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A Couple’s Paradise: Christmas in South Korea

Did you know that South Korea has twelve days each year that celebrate (or mourn over, in the case of Black Day) love? And three of them are in December! 

While in Western cultures, people tend to associate Christmas with the birth of Jesus and time with family, most South Koreans perceive Christmas as a day for celebrating romance. In this article, you’ll learn about common South Korean traditions for Christmas, explore some of the most popular activities, and pick up some new vocabulary. 

Ready? Let’s go. 

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1. A South Korean Christmas

A Saint Bernard Dog Wearing a Christmas Hat in a Living Room with Christmas Decorations

Like many countries, South Korea has its own version of 크리스마스 (keuriseumaseu), or “Christmas,” celebrated each year on December 25. Christmas Day in South Korea has many similarities with that in other countries, though there are a few key differences. 

In South Korea, Christmas is less about the traditional story of Jesus’s birth and more about the holiday’s commercial aspects. The holiday is also heavily associated with romance and couples, as opposed to family.

Considering South Korea’s fairly large Christian population (anywhere from a quarter to a third of the population), some people view the holiday in its traditional religious light—though still not to the extent that people in the U.S. or many European nations do. 

2. Christmas Traditions in South Korea

South Koreans employ many of the same traditions and celebrations for Christmas as other countries do, though with a unique Korean twist. 

Valentine’s Day?

In most countries, Christmas means time with family. Well, the average Christmas celebration in South Korea is actually spent with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend, and not one’s family. For this reason, Christmas is often viewed as another ‘Valentine’s Day.’

As advertising increases and special deals are made available, people spend a lot of time looking for the perfect 선물 (seonmul), or “present,” for their significant other. Popular gifts include romantic items, such as chocolate, wine glasses, or lingerie. In addition to gift-giving, couples often go on a romantic date together. This often consists of a meal at a nice restaurant, time spent doing outdoor winter activities, and a night spent in a hotel. Of course, some couples opt to stay indoors during Christmas, snuggled in front of the 벽난로 (byeognanro), or “fireplace.”

The romantic nature of a South Korean Christmas is so prominent that people tend to feel lonely or sad if they have to spend the holiday as a single person.

Christmas Food

The Christmas food in South Korea is far different from what people in the U.S. and other countries are used to. 

Instead of having special food items or meals for the holiday, many Koreans indulge in the popular wintertime foods. These are often found in stalls while walking the streets or in restaurants. These foods include plenty of porridges, soups, spicy foods, and bready foods. You can sometimes find Western-style Christmas meals in certain restaurants, especially those in larger cities.


As for Christmas decorations in South Korea, you’ll mainly find these in public areas and not in residential areas. Walking through the cities or towns, you’ll find many businesses, restaurants, and other public locations decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and the like.

Other Traditions

In South Korea, many children are told about 산타 클로스 (santa keulloseu), or “Santa Claus.” Like in Western cultures, it’s said that Santa will bring gifts to the good children and not to the bad children. Many children call him 산타할아버지 (santaharabeoji), which means “Grandfather Santa.”

Similarly, South Korean children grow up singing about 루돌프 사슴코 (rudolpeu saseumko), or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” during Christmas. A few other Western Christmas songs are popular here, though most of the time, radios play Christmas-themed Korean pop music.

Some children enjoy playing in the 눈 (nun), or “snow,” if they were lucky enough to have a Christmas snow. 

3. Seoul At Christmastime

Not surprisingly, Seoul is a hotspot during the Christmas season. Tons of top-notch restaurants, bars, and shops can be found here, and Christmas is the perfect occasion to check them out with friends—as long as you don’t mind crowds!

A few popular areas include Kang Nam, Shin Chon, Jam Sil, and Ap Gu Jeong. Make sure to visit one or two of these places for a great time! 

4. Essential Vocabulary for Christmas

A Snowman

Let’s review some of the key vocabulary words from this article!

  • 눈 (nun) – “snow” [n]
  • 눈송이 (nunsongi) – “snowflake” [n]
  • 크리스마스 (keuriseumaseu) – “Christmas” [n]
  • 선물 (seonmul) – “present” [n]
  • 썰매 (sseolmae) – “sled” [n]
  • 굴뚝 (gulttuk) – “chimney” [n]
  • 벽난로 (byeognanro) – “fireplace” [n]
  • 크리스마스 종 (keuriseumaseu jong) – “bell” [n]
  • 눈사람 (nunsaram) – “snowman” [n]
  • 산타 클로스 (santa keulloseu) – “Santa Claus”
  • 루돌프 사슴코 (rudolpeu saseumko) – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  • 순록 (sunnok) – “reindeer” [n]
  • 장식 (jangsik) – “decoration” [n]
  • 크리스마스 (Keuriseumaseu) – “Christmas Day”
  • 북극 (Bukgeuk) – “North Pole”
  • 크리스마스 양말 (keuriseumaseu yangmal) – “stocking” [n]
  • 겨우살이 (gyeousari) – “mistletoe” [n]
  • 과자집 (gwajajip) – “gingerbread house” [n]
  • 사탕 지팡이 (satang jipangi) – “candy cane” [n]
  • 화환 (hwahwan) – “wreath” [n]
  • 호랑 가시 나무 (horang gasi namu) – “holly” [n]
  • 꼬마 요정 (kkoma yojeong) – “elf” [n]

Remember that you can find each of these words, along with their pronunciation, on our list of Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary

Final Thoughts

Christmas in South Korea may not be exactly what one would expect, but it certainly possesses the warmth, excitement, and charm of Western Christmas celebrations. 

What are your thoughts on the South Korean version of Christmas? Would you ever like to visit for this special holiday? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments! 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about Korean culture and the language, KoreanClass101.com has several more blog posts we think you’ll like:

If you’re serious about learning Korean, then create your free lifetime account today. We’re constantly adding new audio and video lessons, blog posts, and themed vocabulary lists for learners at every level. Learn Korean in the fastest, easiest, and most fun way! 

One more thing before we go: How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Korean?

메리 크리스마스 (meri keuriseumaseu!)

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14 Confusing Korean Verbs that Sound Similar


Things could get awkward if you replaced “to wish” with “to lose color” in a sentence. 

That’s why today we’re going to introduce fourteen confusing verbs for Korean learners. Often, confusing words are similar in pronunciation, but usually have completely different meanings (e.g. 반듯이 [bandeusi] and 반드시 [bandeusi]). Words like this are also the root of many common Korean spelling mistakes!

Even native Koreans make mistakes regarding these confusing words, and mistakes in foreign languages happen all the time. So even if you can’t distinguish between these words, don’t be discouraged. 

But we do hope our guide helps you out by showing you common Korean mistakes of English speakers and other language learners. Let’s get started with our list of Korean words that are easily mistaken!

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1. 낳다 (nata) vs. 낫다 (nata)

1- Translation:

  • 낳다 (nata) means “to give birth to.”
  • 낫다 (natda) means “to recover from sickness.”

When words look as similar as these two do, mistakes when speaking Korean are inevitable. Indeed, these are a couple of the most confusing words in Korean.

As mentioned above, 낳다 (natda) means “to give birth to a baby” and it’s a verb. 낫다 (natda) has two meanings: Firstly, when it’s used as a verb, it means “to recover from injuries.” Secondly, it can also be used as an adjective that means “prefer” and “better,” as in “This one is better,” (after comparing two items). 

2- Common Mistakes:

“Please get well soon.” 

  • 빨리 낳으세요. (ppalli naeuseyo.) (X = incorrect)
  • 빨리 나으세요. (ppalli naeuseyo.) (O = correct)

3- Examples:

  • 그녀는 며칠 전에 아기를 낳았다. 

Geunyeoneun myeochil jeone agireul naatda.

“She gave birth to a baby a few days ago.”

  • 응, 몸이 괜찮아졌어. 이제 다 나았어. 

Eung, momi gwaenchanajyeosseo. ije da naasseo.

“Yes, I feel a lot better.”

  • A: 이 옷 진짜 이쁘다! 이걸로 할까 저걸로 할까?

A: I ot jinjja ippeuda! igeollo halkka jeogeollo halkka?

A: “This clothing looks great! Should I go for this or that?” 

B: 음, 저게 더 낫다.

B: Eum, jeoge deo natda.

B: “Hmm, that looks better.”

2. 붙이다 (buchida) vs. 부치다 (buchida)

1- Translation:

  • 붙이다 (buchida) means “to stick to.”
  • 부치다 (buchida) means “to send a parcel.”

Confusing these words is one of the most common mistakes when speaking Korean language, but these are easy to distinguish between if you know the meaning for each word. 붙이다 (buchida) is used a lot more in daily life, so once you understand the meaning of this word, you’ll be able to tell the difference between it and 부치다 (buchida).

