I'm learning Korean and noticed that Korean contains a lot of phrases with the Tilde "~" . For example the sentence:

여행지의 기본 정보를 알아본 후 여행 상품을 2~3개 정도 고릅니다.

I see this Tidle "~" is sometimes read as 에서, sometimes as 부터, so what is the principle of reading it?. Should I read it as 에서 or 부터? For example: "2~3개" can be read as: "두에서 세개" or "두부터 세개"? Thank you!

3 Answers 3


The tilde, in Korean, has the same usage with the en dash “–”. It represents a range or span of numbers or time.

“두 개에서 세 개”

Use the numeric determiners (“관형사”) “두” (“two …”) and “세” (“three …”) with the same unit “개” and link them together with “에서” (“from …”). Though you could also use “부터” (“from …”) in some cases, this is not the case; “에서” is always a safe bet.

“둘에서 세 개” / “둘에서 셋”

Or drop the unit and replace it with the corresponding numeric words “둘” (“two”) and “셋” (“three”).

“두에서 세 개” (ungrammatical)

This is not grammatical, because a numeric determiner (“관형사”) (“두” in this sentence) has to modify a noun (the unit noun “개” in this sentence).

But actually, “두에서 세 개” doesn’t sound completely off to me. The specific phrase “두에서 세 개” is an exception, but you should avoid this kind of construction anyway.

“두세 개” (if applicable)

You can also use compound numeric determiners. Those are:

  • “한두” (“1–2”)
  • “두세” (“2–3”)
  • “서너” (“3–4”)
  • “네다섯” (or rarely, “네댓”) (“4–5”)
  • “대여섯” (“5–6”)
  • “예닐곱” (“6–7”)
  • “일고여덟” (“7–8”)
  • “여덟아홉” (pronounced /여더라홉/) (“8–9”)


Sino–Korean numbers less than 10 are barely used for this usage.

And Sino–Korean numbers less than 20 are rarely used. Better to just prefer native words for numbers less than 20.

  • “이二(2) 개에서 삼三(3) 개,” “이二(2)에서 삼三(3) 개”: understandable, but it sounds off.
  • “이二(2)–삼三(3) 개,” “십十(10)–십오十五(15) 개,” “십구十九(19)에서 이십二十(20) 개”: maybe used by some speakers somewhere as a quick jargon; but it doesn’t sound good to me.
  • “이십二十(20) 개에서 이십오二十五(25) 개” and “스무(20) 개에서 스물다섯(25) 개”: sounds good.

Don’t mix up Sino–Korean numbers and native numbers.

  • “스무(20) 개에서 오십구五十九(59) 개”: it doesn’t sound completely off, understandable, but, stylistically undesirable and some may find it awkward.

"두" or "세" is a 관형사, which means you can never add a suffix after that. So, "두에서 세 개" is plainly incorrect.

If you're reading it aloud, "두세 개" is the best expression. Because the Arabian numerals (like "2" or "3") are frequently read as Chinese numbers (일, 이, 삼, ...) you will be also understood if you say "이삼 개" - however, strictly speaking, I think it's considered incorrect. (If you write "이삼 개" in Hangul then I think most people will consider it incorrect.)

On the other hand, if the range is something like "2~5개", then you can't say "둘다섯/이오 개" because there's no such word. I'd personally read it as "이에서 오 개".

  • Thanks. But based on your answer, in the phrase "2~5개" (이에서 오개) I see the word "개", and in my opinion this is a native Korean word, so how can I use Sino-Korean numbers with it? Also, in addition to 에서, in what cases can we use 부터, because in the TOPIK test, I see the phrase 1번부터 30번까지 (1~30번) ? (Please forgive me for my bad English)
    – Thai Trinh
    Jun 3, 2021 at 9:06
  • I believe "두 개에서 다섯 개" sounds much better for "2~5개" personally.
    – hmje
    Jun 4, 2021 at 10:40
  • I think there's a tension between "proper usage" and "actual usage." Consider English: the proper way to say is "two cups of coffee" but if you're working at Starbucks you'll just shout "two tall coffees!" Similarly, "두 개에서 다섯 개" is the most proper way to say it, but if you're cooking and the recipe calls "달걀 2~5개" I will probably read it as "이에서 오 개" because I'm in a hurry.
    – jick
    Jun 7, 2021 at 17:27

2~3개: 둘에서 세 개, 두세 개 sounds okay.

1~30번: 일 번에서 삼십 번까지, 일 번부터 삼십 번까지 sounds okay. '까지' might be omitted.

For the former case, you choose either one of multiple options(2개, 3개). For the latter case, you (probably) don't. I have to take a look at the whole sentence to explain more.


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