(èr) and (liǎng)

How to say “two” in Chinese?

We have two answers. One is (èr), and the other is (liǎng). Some times only one can be used, and some times both of them are OK.

Below is a general guideline on when to use (èr), when to use “ liǎng”, and when either will do.

Use (liǎng) to express two of something or someone.

When to express two of something or someone, and only two of something or someone, such as two apples, two persons, two days, two years, use (liǎng). 

For example:

  • Two o’clock: 两点 (liǎng diǎn)
  • Two days: 两天 (liǎng tiān)
  • Two years: 两年 (liǎng nián)
  • Two years old: 两岁 (liǎng suì)
  • Two apples: 两个苹果 (liǎng gè píngguǒ)
  • Two cups of water: 两杯水 (liǎng bēi shuǐ)
  • Two people: 两个人 (liǎng gè rén)

If the number “2” is part of a larger number, such as 12, 22 or 102, use (èr).

For example:

  • 22: 二十二 (èr shí èr)

Use (èr) in pure numerical expressions, or in a string of digits.

Such pure numerical expressions include telephone numbers and numbers after the decimal point,

For example:

  • 2.23: 二点二三 (èr diǎn èr sān)
  • (Tel) 2879 2255: 二八七九五五五五 (èr bā qī jiǔ èr èr wǔ wǔ)

Both (liǎng) and (èr) can be used for “2” in the hundreds’ place, the thousands’ place, and the ten thousands’ place.

The following numbers can be expressed in more than one way:

  • 200: 

二百 (èr bǎi) 

两百 (liǎng bǎi)

  • 2000: 

二千 (èr qiān) 

两千 (liǎng qiān)

  • 20000: 

二万 (èr wàn) 

两万 (liǎng wàn)

  • 22000: 

二万二千 (èr wàn èr qiān) 

两万两千 (liǎng wàn liǎng qiān) 

两万二千 (liǎng wàn èr qiān)

Practice makes Perfect.

Express the following numbers in Chinese:

  1. (Tel) 682 288 22
  2. Two minutes to two o’clock
  3. 22 years old
  4. Two days
  5. 20 dollars
  6. Two friends
  7. 220
Answers:
  1. 六八二二二八八二二 (liù bā èr èr bā bā èr èr)
  2. 差两分两点 (chà liǎng fēn liǎng diǎn) 
  3. 二十二岁 (èr shí èr suì)
  4. 两天 (liǎng tiān) 
  5. 二十块 (èr shí kuài) 
  6. 两个朋友 (liǎng gè péng yǒu) 
  7. 两百二十 (liǎng bǎi èr shí) or 二百二十 (èr bǎi èr shí)

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