2- Common Mistakes:

“Attach some stickers.” 

  • 스티커를 부치다. (Seutikeoreul buchida.) (X)
  • 스티커를 붙이다. (Seutikeoreul buchida.) (O)

3- Examples:

  • 미국에 있는친구에게 소포를 부쳤다. 

Miguge inneunchinguege soporeul buchyeotda.

“I sent a parcel to my friend in America.”

  • 플라스틱 박스에 라벨을 붙였다.

Peullaseutik bakseue rabereul butyeotda.

“I attached a label onto a plastic box.”

3. 맞추다 (matchuda) vs. 맞히다 (machida)

1- Translation:

  • 맞추다 (matchuda) means “to set” or “to adjust something.”
  • 맞히다 (machida) means “to guess something correctly.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“If you guess the problem correctly, I will give you some candies.”

  • 문제 맞추면 사탕 줄게. (Munje matchumyeon satang julge.)  (X)
  • 문제 맞히면 사탕 줄게. (Munje machimyeon satang julge.)  (O)

3- Examples:

  • 좋은 사진을 찍기 위해 카메라의 초점을 맞췄다.

Joeun sajineul jjikgi wihae kameraui chojeomeul matchwotda.

“In order to take a great picture, I adjusted the camera focus.”

  • 어려운 수학 문제를 맞혔다.

Eoryeoun suhank munjereul machyeotda.

“He managed to solve a difficult math problem.”

A man studying under the dim light.

4.  바라다 (barada) vs. 바래다 (baraeda)

Making a mistake in Korean here could be tragic. Pay close attention, as here lies the possibility for common Korean words mistakes!

1- Translation:

  • 바라다 (barada) means “to wish.”
  • 바래다 (baraeda) means “to lose color.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I wish I could meet you again.” 

  • 다시 너를 만나길 바래. (X)

Dasi neoreul mannagil barae.

  • 다시 너를 만나길 바래. (O)

Dasi neoreul mannagil bara.

3- Examples:

  • 나는 너를 다시 만나기를 바라고 있어. 

Maneun neoreul dasi mannagireul barago isseo.

“I wish that I could see you again.”

  • 검정색 드레스가 색이 바래서 회색이 되었다. 

Geomjeongsaek deureseuga saegi baraeseo hoesaegi doeeotda.

“The black dress has faded into gray.”

5. 늘이다 (neurida) vs. 늘리다 (neullida)

1- Translation:

  • 늘이다 (neurida) means “to stretch.” 
  • 늘리다 (neullida) means “to increase.”

The meaning of 늘이다 (neurida) focuses on the width/length of something which becomes larger than the original size, such as what happens to a rubber band. On the other hand, the meaning of 늘리다 (neullida) has to do with increasing the number (of people), the time, the skill, and so on.

2- Common Mistakes:

“To increase the property”

  • 재산을 늘이다. (X)

Jaesaneul neullida.

  • 재산을 늘리다. (O)

Jaesaneul neullida.

3- Examples:

  • 치마 길이를 늘이다. 

Chima girireul neurida.

“To make the length of a skirt longer.”

  • 학생 수를 늘리다.

Haksaeng sureul neullida.

“They increased the number of students.”

6. 있다가 (itdaga) vs. 이따가 (ittaga)

1- Translation:

  • 있다가 (itdaga) means “afterwards.”
  • 이따가 (ittaga) means “after a while.”

These two words are tricky, and are the cause of many common Korean phrases mistake, so let’s take a look at many examples to see the different meanings. As mentioned above, 이따가 (ittaga) means “after a while” and “later.” Here are some examples:

  1. 이따가 보자

Ittaga boja

“Let’s meet later.”

  1. 이따가 단둘이 볼래?

Ittaga danduri bollae?

“Shall we meet later?”

  1. 이따가 다시 전화할게

Ittaga dasi jeonhwahalge

“I will give you a call later.”

있다가  (itdaga) means “afterwards,” “after a time,” and “later on.” Here are some examples:

  1. 제주에 며칠 더 있다가 서울로 올라갈 예정이다. 

Jejue myeochil deo itdaga seoullo ollagal yejeongida.

“I am going to stay in Jeju and go back to Seoul afterwards.”

  1. 미국에 조금 더 있다가 한국으로 갈 거야. 

Miguge jogeum deo itdaga hangugeuro gal geoya.

“I am going to be in America for awhile, then go back to Korea.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I will go after thirty minutes.” 

  • 30분 이따가 갈게 (X)

Samsipbun ittaga galge

  • 30분 있다가 갈게 (O)

Samsipbun itdaga galge

3- Examples:

  • 내가 지금 너무 바빠서 그러는데, 조금 이따가 다시 전화할게, 미안!

Naega jigeum neomu bappaseo geureoneunde, jogeum ittaga dasi jeonhwahalge, mian!

“I’m really busy right now, so I will give you a call later!”

  • 이따가 단둘이서 보자. 할말이 있어. 

Ittaga danduriseo boja. halmari isseo.

“Let’s talk only you and me later. I have something to say.”

Confused lady in a yellow shirt

Confused lady in a yellow shirt.

7. 가늘다 (ganeulda) vs. 얇다 (yalda)

1- Translation:

  • 가늘다 (ganeulda) menas “slender.”
  • 얇다 (yalda) means “thin.”

When you want to talk about any objects that are narrow in width or height, such as a waist or a pillar, then you use 가늘다 (ganeulda). On the other hand, when you want to describe the thickness of an object, such as a book, then it’s 얇다 (yalda).

2- Common Mistakes:

“Her waist is really slender.” 

  • 그녀의 허리는 정말 얇다. (X)

Geunyeoui heorineun jeongmal yalda

  • 그녀의 허리는 정말 가늘다. (O) 

Geunyeoui heorineun jeongmal ganeulda.

“This Bible is really thin.”

  • 이 성경책은 가늘다. (X)

I seonggyeongchaegeun ganeulda.

  • 이 성경책은 얇다. (O)

I seonggyeongchaegeun yalda.

3- Examples:

  • 나도 클라우디아 처럼 팔뚝이랑 허리가 가늘었으면 좋겠다.

Nado keullaudia cheoreom palttugirang heoriga ganeureosseumyeon joketda.

“I wish my arms and waist were as slender as Claudia’s.”

  • 최근에 읽기 시작한 책이 있는데 얇아서 들고 다니기가 편해. 

Choegeune ilgi sijakan chaegi inneunde yalbaseo deulgo danigiga pyeonhae.

“The book I recently started reading is really thin, so it’s easy to carry around.”

8. 쓸데없는 (sseuldeeomneun) vs. 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun)

1- Translation:

  • 쓸데없는(sseuldeeomneun) means “unnecessary,” “needless,” and “useless.”
  • 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun) means “no way to use” and “no value.”

When you want to say that something is useless, use 쓸데없는 (sseuldeeomneun), and it’s one word. If you want to talk about something that has no ways to be used, because it has no value to you, use 쓸 데 없는 (sseul de eomneun). 쓸 데 (sseul de) is “to spend,” and the dictionary form is 쓰다 (sseuda). 없는 (mneun) is to say that “there is nothing.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Unnecessary rumor(s)”

  • 쓸 데 없는 소문 (X)

sseul de eomneun somun

  • 쓸데없는 소문 (O)

sseuldeeomneun somun

3- Examples:

  • 돈 쓸 데 없다

Don sseul de eopda.

“There is no way to spend money.”

  • 쓸데없는 생각

Sseuldeeomneun saenggak

“Useless, irrational thinking”

9. 먹거리 (meokgeori) vs. 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori)

1- Translation:

  • 먹거리 (meokgeori) means “food.”
  • 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori) also means “food.”

Simply put, 먹을거리 (meogeulgeori) means “something that you can eat, or any edible food or product.” It refers to any type of food. 

On the other hand, 먹거리 (meokgeori) means “any food that you eat to survive.” It refers to ritualism. I know these two are very tricky, so try to memorize the correct sentences so that you can use the correct form for now. The National Institute of Korean Language offers free services about the Korean language, if you want to learn more about how to distinguish between 먹거리 (meokgeori) and 먹을거 (meogeulgeori).

2- Common Mistakes:

“The fridge is full of food.”

  • 냉장고에 먹거리가 가득하다. (X)

Naengjanggoe meokgeoriga gadeukada.

“There is a full of food inside the fridge.” 

  • 냉장고에 먹을거리가 가득하다. (O)

Naengjanggoe meogeulgeoriga gadeukada.

3- Examples:

  • 아이들에게 안심하고 먹일 수 있는 먹거리를 소개하는 프로그램을 봤다.

Aideurege ansimhago meogil su inneun meokgeorireul sogaehaneun peurogeuraemeul bwatda.

“I saw a program that introduces food that children can eat safely.”

