Korean count word

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Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean uses special measure or counting words to count objects and events, which in Korean are called subullyusa (Hangeul:수분류사 / Hanja: 數分類詞).

In English, one must say, "two sheets of paper" rather than "two papers". In Korean, the term jang (장/) is used to count sheets, or paper-like material in general. So "ten bus tickets" would be 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. yeol gwa (열 과 / 열 課) would mean 'ten lessons' while sip gwa (십과/十課) would mean 'lesson ten.' Sino-Korean numerals are used with many (but not all, particularly si (시/), meaning "hour") time counters.


Some counter words taking Native Korean numerals:

Some counter words taking Sino-Korean numerals:

  • nyeon (년/) -- year (for dates; 2014년, 1998년)
  • wol (월/) -- month (for dates; 일월: January, 이월: February, ...)
  • il (일/) -- day (for dates)
  • gwa (과/) -- lesson number
  • won (원) -- Won
  • hagnyeon (학년/學年) -- school year, grade level (2학년: Sophomore, 2nd Grade)
  • jeom (점/) -- grade (100점)

Some nouns can also function as counter words:

Some words are used for counting in multiples:

  • jeop (접) -- one hundred dried persimmons/garlic
  • ko (코) -- twenty dried pollock
  • pan (판/) -- thirty eggs
  • son (손) -- two fish (typically mackerels or yellow croaker)
  • daseu/taseu (다스/타스) -- dozen (an abbreviated form of the English)
  • tot (톳) -- one hundred sheets of laver

See also[edit]