The text 'Telling time n Korean' next to a clock

The Quick Guide to Telling Time in Korean: Numbers, Time Phrases and More

Racing against the clock to achieve Korean fluency?

That’s great, but remember, you have to learn how to read the clock, too!

In this guide, I’ll explain how to easily tell the time in Korean, including which number system to use, useful time-related phrases, and how to ask someone else for the time.

Let’s get started!

Contents


How to Tell The Time in Korean: A Quick Overview

To tell the time in Korean, you use the native Korean number system (하나, 둘, 셋) for the hour, and the Sino-Korean number system (일, 이, 삼) for the minute.

After the hour, you put 시, and after the minute you put 분. So for example, if you wanted to say 1:45, you would say 한 사십오 .

To learn more about native Korean numbers vs. Sino-Korean numbers, check out this video:

Keep reading to learn more about how to talk about the time, including how to put it into a sentence, and specify the time of day.

How to Say The Hour in Korean

Let’s start with the big hand of the clock first: the hour.

Use native Korean numbers for the hour

When talking about the hour of the day, you use native Korean numbers (the 하나, 둘, 셋 system).

Luckily, you only need to focus on numbers one to twelve to go around the clock!

But you might be wondering—what about the 24-hour clock?

The 24-hour system, also known as military time, isn’t as commonly used as the 12-hour system. It’s used within the military (naturally) and sometimes for transit schedules like bus or plane timetables.

So the most likely scenario where you’ll encounter the 24-hour system is traveling around Korea and taking public transport (which will probably be inevitable, especially in the busy Seoul city).

Even then, the 24-hour system is typically written in text and not spoken in everyday conversation.

The one major difference is that the 24-hour clock only uses Sino-Korean numbers. Remember this if you’re set on using this system, whether you’re an army enlistee or just think that military time sounds cooler.

Follow the hour number with

Once you’ve got down the hour number, there’s one more step: adding the word 시 after it.

시 is actually a counter word used for denoting the hour. It can essentially translate to “o’clock.” Without 시, you might sound as if you’re just sounding off numbers.

So let’s spin the big hand of the clock, Korean-style.

Notice that numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 get “shortened” names when they’re used to describe the hour. Their new names roll off the tongue more easily as well (try saying 셋시 without feeling like you’re grinding your teeth)!

Use 시간 instead of 시 to describe a duration of hours

When you want to talk about a certain length of hours, just switch out the 시 counter with 시간.

So, for example:

And so forth!

Remember that 시간 also means “time” itself, so a number before it makes the difference in meaning.

How to Say the Minute in Korean

Now onto the little hand: let’s talk minutes!

Use Sino-Korean numbers for the minute

Once you’ve got down the hour, it’s time to let go of native Korean numbers and switch over to Sino-Korean ones for the minutes.

So yes, telling time in Korean means you’ll be juggling both of the Korean number systems. It might sound like a bit of a chore, but there’s a practical reason for it.

Overall, Sino-Korean numbers are simpler to use—especially for larger numbers. They follow a predictable system that makes it easy to jump between large increments.

So while native Korean numbers can work just fine for the 12 hours, Sino-Korean numbers make it a tad easier for counting up to 59 minutes.

And fortunately, the Sino-Korean number system is pretty easy to learn! If you haven’t yet mastered it, then take a bit more time to study up on the topic.

Follow the minute number with 분

Just as the word 시 goes with hours, minutes also have a special counter word: 분.

The way it works is exactly the same as with 시.

분 is also used for describing time duration in minutes. There’s no special counter like 시간 for it.

Tell the time by combining the hour and minute expressions

Now you’re all ready to put everything together. It’s time…to tell the time!

All you do is say the hour and then the minute, in that precise order. Ta-da!

Pretty easy, right? Here are a few examples:

How to Describe The Time of Day in Korean

No telling of time feels complete without one more clarification—are we talking AM or PM?

Here are common Korean expressions for the different times of day:

  • 오후 — afternoon (PM)
  • 오전 — morning, typically before noon (AM)
  • 아침 — morning, typically in earlier hours (AM)
  • 저녁 — evening, typically around dinnertime (PM)
  • — night, typically close to bedtime (PM, use also for midnight)

오전 and 오후 can also be used as the general AM and PM denotations, respectively.

However, it’s good to know the other expressions as well. Oftentimes, Korean folks may get more specific in describing the time of day.

Describe the time of day before the hour and minute

In English, we tack on AM or PM at the end of the sentence. However, this isn’t the case in Korean.

In Korean, the time of day is clarified before the hour and minute. This means that in a Korean time expression, the time of day is usually the first thing to be said.

So:

Common Time-Related Phrases in Korean

Now that we know how to tell the time, let’s talk about a few common expressions for talking about it.

Questions

지금 몇 시예요? — What time is it now?

몇 is a word that basically inquires “how many” there is of something. But in the context of time, it essentially translates to the “what” part of “what time is it?”. It’s often placed alongside counter words, like 시 for time.

우리 몇 시에 만나요? — What time should we meet?

As with the previous question example, you can see 몇 시 here again.

시간 얼마나 남았어요? — How much time is left?

시간 here would refer to the duration of time, not the word time itself. 얼마나 inquires “how much” or “how long” and is used when you’re discussing something that can be measured.

몇 시에 가요? — What time will (you or we) go?

If you want to ask someone what time they’ll be departing to a specific place, you can add the destination (plus 에) after 몇 시에. For example: 몇 시에 집에 가요? (What time will you go home?)

Answers

지금 _____예요 — It is _____ right now

Input the correct time in the blank. If the time includes minutes, then after the hour number + 시, you must add the minute number + 분.

______ 만나요 — Let’s meet at _____

Just fill in the blank with the correct time. Simple!

_____시간 더 남았어요 — There are _____  more hours left

Fill in the blank with the number of hours. The adverb 더 means “more.” If minutes are included, add that right after the hours have been stated. For example: 한 시간 십 분 더 남았어요 (There is one hour and ten minutes more left).

_____에 출발하자 — Let’s leave at _____

Nothing fancy here. Plop in the time you’re planning to depart. Don’t forget the 에 that comes right after you state the time.

If you want to hear these phrases in use, get a better grasp on the two Korean number sets or practice vocabulary in context, check out FluentU.

What Time Is It in South Korea?

South Korea uses Korea Standard Time (GMT+9).

If you want to know what time it is right now, and figure out the difference between KST and your own timezone, all you have to do is check out a website such as this one. Some phones also allow you to add different clocks to your phone, so you can always keep an eye on what time it is in South Korea.

So if you’re wondering when the best time to message your language partner or friends in Korea might be, this will help you keep track!

 

Looks like we beat the clock for this lesson, with plenty of time to spare for practicing what you’ve learned!

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