  • 시장에 가서 먹을거리를 사왔다.

Sijange gaseo meogeulgeorireul sawatda.

“I went to a market and bought something to eat.”

  • 여름에는 싱싱한 먹을거리가 많다.

Yeoreumeneun singsinghan meogeulgeoriga manta.

“There is a lot of fresh food in summer.”

  • 부산에는 먹거리 골목이 수도 없이 많다.

Busaneneun meokgeori golmogi sudo eopsi manta.

“Busan has many food alleys.”

A guy using his phone to calculate something.

10. 반드시 (bandeusi) vs. 반듯이 (bandeusi)

1- Translation:

  • 반드시 (bandeusi) means “certainly” and “without fail.”
  • 반듯이 (bandeusi) means “straight” and “in a straight line.”

Think of it this way: 반드시 (bandeusi) is “to keep a promise no matter what,” and 반듯이 (bandeusi) is “to ensure that things are in a straight line.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“I will successfully complete the project.” 

  • 반듯이 프로젝트에 성공하겠습니다. (X)

Bandeusi peurojekteue seonggonghagetseumnida.

  • 반드시 프로젝트에 성공하겠습니다. (O)

Bandeusi peurojekteue seonggonghagetseumnida.

“As she was cleaning the house, she also organized the cups in a straight line.” 

  • 그녀는 청소를 하면서 컵들을 반드시 정리했다. (X)

Geunyeoneun cheongsoreul hamyeonseo keopdeureul bandeusi jeongnihaetda.

  • 그녀는 청소를 하면서 컵들을 반듯이 정리했다. (O)

Geunyeoneun cheongsoreul hamyeonseo keopdeureul bandeusi jeongnihaetda.

3- Examples:

  • 네, 반드시 참석하겠습니다! 

Ne, bandeusi chamseokagetseumnida!

“Yes, I will attend without fail.”

  • 일요일까지 반드시 이 일을 끝내고야 말겠어. 

Illyoilkkaji bandeusi i ireul kkeunnaegoya malgesseo.

“I will get this job done by Sunday, no matter what.”

11. 로서 (roseo) vs. 로써 (rosseo)

1- Translation:

  • 로서 (roseo) means “as” and “in the character of.”
  • 로써 (rosseo) means “with” and “by means of.”

로서 (roseo) refers to your status (e.g. as a military person) and your role (e.g. as a parent, a teacher, etc.). For example: 의사로서 충고합니다만(uisaroseo chunggohamnidaman…), meaning “I advise you as a doctor but…”

로써 (rosseo) refers to any raw material or ingredients of an object, or any tools or methods used to do a task. For example: 그녀의 권력으로써 (geunyeoui gwollyeogeurosseo), meaning “with her power.”

There is a Wiktionary page dedicated to explaining the differences between these two words. 

2- Common Mistakes:

“I advise you as your parent.”

  • 부모로써 충고를 하는데. (X)

Bumorosseo chunggoreul haneunde.

  • 부모로서 충고를 하는데. (O)

Bumoroseo chunggoreul haneunde.

3- Examples:

  • 그는 엔지니어로서 양성되고 있다.

Geuneun enjinieoroseo yangseongdoego itda.

“He is training as an engineer.”

  • 그녀는 대통령으로서 뛰어나지 못하다.

Geunyeoneun daetongnyeongeuroseo ttwieonaji mothada.

“She doesn’t shine as a president.”

12. 틀리다 (teullida) vs. 다르다 (dareuda)

1- Translation:

  • 틀리다 (teullida) means “be wrong” and “be incorrect.”
  • 다르다 (dareuda) means “different” and “dissimilar.”

Let’s say that you have two candies. Each candy has two different colors and flavors, and one candy is slightly bigger than the other. In this case, you should say: 이 두 개의 사탕은 다른 점이 많다 (I du gaeui satangeun dareun jeomi manta), meaning “These two candies have many dissimilarities.”

Let’s say that you’re an exchange student at a Korean university in Seoul. You wrote a report in Korean and want to ask your friend if she can correct the mistakes. In this case, you should say 틀린 곳이 있으면 고쳐줘. (Teullin gosi isseumyeon gochyeojwo.), meaning “Please correct the mistakes.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Can you please correct if there are any mistakes in these math questions?”

  • 여기 수학 문제 다른 곳이 있으면 고쳐줄래? (X)

Yeogi suhak munje dareun gosi isseumyeon gochyeojullae? 

  • 여기 수학 문제 틀린 곳이 있으면 고쳐줄래? (O)

Yeogi suhak munje teullin gosi isseumyeon gochyeojullae? 

3- Examples:

  • 여기 있는 데이터의 계산이 틀린 것 같아.  

Yeogi inneun deiteoui gyesani teullin geot gata.

“There are some mistakes in the data.”

  • 영어 시험에서 5문제나 틀렸어. 

Yeongeo siheomeseo 5munjena teullyeosseo.

“I got five questions wrong on the English test.”

  • 아까 했던 약속이랑 다르잖아. 

Akka haetdeon yaksogirang dareujana. 

“That’s different from what you promised before.”

13. 가르키다  (gareukida) vs. 가르치다 (gareuchida)

1- Translation:

  • 가르키다 (gareukida) means “to indicate” and “to point to.”
  • 가르치다 (gareuchida) means “to teach” and “to instruct.”

For example, when you want to indicate where Busan is on the map, you could say:

지도에서 부산을 가르키다 (Jidoeseo busaneul gareukida), meaning literally “Pointed where the Busan is on the map.” 

When you want to say that the teacher is really good at teaching Korean, then you could say 선생님은 한국어를 정말 잘 가르치신다 (Seonsaengnimeun hangugeoreul jeongmal jal gareuchisinda), meaning “The teacher is really good at teaching Korean.”

2- Common Mistakes:

“Teacher, please teach us Korean language.”

  • 선생님 한국말 가르켜 주세요. (X)

Seonsaengnim hangungmal gareukyeo juseyo.

  • 선생님 한국말 가르쳐 주세요. (O)

Seonsaengnim hangungmal gareuchyeo juseyo.

3- Examples:

  • 남자는 자신의 싸인을 가르키고 있다. 

Namjaneun jasinui ssaineul gareukigo itda. 

“The man is pointing to his own signature.”

  • 여동생에게 한글을 가르쳤다. 

Yeodongsaengege hangeureul gareuchyeotda.

“I taught my younger sister Korean.”

14. 들르다 (deulleuda) vs. 들리다 (deullida)

1- Translation:

  • 들르다 (deulleuda) means “to stop by” and “to come by.”
  • 들리다 (deullida) means “to listen” and “to overhear.”

들르다 (deulleuda) and 들리다 (deullida) look similar, but each word has a completely different meaning, so do be careful. Remember: To say “stop by,” it’s 들다 (deulleuda); to say “overhear,” it’s 들다 (deullida). Check out this news article from Hani to read more about the differences between these two words. 

2- Common Mistakes:

“I dropped by the supermarket and bought this.” 

  • 집에 가는 길에 슈퍼에 들렸다가 갈께요. (X)

Jibe ganeun gire syupeoe deullyeotdaga galkkeyo.

  • 집에 가는 길에 슈퍼에 들렀다가 갈께요. (O)

Jibe ganeun gire syupeoe deulleotdaga galkkeyo.

“I cannot hear you clearly. Can you speak up please?”

  • 목소리가 잘 안들러요. 조금 더 크게 말씀해주세요. (X)

Moksoriga jal andeulleoyo. jogeum deo keuge malsseumhaejuseyo.

  • 목소리가 잘 안들려요. 조금 더 크게 말씀해주세요. (O)

Moksoriga jal andeullyeoyo. jogeum deo keuge malsseumhaejuseyo.

3- Examples:

  • 저녁에 잠깐 들를게요. 

Jeonyeoge jamkkan deulleulgeyo.

“I will drop by in the evening.”

  • 그녀는 제주로 가는 도중에 부산에 들렀다. 

Geunyeoneun jejuro ganeun dojunge busane deulleotda.

“On the way to Jeju, she stopped off at Busan.”

  • 제 목소리 잘 들려요? 

Je moksori jal deullyeoyo?

“Can you hear my voice clearly?”

A Korean flag being held by someone

15. How KoreanClass101.com Can Help You with Korean

We hope you enjoyed learning how to distinguish between similar Korean verbs with us! Are there any that you’re still struggling with? Have any of these mistakes when learning Korean tripped you up before? Let us know in the comments!

Remember that mistakes in Korean language learning are going to happen—it’s just a part of learning! Hopefully our guide on mistakes to avoid for Korean learners gives you a better footing as you continue in your Korean studies.

