Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Is the Number “2” 二 èr or 两 liǎng？
Explanation

When we’re counting, we say 一，二，三，四，五... (yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ,... “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,...”). But, we don’t say 一，两，三，四，五... (yī, liǎng, sān, sì, wǔ,...)
So the rule of thumb is 两 is used in front of measure words or counters; 二 is used in counting and numerals.
Here are some examples:

Imagine one day your friend is looking in her wallet and says:

Do you know what that means?
It means “I have two 20-kuai bills.”
There is an exception: When you say two hundred something, you can either say 二百 èrbǎi or 两百 liǎngbǎi; when you say two thousand something, you say 两千 liǎngqiān instead of 二千 èrqiān.
Let’s try to say these numbers:
21: 二十一 èrshíyī
42: 四十二 sìshíèr
221: 二百二十一 èrbǎi èrshíyī or 两百二十一 liǎngbǎi èrshíyī
2, 221: 两千两百二十一 liǎngqiān liǎngbǎi èrshíyī or 两千二百二十一 liǎngqiān èrbǎi èrshíyī
Here’s an interesting note that you might want to know: In Chinese, if you call someone an 二百五 èrbǎiwǔ, you’re calling him “dumb.” It’s not a bad word; sometimes people will say it as a joke. I don’t know why we have to use the number 250, but it is what it is. So, next time if you accidentally mention the number 二百五 èrbǎiwǔ, don’t be confused when people next to you start to laugh.

Outro

How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!