I know I’ve already been over this a few times, but I just want to reiterate that this site will eventually be focused on intermediate to advanced Korean language learning. For the time being, however, I don’t have enough of a visitor base to narrow the content to a certain niche. If there are any advanced visitors, please bear with me for the next few months until this site gets far enough along that I can get by with only advanced content. Until that day, I will continue to offer an assortment of materials.
There are two number systems in Korean: Sino-Korean (of Chinese derivation) and pure Korean. At certain times one or the other is used depending on what is being counted, and sometimes both systems are used in conjunction, as in telling time.
Today we are going to take a look at the proper way to state your age in Korean. Besides a few rare exceptions, pure Korean is almost always used when discussing age. In newspapers, from time to time, you may see the word “세” preceded by a number, e.g., “25세.” In such cases, the age is read in Sino-Korean and pronounced “이십오 세 (iship-oh sae).” In real life, however, people rarely state their, or anyone else’s, age in this form and instead use pure Korean. The same age, 25 years old, would be pronounced “스물다섯 살 (seumool dasot sal),” using the pure Korean numbering system.
In pure Korean, each unit of ten has a unique name, similar to English. In Sino-Korean all one has to do to make twenty is say “2-10 (이십),” but this is not the case with pure Korean.
Let’s start out by reviewing the names of the pure Korean numbers in units of ten.
I’ll post a video about this soon. Watch the video or listen to the podcast for pronunciation help!
10: 열 (yawl)
20: 스물 (seumul) (drops the final “l” when followed by “살”)
30: 서른 (sawreun)
40: 마흔 (maheun)
50: 쉰 (shwin)
60: 예순 (yaesoon)
70: 일흔 (ilheun)
80: 여든 (yawdeun)
90: 아흔 (ahheun)
Now let’s take a look at pronunciation of the single numerals.
1: 하나 (hana)
2: 둘 (dool)
3: 셋 (set)
4: 넷 (net)
5: 다섯 (dasawt)
6: 여섯 (yawsawt)
To state your age, simply choose the decade from the first column, attach the number of single years from the second group and attach the word “살 sal (age)” to the end.
OK, now it’s time to practice a few ages.
저는 마이클이고 스물다섯 살입니다.
(Jawneun Michael ego seumool dasawt sal imneeda.)
My name is Michael and I’m twenty-five years old.
저는 서른두 살인 김정민입니다.
I’m Kim Jeong-min and I’m thirty-two years old.
저는 열아홉 살입니다.
I’m nineteen years old.
저는 스물세 살입니다.
I’m twenty-three years old.
Here’s an example of stating age in the Sino-Korean way. Like I said, it’s sometimes written this way, but almost never spoken this way.
26세, 김모 씨가 어제 새벽 2시경 종로경찰서에 입건, 현재 구금된 상태입니다.
Mr. Kim (26) was booked at the Jongno Police Station at approximately 2 a.m. last night and is currently under detention there.