In addition to what we’ve learned here, we also have a blog article explaining the difference between 어떻게 and 어떡해, so please check it out! KoreanClass101.com offers many free lessons and provides free vocabulary lists for you to improve your Korean language skills. So why not sign up for a lifelong account today and maximize your studies?

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12 Korean Zodiac Elements and Their Personality Traits


Today, we will introduce the 12 Korean zodiac elements and their personality traits. By learning the adjectives that describe the characteristics of each Zodiac character, you will be able to learn new words and expand your vocabulary skills.

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1. The Korean Zodiac: Who is Your Animal Guardian?

12 Korean zodiac elements

The Lunar calendar was the basis of Korean life cycle way back when, and  many traditional Korean holidays , such as 추석 (Chuseok) and 설날 (Seollal), are still based on the moon’s cycle. There are 12 animal signs, thus, the order is repeated every 12 years.  In Korea, when someone asks about your zodiac sign, they usually do this to determine your age and to get a grasp of your personality–the way they do when they ask you for your blood type or astrology sign.

Let’s learn how to determine your animal guardian based on the year of your birth, and how to say your sign in Korean. We will also learn about the interesting stories behind each animal sign. 

2. What is Your Korean Zodiac Sign and How to Say it in Korean

In Korean, the twelve animal guardians are called “십이지신 (sibijisin), Sexagenary cycle”,  and the order is as follows:

  1. “Mouse” (쥐, jwi)
  2. “Cow” (소, so)
  3. “Tiger” (호랑이, horangi)
  4. “Rabbit” (토끼, tokki)
  5. “Dragon” (용, yong)
  6. “Snake” (뱀, baem)
  7. “Horse” (말, mal)
  8. “Sheep” (양, yang)
  9. “Monkey” (원숭이, wonsungi)
  10. “Rooster” (닭, dak)
  11. “Dog” (개, gae)
  12. “Pig” (돼지, dwaeji)

Usually when you try to memorise the order of 12 Korean animal guardians, we call each animal from Korean characters: 

  • Mouse: 子 which has the sound of 자 [ja] in Korean 
  • Cow: 丑 which has the sound of 축 [chuk] in Korean 
  • Tiger: 寅 which has the sound of 인 [in] in Korean 
  • Rabbit: 卯 which has the sound of 묘 [myo] in Korean 
  • Dragon: 辰 which has the sound of 진 [jin] in Korean
  • Snake: 巳 which has the sound of 사 [sa] in Korean
  • Horse: 午 which has the sound of 오 [o] in Korean
  • Sheep: 未 which has the sound of 미 [mi] in Korean
  • Monkey: 申 which has the sound of 신 [shin] in Korean
  • Rooster: 酉 which has the sound of 유 [yu] in Korean
  • Dog: 戌 which has the sound of 술 [sul] in Korean
  • Pig: 亥 which has the sound of 해 [hae] in Korean

But for now, let’s focus on a more easier way to say your Korean zodiac sign. It is actually very easy – you just need to say the name of the animal in Korean, followed by 띠 [tti]. 

1- List of animal signs in Korean and Birth Year:

  • “Mouse”: 띠 (jwi-tti) – 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
  • “Cow”: 띠 (so-tti) – 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
  • “Tiger”: 호랑이띠 (horangi-tti) – 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
  • “Rabbit”: 토끼띠 (tokki-tti) – 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
  • “Dragon”: 띠 (yong-tti) – 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
  • “Snake”: 띠 (baem-tti) – 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
  • “Horse”: 띠 (mal-tti) – 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
  • “Sheep”: 띠 (yang-tti) – 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
  • “Monkey”: 원숭이띠 (wonsungi-tti) – 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
  • “Rooster”: 띠 (dak-tti) – 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
  • “Dog”: 띠 (gae-tti) – 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
  • “Pig”: 돼지띠 (dwaeji-tti) – 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

When you are asked what your zodiac sign is, you can simply answer by ___띠입니다 (___tti-im-ni-da.), this means “My Korean zodiac sign is ___.” in English. 

For example, let’s say you were born in 1988. This means you are dragon. In that way, when someone asks 무슨 띠예요? (museun ttiyeyo?, What is your Korean zodiac?), meaning “What is your Korean zodiac sign?” in English, you can reply to them by saying, 용띠입니다 (yongttiimnida), meaning “I am the year of the dragon.”

Example sentence #1:

  • Friend: 너 무슨 띠야?

Friend: Neo museun ttiya?

Friend: What’s your sign? 

  • You: 나? 나(는) 용띠(야).

You: Na? Na(neun) yongtti(ya).

You: Me? I’m the year of the dragon. 

Example sentence #2:

  • Friend: 무슨 띠예요?

Friend:  Museun ttiyeyo?

Friend: What’s your Korean zodiac?

  • You: 돼지띠입니다. 

You: Dwaejittiimnida.

You: I’m the year of the pig.

3. Korean Zodiac Sign: Personality Traits and Example Sentences

Now that you have figured your Korean zodiac sign, it’s time to look at it in detail. We have prepared ten adjectives to describe the various personalities of the animals, and listed some of the most famous Korean celebrities who has the same animal year as you. And of course, example sentences for you to practice Korean too! 

A drawing of a mouse

1- 쥐띠 [jwi-tti]  – The Year of the Mouse

1. Personality Traits of Mouse are:

  1. “Imaginative”: 상상력이 풍부하다 (sangsangnyeogi pungbuhada) 
  2. “Sociable”: 사교성이 좋다 (sagyoseongi jota)
  3. “Inquisitiveness”: 캐묻기를 좋아하다 (kaemutgireul joahada) 
  4. “Agile”: 민첩하다 (mincheopada)
  5. “Introverted”: 내성적이다 (naeseongjeogida)
  6. “Philosophical”: 철학적이다 (cheolhakjeogida)
  7. “Fashionable”: 패션감각이 있다 (paesyeongamgagi itda)
  8. “Fun”: 재미있다 (jaemiitda)
  9. “Sociable”: 사교적이다 (sagyojeogida)
  10.  “Smart”: 똑똑하다 (ttokttokada)

2. Korean Celebrities: 

3. Example Sentences:

  • 쥐띠의 사람은 상상력이 풍부하며 사교성이 좋습니다. 

Jwittiui sarameun sangsangnyeogi pungbuhamyeo sagyoseongi joseumnida.

“The person who was born in the year of the mouse is very imaginative and sociable.”

  • 쥐띠의 사람은 궁금증이 많아 캐묻기를 좋아합니다.

Jwittiui sarameun gunggeumjeungi mana kaemutgireul joahamnida.

“The person who was born under the year of the mouse is very curious in nature, therefore likes to ask many questions.”

A drawing of a cow

2- 소띠 [so-tti] – The Year of the Cow

1. Personality Traits of the Cow are:

  1. “Trustworthy”: 믿음직 스럽다 (mideumjik seureopda)
  2. “Very patient”: 참을성이 강하다 (chameulseongi ganghada)
  3. “Authoritative”: 권위적이다 (gwonwijeogida)
  4. “Efficient”: 능률적이다 (neungnyuljeogida) 
  5. “Rational”: 논리적이다 (nollijeogida)
  6. “Systematic”: 조직적이다 (jojikjeogida)
  7. “Calm”: 침착하다 (chimchakada)
  8. “Independent”: 자립적이다 (jaripjeogida) 
  9. “Warm”: 따뜻하다 (ttatteuthada)
  10. “Slow”: 둔하다 (dunhada)

2. Korean Celebrities: 

  1. 전도연 (Jeon Do-yeon)
  2. 고준희 (Go Joon-hee)
  3. 이정재 (Lee Jung-jae)
  4. 임창정 (Im Chang-jung)
  5. 송은이 (Song Eun-i)

3. Example Sentences:

  • 소띠의 사람은 믿음직스럽기로 유명합니다.

Sottiui sarameun mideumjikseureopgiro yumyeonghamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the cow is famous for being patient.

  • 소띠의 사람은 마음이 따뜻하기로 유명합니다.

Sottiui sarameun maeumi ttatteuthagiro yumyeonghamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the cow is for having a very warm heart.

A drawing of a tiger

3- 호랑이띠 [horangi-tti] – The Year of the Tiger

1. Personality Traits of the Tiger are:

  1. “Independence”: 독립심이 강하다 (dongnipsimi ganghada) 
  2. “Adventurous”: 모험심이 강하다 (moheomsimi ganghada) 
  3. “Outgoing” : 적극적이다 (jeokgeukjeogida)
  4. “hones”: 솔직하다 (soljikada)
  5. “Competitive (likes to win all the time)”: 승부력이 강하다 (seungburyeogi ganghada)
  6. “Stubborn”: 자기고집이 세다 (jagigojibi seda)
  7. “Unable to tolerate any injustice”: 불의를 참지 못한다 (buruireul chamji mothanda)
  8. “Optimistic” : 낙천적이다 (nakcheonjeogida)
  9. “Assertive”: 자기 주장이 강하다 (jagi jujangi ganghada)

2. Korean Celebrities: 

3. Example Sentences:

  • 호랑이띠의 사람은 주로 독립심이 하고 적극적인 성격을 가졌습니다. 

