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The Korean language uses 2 sets of numerals:

  • The native Korean numerals
  • The Sino-Korean numerals

When I want to express myself in Korean, I am often wondering which numeral system I should use. I would like to know when the 2 systems should be used. If there are too many cases to cover, you are free to restrict your answer to the most common ones. (E.g. age, ordinal numbers, time and date, etc.)

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A general rule to know is that when you're counting physical entities, you'd almost always use native Korean.

For other quantities, it's better to remember what is counted in native and what is counted in sino-Korean. It might help to know that sino-Korean is used with counters associated with ordinality or ordinal numbers.

Counted in native Korean:

  • Hours (for both telling time and duration)
  • Age
  • Months (only for duration)
  • Number of physical objects
  • Number of locations, people, types

Counted in sino-Korean:

  • Minutes (for both telling time and duration)
  • Months (only for dates)
  • Years (for both telling time and duration)
  • Money/currency
  • Measurements
  • Numerals themselves in phone numbers, the number of a question on a test, etc..

Also, note that all Koreans switch to sino-Korean the moment the quantity exceeds 100. Although, in a few cases Koreans have mixed native and sino-Korean for numbers in that range. Some examples are 101, 백 하나, and 120, 백 스물.

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  • 1
    백 일 and 백 이십 sounds more natural than 백 하나 and 백 스물. – user7 Jun 22 '16 at 18:52
  • I'll back up @Rathony here; In quite a few years speaking Korean, I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard something like 백 스물. – user12 Jun 22 '16 at 23:07
  • Perhaps "tend" was a bad way to put it. I'll agree that I haven't heard it used as often as I noted, but somewhere in the back of my head I do remember reading somewhere that it was used to a relatively larger extent. – blimpy Jun 22 '16 at 23:51
  • I often hear (older) ages said with mixed native and sino-Korean. Like: 칠십 일곱 세. Perhaps because some people aren't familiar with the larger native Korean numbers. – Leftium Jun 23 '16 at 0:28
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If you count a noun of sino-korean origin (e.g. month 개월) you use sino korean numbers (삼 개월). If you use native korean nouns you use also native korean numbers (세 달).

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