Vocabulary (Review)

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Lesson Transcript


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?
二 èr and 两 liǎng both mean “2.” As we mentioned in the previous lesson, to say “2 books” and “2 people” we say 两本书 (liǎng běn shū) and 两个人 (liǎng gè rén). We don’t say 二本书 (èr běn shū) or 二个人 (èr gè rén).
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:
我有两张票。(Wǒ yǒu liǎng zhāng piào. “I have two tickets.” )
我的座位号码是二十二号。(Wǒ de zuòwèi hàomǎ shì èrshíèr hào. “My seat number is No. 22.”)
现在两点了。(Xiànzài liǎng diǎn le. “It’s two o’clock now.”)
这个表五百二十块钱。(Zhège biǎo wǔbǎi èrshí kuài. “This watch costs 520 kuai.”)
Imagine one day your friend is looking in her wallet and says:
我有两张二十块。(Wǒ yǒu liǎng zhāng èrshí kuài.)
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.


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!
我们下次再见!Wǒmen xiàcì zàijiàn! See you next time! Bye!