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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!

数量词

This is a continuation from Chinese Language Grammar 2. This station is about 数量词. Though 数量词 is sometimes known as collective nouns in English language, it is actually a concept that is more complex than collective nouns.

数 = number, 量 = the “quantifier” (Again, “quantifier” is used for easy understanding, there is no exact English word for 量). The format is  <数 — 量 — noun> as in <一 — 本 — 书>, a book.

In Chinese language, most, if not all, nouns have an associate 量词. Thus, the correct usage of 量词 is important. Below are some of the common 量词 in <数 — 量 — noun> format:

一只鸡 (a chicken)

两个人 (two people)

三条鱼 (three fish)

四辆车 (four cars)

五双筷子 (five pairs of chopsticks)

六张纸 (six pieces of papers)

七朵花 (seven flowers)

八棵树 (eight trees)

九匹马 (nine horses)

十粒球 (ten balls)

As you can see, most of the 量词 do not have the equivalent translation in English language.

If you have been learning Chinese language, you know that there are hundreds of 量词 to be learnt. To add to the complexity, the same 量词 can be used for several nouns and some nouns can be used with different 量词 depending on different situations. No worry, continue learning, reading and listening, you will get used to the concept and eventually use the correct 量词.

Now that you have learnt the grammar, start a journal or diary in Chinese language, start from short sentences, and slowly make longer sentences after some time. By using the language frequently, you will see improvement soon!