Horangittiui sarameun juro dongnipsimi hago jeokgeukjeogin seonggyeogeul gajyeotseumnida.

A person who was born in the year of the tiger has very independent and outgoing personality.

  • 호랑이띠의 사람은 승부력이 강하기때문에 자기 주장을 강하게 말합니다. 

Horangittiui sarameun seungburyeogi ganghagittaemune jagi jujangeul ganghage malhamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the tiger is very competitive, therefore is very assertive.

Drawing of a rabbit

4- 토끼띠 [tokki-tti] – The Year of the Rabbit

1. Personality Traits of the Rabbit are:

  1. “Sensible”: 현명하다 (hyeonmyeonghada) 
  2. “Very rational”: 합리화가 강하다 hamnihwaga ganghada) 
  3. “Hard-working”: 부지런하다 (bujireonhada)
  4. “Gentle personality”: 온화한 성격이다 (onhwahan seonggyeogida) 
  5. “Quick-witted”: 재치가 있다 (jaechiga itda)
  6. “Intellectual”: 지적이다 (jijeogida)
  7. “Polished”: 세련적이다 (seryeonjeogida)
  8. “Honest”: 정직하다 (jeongjikada)
  9. “Sympathetic”: 동정적이다 (jeogida)
  10. “Reluctant”: 망설인다 (mangseorinda)

2. Korean Celebrities: 

3. Example Sentences:

  • 토끼띠의 사람은 온화한 성격을 가지고 있어 주위 사람으로부터 인기가 많다. 

tokkittiui sarameun onhwahan seonggyeogeul gajigo isseo juwi sarameurobuteo ingiga manta.

A  person who was born in the year of the rabbit is gentle so that people like him.

  • 토끼띠의 사람은 부지런한 성격을 가졌다. 

tokkittiui sarameun bujireonhan seonggyeogeul gajyeotda.

A  person who was born in the year of the rabbit is famous for being hard-working.

A drawing of a dragon

5- 용띠 [yong-tti] – The Year of the Dragon

1. Personality Traits of the Dragon are:

  1. “Generous”: 관대하다 (gwandaehada)
  2. “Outgoing”: 외향적이다 (oehyangjeogida)
  3. “arrogant”: 오만해 보인다 (omanhae boinda) 
  4. “Active”: 활동적이다 (hwaldongjeogida) 
  5. “Self-assertive”: 자기 주장이 강하다 (jagi jujangi ganghada)
  6. “Perfectionist”: 완벽함을 추구한다 (wanbyeokameul chuguhanda)
  7. “Talkative”: 수다를 좋아한다 (sudareul joahanda)
  8. “Lucky”: 운이 좋다 (uni jota)
  9. “Impatient”: 성급하다 (seonggeupada)
  10. “Straightforward”: 직설적이다 (jikseoljeogida)

2. Korean Celebrities: 

3. Example Sentences:

  • 용띠의 사람은 평소 자기 주장이 강하여 오만해 보일 수 있다. 

Yongttiui sarameun pyeongso jagi jujangi ganghayeo omanhae boil su itda.

A person who was born in the year of the dragon is self-assertive, therefore they may be seen as arrogant by others.

  • 용띠의 사람은 외향적이고 활동적이다. 

Yongttiui sarameun oehyangjeogigo hwaldongjeogida.

A person who was born in the year of the dragon is outgoing and active.

A drawing of a snake

6- 뱀띠 [baem-tti] – The Year of the Snake

1. Personality Traits of the Snake are:

  1. “Intuitive”: 현명하다 (hyeonmyeonghada)
  2. “Calm”: 차분하다 (chabunhada)
  3. “Charismatic”: 카리스마가 강하다 (kariseumaga ganghada)
  4. “Graceful”: 우아하다 (uahada)
  5. “Jealous”: 질투심이 있다 (jiltusimi itda)
  6. “Quite”: 조용하다 (joyonghada)
  7. “Self-critical”: 자기 비판적이다 (jagi bipanjeogida)
  8. “Insuitive”: 직관력이 있다 (jikgwallyeogi itda)
  9. “Romantic”: 로맨틱하다 (romaentikad)
  10. “Humble”: 겸손하다 (gyeomsonhada)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 뱀띠의 사람은 차분하고 카리스마가 강한것으로 알려져있다.

Baemttiui sarameun chabunhago kariseumaga ganghangeoseuro allyeojyeoitda.

A person who was born in the year of the snake is known to be calm and charismatic.

  • 뱀띠의 사람은 로맨틱하지만 쉽게 질투심을 느낀다.

Baemttiui sarameun romaentikajiman swipge jiltusimeul neukkinda.

A person who was born in the year of the snake is romantic but gets jealous easily.

A drawing of a horse

7- 말띠 [mal-tti] – The Year of the Horse

1. Personality Traits of the Horse are:

  1. “Independent”: 독립심이 강하다 (dongnipsimi ganghada)
  2. “Realistic”: 현실적이다 (hyeonsiljeogida)
  3. “Individualists”: 개인주의자이다 (gaeinjuuijaida)
  4. “Stubborn”: 고집이 있다 (gojibi itda)
  5. “On a short fuse”: 화를 잘낸다 (hwareul jallaenda)
  6. “Persuasive”: 설득력이 있다 (seoldeungnyeogi itda)
  7. “Careless”: 조심성이 없다 (josimseongi eopda)
  8. “Faithful”: 성실하다 (seongsilhada)
  9. “Cheerful”: 명랑하다 (myeongnanghada)
  10. “Sociable”: 사회성이 있다 (sahoeseongi itda)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 빅뱅의 멤머인 승리는 말띠입니다. 

Bikbaengui memmeoin seungnineun malttiimnida.

Seungri is one of the members of BingBang and was born in the year of the horse.

  • 말띠의 사람은 사회성이 있고 명랑하다고 알려져 있다.

Malttiui sarameun sahoeseongi itgo myeongnanghadago allyeojyeo itda.

A person who was born in the year of the horse is known to be sociable and cheerful.

A drawing of a sheep

8-  양띠 [yang-tti] – The Year of the Sheep

1. Personality Traits of the Sheep are:

  1. “Timid”: 소심하다 (sosimhada) 
  2. “Friendly”: 친절하다 (chinjeolhada)
  3. “Weak of purpose”: 의지가 약하다 (uijiga yakada)
  4. “Considerate”: 이해심이 많다 (ihaesimi manta)
  5. “Peaceful”: 평화롭다 (pyeonghwaropda)
  6. “Adaptable”: 적응력이 뛰어나다 (jeogeungnyeogi ttwieonada)
  7. “Gracious”: 품위가 있다 (pumwiga itda)
  8. “Sensitive”: 예민하다 (yeminhada)
  9. “Pessimistic”: 비관적이다 (bigwanjeogida)
  10. “Unpredictable”: 변덕스럽다 (byeondeokseureopda)

 2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 연기자 배두나는 양띠입니다. 

Yeongija baedunaneun yangttiimnida.

Actress named Bae Doona was born in the year of the sheep. 

  • 양띠의 사람은 친절하고 이해심이 많습니다. 

Yangttiui sarameun chinjeolhago ihaesimi manseumnida.

A person who was born in the year of sheep is friendly and considerate. 

A drawing of a monkey

9-  원숭이띠 [wonsungi-tti] – The Year of the Monkey

1. Personality Traits of the Monkey are:

  1. “Stern”: 단호하다 (danhohada
  2. “Confident”: 자신이 있다 (jasini itda)
  3. “Vanity”: 허영심이 있다 (heoyeongsimi itda)  
  4. “Arrogant”: 잘난 체를 한다 (jallan chereul handa)
  5. “Observant”: 관찰력이 있다 (gwanchallyeogi itda)
  6. “Versatile”: 다재다능이다 (dajaedaneungida)
  7. “Quick”: 재빠르다 (jaeppareuda)
  8. “Independent”: 독립적이다 (dongnipjeogida)
  9. “Imaginative”: 창의력이 있다 (changuiryeogi itda)  
  10. “Opportunist”: 기회주의자이다 (gihoejuuijaida)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 원숭이띠의 사람은 다재다능인 사람입니다. 

Wonsungittiui sarameun dajaedaneungin saramimnida.

A person who was born in the year of the monkey is versatile.

  • 원숭이띠의 사람은 매우 독립적입니다. 

Wonsungittiui sarameun maeu dongnipjeogimnida.

A person who was born in the year of the monkey is very independent. 

