"Er" and "liang"
In Chinese, there are two words for "two." This is an introduction to the different uses of "2" in Chinese, namely 二 (èr) and 两 (liǎng).
Uses of 二 (èr)
二 is used in numbers
The digit 2 is 二 (èr). This is used generally in numbers, when counting to ten, giving out a phone number, and so on.
Unlike 两 (liǎng), 二 (èr) does not generally occur with measure words by itself. Numbers like 十二 (12) (shí'èr) and 二十二 (22) (èrshí'èr) end with a "2" and can still be combined with measure words. In this case, 两 (liǎng) is not needed.
Here are some common examples of 二 (èr) in action:
- 第 二 #2; second
- 第 二 个 the second one
- 第 二 次 the second time
- 二 号 #2; the second (of the month)
- 二 号 线 Line 2 (of the metro)
- 二 楼 second floor
- 二 十 20
- 二 十 块 钱 20 RMB
- 二 十 二 22
- 二 十 二 个 人 twenty-two people
- 二 百 (note: 两百 is also acceptable.)200
Uses of 两 (liǎng)
两 is used with measure words
When specifying quantities (and using measure words to do it), 两 (liǎng) is used. This is when you want to say "two of something or "both".
Here are some common examples of 两 (liǎng) in action:
- 两 个 人 two people
- 两 个 小时 two hours
- 两 分钟 two minutes
- 两 秒 two seconds
- 两 点 (Think of it as "two points on the clock," which is a quantity)2 o'clock
- 两 天 two days
- 两 个 星期 two weeks
- 两 个 月 two months
- 两 年 two years
- 两 次 two times / twice
- 两 块 钱 2 kuai / 2 RMB
- 两 百 (note: 二百 is also acceptable.) 200
- 两 千 2,000
- 两 万 20,000
- 他们 两 个 人 一 起 走 。 The two of them walk together.
- 我 两 个 都 要 。 I want both of them.
Sources and further reading
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 16-7) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (p. 53)→buy
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (p. 28) →buy