Lesson 24 (Beginner 1B L8): Native Korean Numbers and Unit Nouns

Today (and probably last week) should be considered as Beginner 2A, as evidenced by the pop quiz that we got today. But more on that surprise test later. (The teacher calls it a test, same as the big test from 2 weeks ago, but these are always only written - in the sense of short questions - and last no more than 15 minutes.)

Erica didn't come, apparently she was busy last week and this week as well. I hope she's all right, and it's not because she's sick. I know that she was sick a couple of weeks ago.

In any case, we found out that our new teacher in 3 weeks' time when the next term starts will be the head teacher, so I'd get to experience the difference, and see if Audrey was right. I wonder if she would rejoin the class (or if she could... being rather... behind).

There were some safe distancing measures in place due to the Coronavirus, so we had to take our temperatures, sign a declaration (that we are not sick and not serving any form of stay-home notice), and also sit a seat apart from one another. The tables and chairs were rearranged to form rows. We also couldn't use the paper flashcards, so we just revised together using Quizlet. The teacher showed the flashcards on the TV screen, and she didn't come near us either. So naturally we didn't get to play with any money like last week (it was a small part at the end), so I'm really glad we had last week's lesson before things got to this state.

Native Korean Numbers, 1-29

We learnt the numbers, basically just 1-10, and then 20. We could form the numbers in that range with what we have learnt. The rest of the native Korean numbers will be covered in Chapter 9 (3 chapters from now).

So, yes, we really are not done with numbers... and probably won't be for a while.

Native Korean Numbers (숫자)
하나 1
다섯 5
여섯 6
일곱 7
여덟 8
아홉 9
열하나 11
스물 20
스물다섯 25

We learnt these alongside the unit nouns. There is some difference for the numbers 1-4 (and the numbers that end in 1-4) when they are used with the unit nouns, which will be covered later.

Unit Nouns

I realise that I can't really describe these, because I didn't have to learn them recently... when learning a L2 language, that is. They exist in the Chinese language, so I've known about them since I was young.

The more proper term for them is classifiers or measure words (which is what it's called in Chinese - 量词).

English has unit nouns for uncountable things: a glass of water, a slice of bread, a bottle of beer. There's also the animal collective nouns, such as a pride of lions, a flock of birds, a herd of cattle.

In Chinese (Korean, Japanese, and a few other languages I believe), you have these classifiers for just about every noun, even where you would not have them in English.

For example, in English, you call a person... a person.

But in Chinese you have 一个人 (yí gè rén), where 个 is the classifier. 一 means "one" and 人 means "person".

个 is actually the most common one, and it's the default when I don't know which one to use too.

The equivalent of 个 in Korean is 개. (It also means "dog", yes, but the word origin is different.)

This doesn't mean that there is a simple 1-to-1 mapping such that when you use 个 in Chinese, you use 개 in Korean.

The simplest counter example is found in the Korean unit noun (I'll call it as such, as that's what the notes call it) for person. It's not 개, but .

Side Note: In that Wiktionary page, it says 명 comes from the Sino-Korean word from 名 (“name/counter for people”)... which... well, it's correct that it's used for people, but I believe that it's some formal context that it's used in. (There's also 位 which is used to be polite when talking about a person.)

We covered 5 unit nouns in this lesson.

Korean Unit Noun Sino-Korean Word Used for (refers to Korean only)
... most things
甁 (瓶) bottle
盞 (盏) cup
그릇 - bowl (food)


Now that the pre-requisites (native Korean numbers + unit nouns) have been covered, let's do the grammar point, which is basically about using the unit nouns.

2. N 개 [명, 병, 잔, 그릇]

The structure is this: Item + Native Korean Number + Unit Noun

So for example, you have 5 apples: 사과 다섯 개

As mentioned above, for 1-4 (and the numbers that end in 1-4, since you form those numbers using them as well), it's different when used with the unit nouns:

  • 한 instead of 하나
  • 두 instead of 둘
  • 세 instead of 셋
  • 네 instead of 넷

20 is also different: 스무 instead of 스물.

