you can reference the romanization. But we highly recommend you learn the alphabet ASAP.
Well then, let’s mind the hour and start!
Getting started with numbers
In order to tell the time in Korean, you need to know a bit about numbers in Korean. There are two number systems, and both are used when telling the time. We have a great blog post all about Korean numbers so study up on that if you’re interested.
For now, you can reference this chart:
|Numeral||Native Korean (Korea System)||Sino-Korean (China System)|
|11||열하나 (yeolhana)||십일 (sibil)|
|12||열둘 (yeoldul)||십이 (sibi)|
In brief, the numbers on the left (Korea system) are used for hours, and the numbers on the right (China system) are used for minutes.
Just know that to say a number from the China system greater than 20, just use 이십 (20/ isip), 삼십 (30/ samsip), etc. + the number below 10. So 22 is 이십이 (isipi), 34 is 삼십사 (samsipsa) and so on.
We cover this more in-depth in our lesson on numbers (link to blog post above chart). So with that out of the way, let’s get to telling the time!
When telling the hour, you use the word 시 (si) or 시간 (sigan). Remember you use a number from the 하나, 둘, 셋 (hana, dul, set) number system when using hours.
시 (si) is used specifically for telling time (4 o’clock = 4시), whereas 시간 (sigan) is for an amount of time (4 hours = 4시간 ) instead of telling it. Look at these time examples.
2 o’clock = 두시 (dusi)
5 o’clock = 다섯시 (daseotsi)
If you are telling the minutes then you use the word 분 (bun). You should use a number from the 일, 이, 삼 (il, i, sam) number system when using minutes.
Unlike hours, 분 (bun) is used both for telling time and indicating an amount. Here are some examples of what the time in minutes would look like.
33 minutes = 삼십사분 (samsipsabun)
42 minutes = 사십이분 (sasipibun)
Telling Time in Korean
Now that we’ve covered our Korean numbers and know about telling hours (시 / si) and telling minutes (분 / bun) we can put them all together. A few things to know before diving further into time though. Korean also has a word for “half past” (ie. 4:30), which is 반 (ban). This literally means “half” in Korean. It makes things a bit simpler when reading the time. Look at this time example.
4:30 = 네시반 (naesiban)
It’s also ok to say 네시 삼십분 (naesi samsipbun), but 네시반 (naesiban) is a bit easier for telling the time, wouldn’t you say? Note that although there is a word for “half past” when telling the time, there aren’t equivalents for “quarter past” or “quarter till.” You’ll just have to read it out in the time.
Also, words usually have spaces in between them. However, with hours and minutes in telling time, there’s no space. So while you may see 2 o’clock written as 두시 (dusi) and 두 시 (du si), the first one, 두시 (dusi), is the proper form for Korean time. But this isn’t a strict rule.
So with that out of the way, we can start practicing!
Do you know how you would say the time 2:33?
2:33 = 두시 삼십사분 (dusi samsipsabun)
Great! How about the time 5:42?
5:42 = 다섯시 사십이분 (daseotsi sasipibun)
You can practice this a bit yourself, there's a bit more we need to know about telling the time in Korean before we can say we've mastered this though.
12hr clock or 24hr clock?
You may be aware of the two different ways of telling the time, the 12hr clock (AM, PM) and the 24hr clock usually used by the military (HH:mm). Korea uses both these systems for telling the time in daily life, but in different situations.
In a vast majority of situations, you'll hear the 12hr clock used in spoken Korean. However, you may encounter the 24hr clock when you see the time written in scheduling, like in timetables at the airport or with tv time schedules. In the 24hr form, it's the number+시.
14:35 = 십사시 삼십오분 (sipsasi samsipobun)
Notice a difference here? When telling the time in the 24hr form, it's read using only the China system numbers. But while those in the Korean military or officials would read the time as above, you'll very rarely encounter it spoken this way by average Koreans.
In almost all other situations, even where it's written in the 24hr form, people would still say the time in the 12hr form. So most people would read the above time as 두시 삼십오분 (dusi samsipobun), and we recommend you do as well.
Now how to distinguish between AM and PM? We'll get to that now.
Telling AM and PM
The Korean vocabulary for AM is 오전 (ojeon). You would use this for telling the time in the morning hours before noon.
The vocabulary for PM is 오후 (ohu). You would use this for telling the time in the afternoon and evening hours after noon. Note that 오후 (ohu) is also a word for "evening."
However, unlike in most places, these are placed at the beginning of the time, instead of at the end. Here are some time examples.
2:13 AM = 오전 두시 십삼분 (ojeon dusi sipsambun)
7:30 PM = 오후 일곱시 삼십분 (ohu ilgopsi samsipbun) or 오후 일곱시 반 (ohu ilgopsi ban)
You may on occasion see AM and PM put at the end of the time. Or if someone is talking about the morning, 아침 (achim), or evening, 저녁 (jeonnyeog), then AM and PM would be omitted entirely. For the most part though, you'll want to say them first when telling the time out loud.
If that's all clear, let's recap on our time vocabulary and add some phrases you can start using for telling the time in conversation!
Essential Time Vocabulary
Hours - 시 (si)
Minutes - 분 (bun)
AM - 오전 (ojeon)
PM - 오후 (ohu)
Half past - 반 (ban)
Korean Time Sample Sentences
Here we'll give you some common Korean phrases at different levels of politeness so you can always be ready.
You should use this Korean in a professional environment or with those who are older than you and you are not close with.
1. 오후 다섯시 삼십분 비행기입니다. 잊지 마십시오. → Your flight is leaving at 17:30. Please don't be late.
ohu daseotsi samsipbun bihaenggiimnida. itji masipsio
2. 서울행 버스는 15분 지연되어 오전 여덟시 사십오분에 출발 예정입니다. → The next bus to Seoul will be 15 minutes late and will now depart at 8:45 AM.
seoulhaeng beoseuneun 15bun jiyeondoeeo ojeon yeodeolsi sasibobune chulbal yejeongimnida
You can use these sentences in just about every situation, they’re considered polite.
1. 지금 몇 시예요? → What is the time now?
jigeum myeot siyeyo?
2. 지금 오전 아홉시예요. → It's 9 AM now.
3. 우리 몇 시에 만날까요? → What time should we meet?
uri myeot sie mannalkkayo?
4. 오후 두시반에 만나요. → Let's meet at 2:30 PM.
ohu dusibane mannayo
Informal Korean Sample Sentences
This style of speaking is used with friends, family, or others that you're close with.
1. 몇 시 영화야? → What time is the movie?
myeot si yeonghwaya?
2. 여섯시 십분에 시작해. → It starts at 6:10.
yeoseotsi sipbune sijakae
Now you'll never have to worry about telling the time in Korean.
If you have any questions about the content of this lesson, feel free to leave a comment below. Don't go claiming the mantle of Time Lord just yet, there's still a lot more Korean to master. Check out our other posts all geared to help you learn essential Korean phrases!