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Chinese Grammar: 二 vs 两 to say two

After learning some numbers in Chinese, Lupishu likes to present himself with numbers. He wanted to say 眼睛 (I have two eyes) but Master Yocha told him he can’t use (èr) in this sentence. Lupishu was very confused because he remembered two is . What's going on? It's time to learn about (liǎng)! After you know the difference between and , you can help him to solve this problem and I’m sure he will be very happy!

In Chinese, both (èr) and (liǎng) mean two, but they are used in different circumstances. Let’s see when you should use each.

Use to count

When counting in numbers, you use , such as 十二(twelve), 五十 (a hundred and fifty-two). If you're telling someone your address or your phone number, you'll want to use .





as an ordinal number

also represents an ordinal number, as long as it goes with our old friend which is a prefix used before numerals to form ordinal numbers. Therefore,第二 means “the second” in English.


The second one.

The second day.

Use to express “two of” or “both of”

is used when you want to say “ two of ...”, “a couple of” or “both of them”. Remember the measure words that we have learned before? When you are specifying a quantity, should always be put in front of a measure word.


Two o’clock.

Two people.

Two books.

Two cups of coffee.

Even though also represents two in Chinese, it can never be used with a measure word. Now you can tell Lupishu why his sentence 眼睛 doesn’t work, can’t you?

Now you know you should say:

I have two eyes.

So there you have it! is used to count, and if you want to talk about a pair of something, or two of something, is what you need! Ready to come put that into practice?

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