Korean count word

The Korean language uses special measure or counting words for specific objects and events. These suffixes are called Korean수분류사; Hanja數分類詞; RRsubullyusa in Korean. They are similar to the ones employed in the Chinese and the Japanese languages.

In English it is "two sheets of paper", not "two papers". Analogously, in Korean jang (장/) is used to count sheets or anything that is a paper-like material, for example "ten bus tickets" is beoseu pyo yeol jang (버스 표 열 장 / 버스 票 열 張), literally, "bus ticket ten 'sheets'". In fact, the meanings of counter words are frequently extended in metaphorical or other image-based ways. For instance, in addition to counting simply sheets of paper, jang in Korean can be used to refer to any number of thin, paper-like objects. Leaves (namunnip 나뭇잎) are counted using this count word. In this way, a particular count word may be used generally in a very open-ended manner and up to the construal or creativity of the speaker.

There are two systems of numerals in Korean: native Korean and Sino-Korean. Native Korean numerals are used with most counter words, and usually count the number of an object, while Sino-Korean numerals are generally used for indicating a specific object in series, such as a specific lesson in a book, as well as monetary units and scientific measurements. Sometimes both types of numerals may be used, usually native Korean numerals indicating a quantity and Sino-Korean numerals indicating an ordinal. For example, yeol gwa (열 과 / 열 課) would mean 'ten lessons' while sip gwa (십과/十課) would mean 'lesson ten.' There are exceptions, such as native Korean numbers being used with , meaning "hour of the day". Additionally some counters (mostly those associated with traditional units) modify the pronunciation and spelling of the numerals that precede it, most notably 6월 is 유월 and 10월 is 시월.

List of count wordsEdit

Some count words take Native Korean numerals:

Hangul Hanja RR MR Usage
gae kae 'things' in general, often used as a coverall when the specific count word is unknown (for example, by children)
개국 個國 gaeguk kaeguk countries
개소 個所 gaeso kaeso places
geon kŏn cases, matters, documents
고랑 gorang korang ridges/furrows made for planting crops
gwa kwa lessons (if paired with Sino-Korean numeral, lesson number)
gu ku corpses
군데 gunde kunde places
gwon kwŏn books
그루 geuru kŭru trees, shrubs
다발 dabal tabal bunches of flowers or plants
dan tan bunches of Welsh onions, green onions, newspaper columns
dae tae vehicles (cars, airplanes, etc.) and machinery (incl. computers)
dong tong buildings
마리 mari mari animals
mae mae sheets of paper, photos, stamps, etc.
myeong myŏng people (informal)
모금 mogeum mogŭm mouthfuls (of liquid or gas)
mun mun cannons, big guns
바퀴 bakwi pak'wi times circling around an area
bal pal bullets, shells, arrows, etc.
발짝 baljjak paljjak steps
bang pang shots fired from a gun or cannon; number of times explosives are set; jabs; photos shot; farts
bae pae glass of (usually alcoholic) beverages
beon pŏn times a task is done
beol pŏl items of clothing
bu pu copies of printed material
bun pun people (honorific)
ppyeom ppyŏm hand spans
sal sal years old (generally avoided when using honorifics)
송이 song-i songi picked flowers, bunches of fruit (grapes, bananas, etc.)
su su turns taken in Janggi or Go
su su poems, songs; also animals
sul sul spoonfuls of food
si si hour (of the day)
시간 時間 sigan sigan hours (in length)
al al small, round objects (especially fruits) or grains
옴큼 omkeum omk'ŭm handfuls
자루 jaru charu things with long handles (writing instruments, shovels, swords, and rifles), and by extension, knives and pistols
jang chang thin, flat objects (such as sheets of paper, glass, steel)
jeong chŏng tablets of medicine
jeom chŏm artworks, very small amounts, pieces of sliced or ripped-off flesh, drops of rain, stones in the game of Go on the board or captured from the opponent, or wisps of clouds or wind
je che dosage of traditional medicine
jul chul lines or things aligned in a row (kimbap, desks, chairs, etc.)
jjok jjok pieces
chae ch'ae houses (also buildings, large objects, furniture, blankets)
cheok ch'ŏk boats and ships
cheop ch'ŏp packs of Korean herbal medicine
tang t'ang number of times doing something, especially number of trips made
tol t'ol grains
tong t'ong letters, telegrams, telephone calls, e-mails, documents
tong t'ong watermelons
pan p'an number of games won or lost
pyeon p'yŏn books, literary works, movies, plays, etc.
포기 pogi p'ogi Chinese cabbages
pun p'un pennies
pil p'il uncut fabric, horses
필지 筆地 pilji p'ilji fields, housing sites, etc.
hae hae earth's revolutions around the sun

Some count words take Sino-Korean numerals:

Hangul Hanja RR MR Usage
개년 個年 gaenyeon kaenyŏn years
개월 個月 gaewol kaewŏl months
gwa kwa lesson number (native Korean for number of lessons)
gyo kyo number of times a draft has been proofread
교시 校時 gyosi kyosi class number, class period number
nyeon nyŏn year (for dates; 2014년, 1998년)
mu mu ties (in a game)
beom pŏm penalties for a major crime
bun pun minute (of an hour)
bul pul dollar
seok sŏk seats
seon sŏn number of times elected to office; which term in a sequence a person has been in office
seung sŭng victories (in sports)
sil sil rooms
won wŏn won
wol wŏl month (for dates; 일월: January, 이월: February, ...; note that 6월 is written/pronounced 유월 and 10월 is likewise 시월)
wi wi of rank or order (e.g. 1위 = first rank or order)
il il day (for dates)
jeom chŏm grade (100점)
jo cho article or clause
주기 周忌 jugi chugi years since a person's death (used on that death's anniversary)
주일 週日 ju-il chuil weeks
jip chip publication number (e.g. Opus number, album, magazine issue)
cho ch'o second (of a minute)
chok ch'ok candela
chon ch'on degree of kinship; also a short unit of measurement, comparable to an inch
tan t'an number of a work in a series
학년 學年 hangnyeon hangnyŏn school year, grade level (2학년)
ho ho houses
hoe hoe number of times

Some nouns can also function as counter words:

Hangul Hanja RR MR Usage
gok kok songs
그릇 geureut kŭrŭt bowls
byeong pyŏng bottles
마디 madi madi phrases, joints, musical measures, words
사람 saram saram people (informal)
상자 sangja sangja boxes
jan chan cups and glasses
cheung ch'ŭng floors (of a building), layers
tong t'ong containers, buckets

Some words are used for counting in multiples:

Hangul Hanja RR MR Usage
geup kŭp 20 fish
다스 daseu tasŭ dozen (abbreviated from English)
보루 boru poru bundle of 10 cigarettes
바리 bari pari 2,000 fish
son son handfuls of fish (2 large, 4-5 small), typically mackerels or yellow croakers
우리 uri uri 2,000 tiles
jeop chŏp 100 fruits (for example, dried persimmons), radishes, cabbages, or bulbs of garlic
jok chok pairs (for items likes socks, shoes, gloves, etc.)
chuk ch'uk 20 cuttlefish
켤레 kyeolle k'yŏlle pairs of socks, shoes, gloves
ko k'o twenty dried pollock
ta t'a dozen
tot t'ot one hundred sheets of laver
pan p'an thirty eggs
gyn gyn 600 g

See alsoEdit