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Mind Your Korean 9: Crunching large numbers and being formal

While Rooster counts down the days to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Orchid and Liz wrestle with the larger Sino-Korean numbers. They now share with you their adventures and misadventures with the Korean language in MYK구!


We’re going to do this quick so it will be less painful. You know, like ripping out a Band-Aid, you’ve just got to give it one good yank. We now deal with large numbers. Like the Indonesian Rupiah, Korean Won is counted in the thousands and even millions.

That is something I find hard to grasp, and it doesn’t help that my mental arithmetic sucks. I can just imagine myself being fleeced by some crafty trader when visiting Seoul one day. Sigh.

Large numbers

So you’ve learned the Sino-Korean numbers of 1 (일 = il) to 10 (십 = ship). Now here’s how we count in:

The hundreds
100 = 백 (baek)
200 = 이백 (ee baek)
300 = 삼백 (sam baek)
400 = 사백 (sa baek)….and so on

The thousands
1,000 = 천 (cheon)
2,000 = 이천 (ee cheon)
3,000 = 삼천 (sam cheon)
4,000 = 사천 (sa cheon)…and so on

The ten thousands
10,000 = 만 (man)
20,000 = 이만 (ee man)
30,000 = 삼만 (sam man)…and so on

An important note to remember: For 100, 1000 and 10000 the number “1” is not mentioned, DO NOT say 일백 (il baek) or 일천 (il cheon) or 일만 (il man).

Let’s talk about money

Armed with that knowledge, we learned how to talk about the price of items.

Here, it differs very much from the English language so I don’t know how to write the literal English translation for it. Also, it has similarities to counting in Mandarin, or so I’ve been told. I am not sure because I don’t know how to count in the thousands and millions in Mandarin. 미안합니다.

To read the larger numbers, the 만 (man) is a point of reference of sorts. Just remember to get the four zeros first, and then read the numbers before and after the point of reference like “normal”.

Man, it’s so hard to explain, so here are some examples on how to read prices:

1│5,000 –> 만 오천 (man o-cheon)

4│2,800 –> 사만 이천 팔백 (sa-man ee-cheon pal-baek)

12│8,900 –> 십이만 팔천 구백 (ship-ee-man pal-cheon gu-baek)

1,20│0,340 –> 백이십만 삼백 사십 (baek eeship man sambaek saship)

Formal speak

As the title suggests, we use formal speak in formal settings, such as during business meetings. All this while, we have been using the 이에요/ 예요 ending, which is a polite way of speaking in Korean.

This time around, say hello to ~입니다 (ib-ni-da)!

When we did the self-introduction exercise in MYK4 I went:

저는 리즈예요. (jeo-neun li-jeu-ye-yo = I’m Liz.)
저는 말레이시아 사람이에요. (jeo-neun mal-lei-sia saramieyo = I’m Malaysian.)

Now, when we do it the formal way, it goes like this:

저는 리즈입니다 (jeo-neun li-jeu-ib-ni-da = I’m Liz – but say it with a stiff upper lip or somethin’:-P)
저는 말레이시아 사람입니다 (jeo-neun mal-lei-sia sa-ram-ib-ni-da = I’m Malaysian)

Phew, did you manage to digest all that? I’m beat. Over and out. See you in the next lesson!

Mind Your Korean series:
MYK 1: I’m sorry (미안합니다) – You’re welcome (아니에요)
MYK 2: The one where 선생님 beats Liz to the punch line
MYK 3: The tale of the uncooperative tissue paper
MYK 4: From learning the alphabets to self-introduction
MYK 5: Simple conversations in Korean
MYK 6: 하나, 둘, 셋, 넷…come on and count in Korean!
MYK Quiz 1: The Match Up
MYK Quiz 1: Answers and winner announcement
MYK 7: Location, location, location
MYK Tidbits
MYK 8: 일, 이, 삼, 사…come on and count in Sino-Korean!

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6 Comments  comments 

6 Responses

  1. cheayee

    btw, its’ im-ni-da.
    and not ib-ni-da..

    according to the grammar rule that i know, if its a ‘b” before a “ni-da” the ‘b’ converts to a “im-ni-da”.

    apparently, a lot of ppl forget that rule..

  2. ladida

    why can we say “il baek”, “il man”, etc? I include the word “1″ in 3-dig numbers & up when i count in Chinese..
    …so, when can we learn some “slang” terms? :)

  3. meiruo_chan

    haha…Liz I know how you feel. And it’s so tough since even in Malaysia we didn’t count to thousands and millions when we talk about money.

  4. fraulein

    Nine lessons already ? that’s fast.

  5. Gail T.

    i was wondering when -imnida was gonna show up. and still, numbers trip me up.

    thanks for the update. :D

  6. Clammy

    Don’t you just love all the versions of speak that we have!! Fortunately, most everything is in the casual and polite forms.

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