A drawing of a rooster

10- 닭띠 [dak-tti] – The Year of the Rooster

1. Personality Traits of the Rooster are:

  1. “Sensitive”: 예민하다 (yeminhada)
  2. “Impatient”: 성급하다 (seonggeupada)
  3. “Intelligent”: 똑똑하다 (ttokttokada)
  4. “Kind”: 인정이 많다 (injeongi manta) 
  5. “Faithful”: 의리가 있다 (uiriga itda)
  6. “Dreamers”: 몽상가이다 (mongsanggaida)
  7. “Pure”: 마음의 청순하다 (maeumui cheongsunhada)
  8. “Meticulous”: 꼼꼼하다 (kkomkkomhada)
  9. “Braggers”: 자랑을 좋아한다 (jarangeul joahanda) 
  10. “Not good at lying”: 거짓말을 못한다 (geojinmareul mothanda)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 닭띠의 사람은 거짓말을 잘 못합니다. 

Dalttiui sarameun geojinmareul jal mot hamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the rooster is not good at lying. 

  • 닭띠의 사람은 의리가 있어서 믿음직합니다. 

Dalttiui sarameun uiriga isseoseo mideumjikamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the rooster is faithful, therefore he/she is trustworthy.

A drawing of a dog

11- 개띠 [gae-tti] – The Year of the Dog

1. Personality Traits of the Dog are:

  1. “Devotional”: 헌신적이다 (heonsinjeogida)
  2. “Trustworthy”: 믿을 수 있다 (mideul su itda)
  3. “Responsible”: 책임감이 있다  (chaegimgami itda)
  4. “Pugnacious”: 싸우기를 좋아한다 (ssaugireul joahanda) 
  5. “Cynical”: 냉소적이다 (naengsojeogida)
  6. “Understanding”: 너그럽다 (neogeureopda)
  7. “Serious-minded”: 생각이 깊다 (saenggagi gipda)
  8. “Frank”: 솔직하다 (soljikada)
  9. “Passionate”: 열정적이다 (yeoljeongjeogida)
  10. “Defensive”: 방어적이다 (bangeojeogida)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 개띠의 사람은 생각이 깊습니다. 

Gaettiui sarameun saenggagi gipseumnida.

A person who was born in the year of the dog is serious. 

  • 개띠의 사람은 매우 솔직한 편입니다. 

Gaettiui sarameun maeu soljikan pyeonimnida.

A person who was born in the year of the dog is quite frank (about his/her opinion).

A drawing of a pig

12- 돼지띠 [daweji-tti] – The Year of the Pig

1. Personality Traits of the Pig are:

  1. “Honest”: 정직하다 (jeongjikada)
  2. “Equitable”: 공평하다 (gongpyeonghada)
  3. “Impulsive”: 충동적이다 (chungdongjeogida)
  4. “Attentive”: 자상하다 (jasanghada)
  5. “Simple”: 단순하다 (dansunhada)
  6. “Easily deceived”: 잘 속는다 (jal songneundl)
  7. “Brave”: 용기가 있다 (yonggiga itda)
  8. “Gallant”: 씩씩하다 (ssikssikada)
  9. “Polite”: 예의가 바르다 (yeuiga bareuda)

2. Korean Celebrities:

3. Example Sentences:

  • 돼지띠의 사람은 다른 사람들에게 자상합니다.

Dwaejittiui sarameun dareun saramdeurege jasanghamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the pig is attentive of others.

  • 돼지띠의 사람은 항상 씩씩합니다. 

Dwaejittiui sarameun hangsang ssikssikamnida.

A person who was born in the year of the pig is always gallant.

Yin yang and 12 zodiac signs

4. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Korean

Do you think that the personality lists of your animal year match with your personality? KoreanClass101.com has various lessons about animals. If you want to extend your vocabularies for animals or marines, check out these two pages: “Animal Names(동물 이름, dongmul ireum) and “Marine Animals (해양 동물, haeyang dongmul). Once you learn these words, you cannot miss out on onomatopoeia! Check out “Sounds That Animals Make (동물이 내는 소리, dongmuri naeneun sori) when you have time. 
We also have a free adjective vocabulary list on our website, check out “Which Adjective Describes Your Personality Best?” (당신의 성격을 가장 잘 표현하는 형용사는 무엇입니까?, Dangsinui seonggyeogeul gajang jal pyohyeonhaneun hyeongyongsaneun mueosimnikka?) to learn more adjectives to describe personalities.

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Must-Know Korean Language Counters


Do you know there are different ways to count various objects in Korean? 

Unlike in English, where you can simply say “I’d like two pizzas, please,” in Korean, you have to say 피자 두 판 주세요 (pija deu pan juseyo) which means “Please give me two discs of pizza.” This is because the Korean counter for pizza, which is flat and round like a disc, is 판 (pan) meaning “disc.” 

Here’s an overview of how these counters in Korean grammar work:

Korean Number + Countere.g. 두 (meaning “two”) + 판 (counter for a flat and round object)

As you can see from this example, in Korean, you need to add a specific counter depending on the object that you’re discussing. In Korean grammar, counters are essential in being understood.

However, there’s no need to fret—if you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to make yourself understood by using a handful of the most frequently used counters, such as:

  • 개 (gae) or “counter for inanimate objects” 
  • 명(myeong) or “counter for persons”

In the long run, it’s better to know which counter is used for each object, though. If you’re wondering how to study Korean counters, you’ve come to the right starting place! 

In this blog article, we hope to answer the question “What are Korean counters?” and we’ll also be focusing on some Korean top counters that you’ll run across when studying Korean. However, before we go into the specifics, you need to know a bit about the Korean counting system. So if you’re not familiar with Korean numbers, check out our Korean Numbers article.

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1. The Most Common Counters

Korean numbers

There are many counters in Korean, but if you’re a beginner, don’t try to memorize all Korean counters as this will just cause confusion. Just remember the most commonly used counters, and take it from there. 

We’ll introduce some Korean words for counters counters that you’ll definitely find yourself using—especially when you have no idea which counter to use! We’ll also provide you with Korean counters examples, so that you know just how to use them. 

1- People, Objects, and Animals

We’ll start this article with the very most common Korean noun counters. These are the Korean counters you’ll be seeing, hearing, and using most often. Ready to expand your counters in Korean vocabulary? Let’s get started! 

1. The Counter for Inanimate Objects: 개 (gae)

This counter can be translated as “thing” in English and is one of the most widely used counters; you can use it for most inanimate objects. So while there may be a separate counter for various objects, if you don’t know the counter for it, you can simply use 개 (gae) to be understood, although it’s better to use the specific counters. But keep in mind that you can’t use this counter when you’re counting animate objects such as dogs or people. 

For example, the counter for pens/pencils is 자루 (jaru).

  • 연필 한 자루 (yeonpil han jaru) or “one pencil”

However, you could simply use 개, the inanimate object counter.

  • 연필 한 개 (yeonpil han gae) or “one pencil”

2. The Counter for People: 명 (myeong)

This counter can be used when counting people. You can use this counter for anyone—men, women, children, and the elderly.


  • 참가자는 네 명입니다

Chamgajaneun ne myeongimnida

“There are four participants.”

3. The “Polite” Counter for People: 분 (bun)

When you’re counting someone who’s older than you, or of a higher social status, you can count them using this counter. That’s why you’ll often hear this counter used at hotels, restaurants, and cafes. 


  • 세 분 이세요? 

Se bun iseyo?

“Are you a group of three?” or literally “Are you three people?” 

This phrase can be used when a staff member in a restaurant wants to confirm how many people your group has.

4. The Counter for Animals: 마리 (mari)

This is a counter used to count any type of animal, including dogs, cats, birds, and even fish and insects. Keep in mind that this counter can’t be used for human beings (unless you want to offend them!). 


  • 강아지를 한 마리 키우고 있어요.

Gangajireul han mari kiugo isseoyo.

“I have (am raising) one dog.”

5. Counter for Ages of People or Animals: 살 (sal) and 세 (se)

These two counters are used to count the ages of people or animals. 

However, there is a difference between the two counters:

  • 살 (sal) can be used to count the age of people or animals, and is used only with Native Korean numbers. It’s more commonly used in colloquial situations.
  • 세 (se), which is a more formal counter for age, can only be used to count the age of people, not animals. And you can only use this counter with Sino-Korean numbers.

Also, keep in mind that you can’t use 살 (sal) or 세 (se) to count the age of inanimate objects such as buildings or towns.


  • 저는 올해 스물 다섯 살입니다.  

Jeoneun olhae seumul daseot ssalimnida. 

“I’m twenty-five years old this year.”   

  • 그녀는 올해 이십오 세입니다.

Geunyeoneun olhae isipo seimnida.

“She is twenty-five years old this year.”

  • 우리 개는 세 살입니다.

