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两个二哥

When you hear your 6-year-old child says: “我有二个书包。”, do not panic. It is a common mistake for young children for not differentiating “二” and “两”.

The reason is simple, the usage of “二” and “两” depends on whether you are using it with 量词 or not and 量词 is a concept in Chinese Language that does not have an exact equivalent concept in English.

二 is used for numbers, for examples:

  1. 二十四 = 24 (整数 = whole number)
  2. 二百三十五 = 235 (整数 = whole number)
  3. 一点二 = 1.2 (小数点 = decimal point)
  4. 二哥 = the second brother
  5. 第二名 = the second prize

两 is used with 量词, for examples:

  1. 两支铅笔 = two pencils
  2. 两只老虎 = two tigers
  3. 两个二哥 = two second brothers

两 is also an old unit of weight measurement. Though we do not commonly use 两 as unit of weight measurement now, but we may read it in books or the list of Chinese medicines.

The famous 成语 that uses 两 as a unit of weight measurement is 半斤八两, which means two people or things that are the same or similar. It is because in old times, 半斤 is the same weight as 八两, only in different unit of weight measurement.

With the examples above, hopefully you know when to use 二 and when to use 两. Happy learning!