Comparing "er" and "liang"

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In Chinese, there are two words for "two." They are 二 (èr) and 两 (liǎng), and each is used in different circumstances.

Uses of 二 (èr)

二 (èr) Is for 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) is not used to say there are "two" of something, and 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 those cases, 两 (liǎng) is not needed.


Here are some common examples of 二 (èr) in action:

  • dì-èr#2; second
  • dì-èrthe second one
  • dì-èrthe second time
  • ÈryuèFebruary (the second month)
  • èr hào#2; the second (of the month)
  • 号 线 èr hào xiànLine 2 (of the metro)
  • èr lóusecond floor
  • shí'èr12
  • èrshí20
  • 块 钱 shí'èr kuài qián12 RMB
  • 十 块 钱 èrshí kuài qián20 RMB
  • 个 人 èrshí-èr gè réntwenty-two people

Uses of 两 (liǎng)

两 (liǎng) Is for 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:


  • 个 小时 liǎng gè xiǎoshítwo hours
  • liǎng diǎn2 o'clock
  • liǎng tiāntwo days
  • 个 星期 liǎng gè xīngqītwo weeks
  • 个 月 liǎng gè yuètwo months
  • liǎng niántwo years
  • liǎngtwo times / twice
  • 块 钱 liǎng kuài qián2 kuai / 2 RMB
  • note: 二百 (èrbǎi) is also acceptable.liǎngbǎi200
  • liǎng qiān2,000
  • 个 都 要 。 liǎng gè dōu yào.I want both of them.

Sources and further reading