Uri gaeneun se salimnida.

“My dog is three years old.”

2- Time 

1. Counter for Years: 년 (nyeon)

This counter literally means “years” and originates from a Chinese character. Unlike the counter 살 (sal), you can use this counter when you’re counting the ages of inanimate objects. Let’s look at an example.

  • 이 도시는 천 년 되었습니다.

I dosineun cheon nyeon doieosseumnida.

“This city is 100-years-old.” 

When you’re using this counter, it’s better to use the verb meaning “to become” at the end of a sentence like this one.

2. Counter for Months: 달 (dal)

Flipping through months on a calendar

This counter literally means “months.”

  • 작년에 세 달 동안 한국을 여행했어요.

Jangnyeone se dal dongan hangugeul yeohaenghaesseoyo.

“I traveled to Korea for three months last year.”

3. Counter for Days: 일 (il)

This counter literally means “days.” You use a Sino-Korean number with this counter. Please note that there are also pure Korean words for days. You can find the list below.

  • 30일간 비가 오지 않았어요.

Samsibilgan biga oji anasseoyo.

“It hasn’t rained for thirty days.”

Pure Korean Words for Days:

  • 하루 (Haru)
  • 이틀 (Iteul)
  • 사흘 (Saheul)
  • 나흘 (Naheul)
  • 닷새 (Datsae)
  • 엿새 (Yeotsae)
  • 이레 (Ire)
  • 여드레 (Yeodeure)
  • 아흐레 (Aheure)
  • 열흘 (Yeolheul)

4. The Counter for Reading Hours: 시 (si)

This counter is used to read hours/time.

  • 지금은 아홉 시입니다. 

Jigeumeun ahop si-imnida.

“It’s nine o’clock now.”

시 literally means “hours,” and you can use this counter to read the time. For example, “one o’clock” would be 한 시 (han si). So if you’re asked about the time, you can answer by using this counter. 

5. The Counter for Reading Hours: 분 (bun)

This word means “minutes.” Unlike the usage of the counter 시 (si), you should use Sino-Korean numbers when you’re reading minutes. For example:

  • 지금은 두 시 이십이 분입니다.

Jigeumeun du si isibi bunimnida.

“It’s 2:22.”

In English, all numbers can be read as “2.” However, in Korean, you should tell the time with pure Korean numbers, and minutes with Sino-Korean numbers.

6. The Counter for Reading Hours: 초 (cho)

This word means “seconds.” Just like 분 (bun), you use Sino-Korean numbers when you’re reading seconds. 

  • 3초가 걸렸어요.

Samchoga geollyeosseoyo.

“It took three seconds.”

3- Beverages, Bottles, and Books

1. The Counter for the Number of Beverages: 잔 (jan)

This counter literally means “a glass.” This is a counter you use to count the number of glasses—not the glasses that you wear, but the glasses you use for drinks—or cups. When you need water, or any other beverage that can be contained inside a glass or a cup, you can use this counter. In Korean, you should literally say “One glass of water, please” with the right counter, which is: 물 한 잔 주세요 (Mul han jan juseyo).

For example:

  • 맥주 한 잔 주세요.

Maekju han jan juseyo.

“Please give me a glass of beer.”

  • A: 잔은 몇 개 드릴까요?

Janeun myeot gae deurilkkayo?

“How many cups do you need?”

B: 두 잔 주세요.

Du jan juseyo.

“Please give us two cups.”

2. The Counter for the Number of Bottles: 병 (byeong)

Many soda bottles

This word literally means “bottles.” You can use this when you count bottles of water or beverages. And it’s not just for beverages—you can count the number of any type of bottle using this counter.

  • 콜라 한 병을 마셨습니다.

Kolla han byeongeul masyeotseumnida.

“I drank a bottle of Coke.”

3. The Counter for Books: 권 (gwon)

This is the counter that you’ll use for books, magazines, notebooks, photo albums, or anything that has pages that you can flip over. For example:

  • 잡지 한 권과 노트북 한 권 주세요.

Japji han gwongwa noteubuk han gwon juseyo.

“Please give me one magazine and one notebook.”

  • 책 한 권 빌려도 될까요?

Chaek han gwon bilryeodo dwelkkayo?

“Can I borrow a book?”

  • 책상에 책이 열 권 있습니다.

Chaeksange chaegi yeol gwon itseumnida.

“There are ten books on the desk.”

4- Buildings & Machines

1. The Counter for Buildings or Houses: 채 (chae)

This can only be used when you’re counting the number of places such as homes, apartments, or buildings.

  • 이 동네에는 집이 오십 채 있습니다.

I dongneeneun jibi osip chae itseumnida.

“In this town, there are fifty houses.”

2. The Counter for Vehicles or Machines: 대 (dae)

This counter can be used when counting items made in factories or machines, such as cars, bicycles, computers, and mobile phones.

  • 자동판매기가 세 대 있습니다.

Jadongpanmaegiga se dae itseumnida.

“There are three vending machines.”

  • 저는 휴대전화가 두 대 있습니다.

Jeoneun hyudaejeonhwaga du dae itseumnida. 

“I have two mobile phones.”

5- The Counter for the Number of Places: 곳 (got)

This counter can be used when counting the number of places. For example, when you count the number of museums that you visited during your trip, you can use this counter. This counter literally means “place,” so it can be used for purposes other than counting. For example, you can also use this word to point out a place, such as “this place” and “that place.”

  • 이번 유럽여행에서 나는 박물관을 다섯 곳 방문했습니다.

Ibeon yureobyeohaengeseo naneun bangmulgwaneul daseot got bangmunhaetseumnida.

“During the trip to Europe, I visited five museums.”

6- Nature

1. The Counter for Trees: 그루 (geuru)

This word literally means “stump” in Korean. This can also be used when counting trees, but not other plants such as flowers or grass.

  • 정원에 나무를 한 그루 심었습니다.

Jeongwone namureul han geuru simeotseumnida.

“I planted one tree in the front yard.”

2. The Counter for Flowers or Grass: 송이 (songi)

This word literally means “stem” in Korean. 

  • 이 공원에는 나무 다섯 그루와 꽃 두 송이가 있습니다.

I gongwoneneun namu daseot geuruwa kkot du songiga itseumnida.

“There are five trees and two flowers in this park.”

7- The Counter for Things that Look Like Paper: 장 (jang)

In the past, this counter was only used for counting paper. However, nowadays, people use this counter to count objects that look like paper, such as credit cards, CDs, and bills.

  • 봉투 안에는 편지가 다섯 장 들어있었습니다.

Bongtu aneneun pyeonjiga daseot jang deureoiseotseumnida.

“In the envelope, there were five letters.”

8- The Counter for the Number of Floors: 층 (cheung)

This word literally means “layers.” You can use this counter when counting the number of floors in any type of building, such as houses or regular buildings.

  • 우리 집은 육 층에 있습니다.

Uri jibeun nyuk cheunge itseumnida.

“My home is on the sixth floor.”

9- The Counter for the Number of Times: 번 (beon)

This counter is for counting the number of times, rather than objects. When you’re counting the number of times that you did something, such as watching a movie or going to the gym, you can use this counter.

  • 나는 이 영화를 여섯번 봤습니다.

Naneun i yeonghwareul ryeoseot beon bwatseumnida.

“I’ve watched this movie six times.”

  • 비밀번호를 세 번 틀리면 은행 계좌가 막힙니다.

Bimilbeonhoreul se beon teullimyeon eunhaeng gyejwaga makimnida.

“If you enter the wrong PIN number three times, your bank account will be locked.”

10- The Counter for Any Kind of Pieces: 조각 (jogak)

Sponge cake slices

This counter can be used for any kind of pieces, such as pieces of a cake or pieces of broken machines. 

  • 치즈케이크 한 조각 주세요.

Chijeukeikeu han jogak juseyo.

“One piece of cheesecake, please.”

11- Counter for the Number of Items of Clothing: 벌 (beol)

You can use this counter for any type of clothing, such as shirts, skirts, and jeans.

  • 장롱에 셔츠가 열 벌 있습니다.

Jangnonge syeocheuga yeol beol ritseumnida.

“There are ten shirts in the closet.”

12- The Counter for Anything that You Wear on Your Feet: 켤레 (kyeolle)

This counter can be used for anything that you wear on your feet, such as socks or shoes. Since this counter is for a pair of socks or shoes, make sure you use this counter only when counting pairs. When you need to count an individual item, such as a single sock, you can use the counter Gae, which is for general inanimate objects.

  • 이번 여행에는 양말 다섯 켤레를 가져갈 겁니다.

Ibeon yeohaengeneun yangmal daseot kyeollereul gajyeogal geomnida.

“I’m going to pack five pairs of socks for this trip.”