More examples:

  1. 라면 한 그릇 (1 bowl of instant noodles)
  2. 커피 두 잔 (2 cups of coffee)
  3. 오렌지 세 개 (3 oranges)
  4. 사람 네 명 (4 people/persons)
  5. 물 다섯 병 (5 bottles of water)
  6. 펜 스무 개 (20 pens)


We practised asking questions based on the pictures in the handout and book.

In the handout, there were images of things that we knew the words for without the nouns (the textbook was nice enough to give the nouns) and according to the picture, we had to answer how many items there are.

가: 김치찌개 몇 그릇 있어요?
나: 두 그릇 있어요.

Near the end, we also practised with the dialogue on p. 149, but using it for the menu on p. 150. We did this in threes - so we rotated among the 4 students in the class. To make it harder, we also had to total up the prices and the student who is the server has to state the price. One of the diners would pay (giving some amount of invisible money) and the server has to calculate the change to give back too.

There are 4 restaurants there - 만리장선 is the Chinese restaurant. Just as we were puzzling over the name, the teacher asked us what the Great Wall of China was called, referring it to it as the famous wall. Someone gave the name in English, then she asked for the Chinese name, which is 万里长城. This restaurant's name is just that.

Particle Position

The textbook has this sentence: 오늘 커피 세 잔 마셨어요. (Today I drank three cups of coffee.)

Someone asked about the position of the particle.

Accoding to the teacher, it can be attached to either the noun (as in the example) or even to the unit noun. It can be omitted in the spoken language, which we were doing as we practised.

I would think it applies to the subject particle as well.

In the homework for this week, they asked the question with the subject particle (가/이) and placed it behind the noun: 김치찌개 몇 그릇 있어요?

Usage of 그릇

After we had practised for quite a while and struggling to pronounce 그릇, the teacher told us that 그릇 is not commonly used anymore. Native speakers don't use it.

For one bowl, instead of item + + 그릇, it would simply be item + 하나, e.g. 밥 하나 주세요.

For two and beyond, the unit noun used is 개 instead of 그릇, e.g. 밥 두 개 주세요.

They are teaching this and we are learning this unit noun because it's in the textbook.

The other time I recall that the teacher gave on the book teaching "outdated" things is the noun for coffee shop (café). The book uses 커피숍, but it's more commonly called 카페.

Mini Test

Around 15 minutes before the end of class, the teacher said that we were supposed to have a test next lesson (which would be the 3rd lesson of Beginner 2A - I really should try to see if there's a pattern to when we have these mini tests). But because our next lesson is 3 weeks away, and we would likely forget everything by then, she said that would just do the test now.

We were given ~5 minutes to look through anything we needed, including the numbers (prices) from last week.

I knew I had the most problems with the native numbers, so I had to quickly associate them. I'd been practising throughout the last week in Anki, but their names have not been burned into my brain.

I had problems with 3 and 4 since they were close (minimal pairs, in fact): 셋 and 넷, though we were mostly using them in the 세 and 네 forms. But by that time I'd remember to associate 세 with 삼, remembering both 3s start with "s". I realise now that it makes no sense because (Sino-Korean) 4 also starts with s (사), but I've remembered it so it's fine.

2 tricks I used for 7 and 8:

  1. 일곱 is 7, I used 일 to remind me of "day", and by extension, "week". 7 days in a week, so recall that the word for 7 starts with 일.
  2. 여덟 - the spelling was the part that was tricky. I already knew this was 여-something (like 6 is 여섯). Since I knew how to pronounce it, the matter was of remembering the 2 consonants below. They are r and b, and I simply remembered it as "ruby" since Ruby uses the .rb extension.

Lucky for me, the prices in this test didn't involve hundred million, as I'd conveniently forgotten the word for it: 억. I knew it was 億 thanks to my post last week, but could not "reverse-engineer" the word in Hangeul. If a price had been that high, I'd have been lost. Even so, I was getting confused with numbers bigger than 10000.

For this test, probably due to time, but probably also due to the social distancing, the teacher checked our papers instead of us peer marking.

I hope in 3 weeks the situation will improve. Hopefully the new measures will help. I think most things that are closed will remain closed until the end of April (from the current guidelines), so this will be near end April but slightly before...

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from journey
All posts