Korean Counting Units

In this lesson, you will learn about counting in Korean , Korean counting units, and how to ask and answer ‘How many?‘ in Korean.

In order to ask and answer ‘How many?’ in Korean you need to know Korean numbers and Korean counting units. In the previous lesson, you learned Sino Korean numbers and native Korean numbers.

In this lesson, we will teach you how to ask ‘How many?’ in Korean and how to use Korean counting units together with Korean numbers to answer this question. First, let’s look at the basic way to say ‘How many?’ in Korean.

‘How Many?’ In Korean

In English, the word ‘how’ has different functions. For example, when asking ‘How many?’ , ‘How much?’, ‘How did you do that?’, etc, in English, the word ‘how’ is the same.

However, there are 6 different ways to say ‘How’ in Korean. In a previous lesson, you learned that ‘How much is it?‘ in Korean is ‘얼마예요?’. In this sentence, ‘how’ is 얼마 and 예요 is an ending which means ‘is equals to’. When asking ‘How many?’ in Korean, a different word for ‘how’ is used.

The most basic way to ask about how many things there are in Korean is 몇 개예요?. This is made up of (how many) + (Korean counting unit meaning ‘thing’) + 예요 (ending which means ‘is equals to’).

As this way of saying ‘How many?’ in Korean includes the Korean counting unit 개, meaning ‘thing’, this literally means ‘How many things?’ or ‘How many are there?’. This can be used in many situations to ask about how many objects there are. Here are some other example sentences using the Korean counting unit 개:

  • 몇  샀어요? – How many did you buy?
  • 샀어요. – I bought one.
  • 몇  먹었어요? – How many did you eat?
  • 먹었어요. – I ate two.
  • 몇  있어요? – How many do you have? / How many are there?
  • 다섯 있어요. – I have five. / There are five.

Korean Counting Units

The previously mentioned Korean counting unit ‘개’ cannot be used in all situations. There are many different counting units in Korean and if you don’t know a particular counting unit you can usually just use ‘개’ instead.

However, you cannot use 개 when referring to people, animals, or actions. Instead, you should use the correct counting unit.

  • – counting unit for people
  • 이에요? – How many people?
  • 마리 – counting unit for animals
  • 마리예요? – How many animals?
  • – counting unit for actions
  • 그 영화 몇 봤어요? – How many times did you see that movie?

Here are some other common Korean counting units:

  • – counting unit for bottles
  • – counting unit for glasses/cups
  • 그릇 – counting unit for bowls
  • 조각 – counting unit meaning ‘piece’ or ‘slice’
  • – counting unit for minutes
  • – counting unit for actions

Counting In Korean

When counting things in Korean and answering the question ‘How many?’ native Korean numbers are used. However, native Korean numbers only go up to 99. If you are counting anything that is more than 99 things, then sino-Korean numbers are used. To review native and sino-Korean numbers, check out the previous lesson.

Another important thing to remember is that when adding a counting unit to numbers 1,2,3, 4, and 20 the words for these numbers change slightly. Let’s look at some examples:

하나 (1) + (counting unit meaning ‘thing’) = 한 개 (not 하나 개) = one thing

(2) + (counting unit for people) = 두 명 (not 둘 명) = two people

(3) + (counting unit for bottles) = 세 병 (not 셋 병) = three bottles

(4) + (counting unit for glasses) = 네 잔 (not 넷 잔) = four glasses

스물 (20) + 마리 (counting unit for birds) = 스무 마리 (not 스물 마리) = twenty birds

For all other native Korean numbers, and Sino-Korean numbers for things more than 99, the word doesn’t change. Simply add the counting unit after the number to say how many of that thing there is.

Here are some useful example sentences using counting units in Korean. The counting units are in bold.

  • 콜라 한 주세요 = Give me one bottle of cola, please.
  • 이에요? = How many people?
  • 이에요 = Four people.
  • 고양이 마리 = Three cats.
  • 주세요 = Give me two glasses, please.
  • 밥 한 그릇 주세요 = Give me one bowl of rice, please.