13- The Counter for Food Items Served in a Dish: 접시 (jeopsi)

This word literally means “dishes,” but people use this counter when counting food items served in a dish or plate. Instead of counting the food directly, Korean people count the number of dishes; it sounds more polite because it’s less direct. It can be used for noodles, dumplings, or mixed rice dishes, for example. When Korean people count the number of actual dishes or plates, they use the counter Gae, which can be used for inanimate objects in general.

  • 파스타를 다섯 접시 주문했습니다.

Paseutareul daseot jeopsi jumunhaetseumnida.

“I ordered five dishes of pasta.”

14- The Traditional Counter for the Size of an Area: 평 (pyeong)

Do you know the traditional counter for the size of an area? Although more people are using square meters these days, you can still find this counter when Korean people talk about the size of their house or rooms. The answer is 평 (pyeong).

The size of one 평 (pyeong) is around 3.3 square meters. In the past, Korean people measured spaces using this counter, so people use it more than square meters.

  • 우리 집은 33평 입니다.

Uri jibeun 33pyeong imnida.

“My house is about 33 peyong.” (Or 109 square meters.)

2. Even More Korean Counters

Common large numbers

1- The Counter for Inanimate Objects: 가마 (gama)

Do you know the special counter for bags of rice? Rice is the main ingredient in Korean dishes, so it has a special counter just for the bags. The answer is: 가마 (gama).

  • 쌀 한 가마 주세요.

Ssal han gama juseyo.

“Please give me one bag of rice.”

When you count a grain of rice, you can use the counter 톨 (tol) instead.

2- The Counter for Animals: 손 (son)

This counter sounds exactly the same as the word meaning “hands.” When it’s used as a counter, you can use it for counting a pair of fish. Let’s take a look at an example:

어머니가 고등어 한 손을 사왔습니다.

Eomeoniga godeung-eo han soneul sawasseumnida.

“My mother bought one pair of mackerel.”

When you visit a Korean market, you’ll be able to find people using this counter when they’re buying fish.

3- The Counter for the Level of Difficulty: 단 (dan)

This counter means “steps,” but people also count the level of difficulty or proficiency with this counter. 

  • 저는 태권도 이 단입니다.

Jeoneun taegwondo i danimnida.

“I’m level 2 in Taekwondo.”

4- The Counter for Leaves: 잎 (ip)

Autumn leaves falling

The word itself means “leaves.” You might not use this counter in daily life, but it’s used a lot in Korean poetry and novels. 

  • 하늘에서 낙엽 한 잎이 떨어졌다.

Haneureseo nagyeop han ipi tteoreojyeotda.

“One leaf fell down from the sky.”

For more examples on counters, KoreanClass101 has more counters in Korean lessons! Please check out our lesson series on Korean Counters for Beginners

3. Counters and When to use Sino-Korean Numbers vs. Native Numbers 

1- Use Native Numbers for:

  • Objects (개-gae)
  • Animals (마리-mari)
  • People (명-myeong)
  • Age (살-sal)
  • Shoes/Socks (켤레-kyeolle)
  • Clothes (벌-beol)
  • Buildings (채-chae)
  • Machines (대-dae)

2- Use Sino Numbers for:

  • Age (세-se)
  • Weight [kilograms, pounds, etc.] 
    • 킬로그램 (kilogeuraem) means “kilogram”
    • 파운드 (paundeu) means “pound”
  • Distance 
    • 킬로미터 (kilomiteo) means “kilometers”
  • Year (년-nyeon)
  • Grade [1st grade, etc.] (년-nyeon)

4. Conclusion: How KoreanClass101.com Can Help You Learn Korean

We hope you enjoyed learning about Korean counters with us! Did you take away anything valuable from this lesson? Is there something you’re still struggling with? Let us know in the comments!

To continue learning about Korean culture and the language, visit us at KoreanClass101.com! We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists to strengthen your word bank, and even an online community where you can talk about lessons with other students. Of course, you can also create or upgrade to a Premium Plus account to take advantage of our MyTeacher program, and learn Korean with your own personal teacher!

All of your studying and practice will reap rewards for you, and you’ll be speaking Korean like a native before you know it. KoreanClass101.com will be here with you on each step of your Korean language-learning journey!

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장마철: Making the Most of the Rainy Season in Korea

Thumbnail Does rainy and overcast weather make you as depressed as it makes me? The rainy weather doesn’t do any favors for my morale, and its effect grows stronger with each day it continues raining…

In South Korea, the rainy season is a several-week period during which the country experiences heavy rains and overall gloomy weather. In this article, you’ll learn all about the Korean rainy season, how to prepare for a trip to South Korea during this time, and some useful vocabulary.

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1. What is the Rainy Season?

Closeup of a Red Umbrella being Rained On In South Korea, the rainy season is called 장마철 (jangmacheol), and it’s a several-week period during which the country experiences bouts of 폭우 (pogu), or “heavy rain.” This is caused by a 장마전선 (jangmajeonseon), or “rain front,” that develops when the cooler air of the north mixes with the warmer southern air. The Korean rainy season is a result of this front moving northward from the island of Okinawa.

In Korea, monsoon season means lots of 습도 (seupddo), or “humidity,” and this is known to cause food spoilage and damage to personal belongings such as clothing. In addition, one must be careful of a possible 홍수 (hongsu), or “flood,” or 산사태 (sansatae), or “landslide,” as well as typhoons which are relatively common during this time period (though they’re not as serious as they tend to be in other Asian countries).

2. When is Rainy Season?

Rainy Season Is Generally in June and July Generally, the rainy season in Korea lasts from June to September, with late June and the month of July being the rainiest time.

3. Visiting South Korea During the Rainy Season

A Family Walking on a Road in the Heavy Rain For many, the rainy season in Korea is a time to stay indoors as much as possible, and a trip to South Korea may not be for everyone during this time. But if you do plan on visiting South Korea, the rainy season doesn’t need to spoil your fun!

How to Prepare

Do your research. Before you plan your trip, it’s good to research when the rainy season is expected to be that year!

Buy an umbrella. Trust us; you’ll wish you had one if a heavy rain catches you by surprise.

Pack clothing for any weather situation. The Korean rainy season can be a bit unpredictable, and there may be several days where it doesn’t rain. Bringing different kinds of clothing with you and dressing in layers is a great idea to keep you comfortable no matter the weather.

Things to Do

In South Korea, monsoon season is the perfect opportunity to explore a variety of indoor activities—of which the country has myriads! Depending on your interests, you may enjoy going to the Myeongdong NANTA Theater, the National Museum of Korea, or the Seoul Arts Center, all located in Seoul.

Depending on the 강수량 (gangsuryang), or “amount of rainfall,” other activities done during the rainy season include hiking, walks through gardens or parks, and spending some cash at outdoor markets.

Of course, if you do visit South Korea during the rainy season, it will be the perfect opportunity to taste and explore a variety of seasonal Korean foods. These often include cool, fresh ingredients, meant to keep you comfortable during the gloomy rainy season.

4. The Floods of 2014

A Deep Flood In 2014, South Korea experienced a series of floods that caused severe damage and an estimated ten deaths. These floods occurred in mid-August, near Honam and Yeongnam.

For several days, South Korea dealt with landslides, house flooding, and even fatal accidents. It’s important to always be watchful and cautious during the rainy season in Korea!

5. Must-Know Rainy Season Vocabulary

A Drawing of a Rain Front Ready to review some of the vocabulary words and phrases from this article? Here’s a quick list!

  • 비 (bi) — “rain” [n.]
  • 칠월 (chirwol) — “July” [n.]
  • 유월 (yuwol) — “June” [n.]
  • 여름 (yeoreum) — “summer” [n.]
  • 장마철 (jangmacheol) — “rainy season” [n.]
  • 폭우 (pogu) — “heavy rain” [n.]
  • 홍수 (hongsu) — “flood” [n.]
  • 습도 (seupddo) — “humidity” [n.]
  • 습한 (seupan) — “humid” [adj.]
  • 산사태 (sansatae) — “landslide” [n.]
  • 장마전선 (jangmajeonseon) — “rain front” [n.]
  • 장맛비 (jangmatbi) — “rain in the rainy season” [n.]
  • 호우 (hou) — “heavy rain” [n.]
  • 호우주의보 (houjuuibo) — “heavy rain watch” [n.]
  • 강수량 (gangsuryang) — “amount of rainfall” [n.]

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, be sure to head over to our Korean Rainy Season vocabulary list.

Final Thoughts

The Korean rainy season may be gloomy, but it has some shining qualities, too! We hope you learned something new today, and that you have a better idea of what to expect during your rainy season visit.

Is there a rainy season in your country, too? How do you spend rainy days? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about South Korean culture and the Korean language, KoreanClass101.com has plenty of free resources for you, straight from our blog:

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