Home ยป From Beginner to Expert: Korean Time-Telling in 5 Easy Lessons

From Beginner to Expert: Korean Time-Telling in 5 Easy Lessons

As a language learner, one of the first things you’ll want to master is telling time in your target language. In Korean, this can be a challenge due to the unique way hours are counted and the use of two different sets of numerals. However, with a little practice, you’ll tell the time in Korean like a pro.

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • The five helpful lessons on how to tell time in Korean
  • The native and sino-Korean numbers
  • How does Korean-time telling differ in other countries?

By the end of this guide, you’ll be a pro at knowing when something happened or when something is happening in South Korea.

A Guide to Mastering Korean Time-Telling

It can be a bit overwhelming as two different systems are used, and it can be difficult to keep them straight. Fear not! This lesson will guide you to become an expert at telling time in Korean by taking you through five basic steps.

1. The Korean number system

There are two different number systems in Korea: the native Korean system and the Sino-Korean system. The native Korean number system is commonly used for counting objects, while the Sino-Korean system is based on Chinese numerals and is used for telling time, reading dates, and more. It’s important to familiarize yourself with both systems to tell the time in Korean.

Here are the native Korean numbers from 1 to 10:

  1. ํ•˜๋‚˜ (Hana)
  2. ๋‘˜ (dul)
  3. ์…‹ (set)
  4. ๋„ท (net)
  5. ๋‹ค์„ฏ (daseot)
  6. ์—ฌ์„ฏ (yeoseot)
  7. ์ผ๊ณฑ (ilgop)
  8. ์—ฌ๋Ÿ (yeodeol)
  9. ์•„ํ™‰ (ahop)
  10. ์—ด (yeol)

And here are the Sino-Korean numbers from 1 to 10:

  1. ์ผ (il)
  2. ์ด (i)
  3. ์‚ผ (sam)
  4. ์‚ฌ (sa)
  5. ์˜ค (o)
  6. ์œก (yuk)
  7. ์น  (chil)
  8. ํŒ” (pal)
  9. ๊ตฌ (gu)
  10. ์‹ญ (sip)

2. Telling hours in Korean

To tell the hour in Korean, you’ll use the Sino-Korean number system and the word ์‹œ (si), which means “hour.” For example, to say “one o’clock,” you would say ์ผ ์‹œ (il si). To say “two o’clock,” you would say ์ด ์‹œ (i si). And so on.

It’s worth noting that in Korean, the hours are counted starting at one and going until 12, just like in English.

However, unlike in English, the hours are not divided into AM and PM. Instead, you’ll use the word ์˜ค์ „ (ojeon) to indicate the period from midnight to noon and the word ์˜คํ›„ (ohu) to indicate the period from noon to midnight.

For example, to say “one o’clock in the morning,” you would say ์˜ค์ „ ์ผ ์‹œ (ojeon il si). To say “two o’clock in the afternoon,” you would say ์˜คํ›„ ์ด ์‹œ (ohu i si).

3. Telling time with minutes past / to go

The third step is learning to tell time with minutes past and minutes to go. These are expressed differently depending on whether one uses Arabic numerals or Sino-Korean numerals for counting up from 0 – 60 mins passed each hour mark, respectively.

With Sino-Korean numerals, one would say “์—ด ์ผ,” which means ten one, but with Arabic numerals, one would say “์‹ญ์ผ ๋ถ„,” which translates into ten eleven mins passed each hour mark respectively.

Similarly, for counting down from 60 โ€“ 0 mins left before the next hour mark respectively, one uses either “๋งˆ์ง€๋ง‰,” which means last minute if using Sino-Korean numerals, or “์‹ญ๊ตฌ ๋ถ„,” which means 19 mins left before the next hour mark if using these Arabic numerals.

4. Understanding ‘Il / I’l

The fourth step is understanding how ‘il/I ‘l works in Korean time-telling.

You might ask yourself what ‘il/I ‘l means; it stands for “hour.” In English, we use a 12-hour clock system. In Korea, they use a 24-hour clock system, especially for bus and tv schedules, which means that they don’t use “am” or “pm” in their language.

So when someone tells you it’s 8 o’clock il/I ‘l, they mean 8 p.m. or 8 PM rather than 8 AM.

To differentiate between morning and evening hours, Koreans typically use ‘il/I ‘l after a time, like ten il/i’l meaning 10 p.m. This can get confusing. Hence, pay close attention to whether someone says morning or evening when telling time!

5. Knowing when to use tasi / nal

The last step is understanding when to use tasi (ํƒ€์‹œ) and nal (๋‚ ). Tasi refers to points within a given hour, such as quarter past or half past, while Nal refers more broadly to points within a day, such as noon or midnight.

So if someone asked what time it was and said tasi, then they would want you to give them an answer within the current hour, such as quarter past or half past.

If they asked nal, they would want an answer that gives them more detail on what part of the day it is.

How Does Korean Time-Telling Differ From Other Countries?

Korean time-telling is a feature of Korean culture that has long fascinated many outside the country, who take great interest in understanding how Korean friends refer to and converse about everyday life.

This intricacy starts with Korean words for time; instead of using the abstract numbers, we are used to hearing in other countries. The Korean language has two terms, ‘han si’ and ‘du si,’ representing day (han) and night (du).

By using these distinctions rather than conventional measurements such as hours or minutes, Koreans can more easily grasp the passage of time depending on their daily routines and tasks.


Mastering Korean Time-Telling doesn’t have to be complicated! By following these five simple steps, anyoneโ€”from beginners who have never told time before in any languageโ€”to experts looking for a refresher courseโ€”can become an expert at telling exact times quickly and easily! If you’re looking for more information, resources, and guidance on mastering Korean time-telling, visit 90daykorean for all your questions! Learning the language is an exciting voyage, with much to explore. Let these lessons serve as a launching point for all of your linguistic adventures!

Back to top