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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi, everybody! Olivia here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Cantonese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Is the Number “2,” 二 (ji6) or 兩 (loeng5)?
Explanation
二 (ji6) and 兩 (loeng5) both mean “two (2).” When we’re counting, we say 一,二,三,四,五... (jat1, ji6, saam1, sei3, ng5...) “1, 2, 3, 4, 5...”. We don’t say 一,兩,三,四,五... (jat1, loeng5, saam1, sei3, ng5...)
When we are referring to the amount of items, we use 兩 (loeng5), followed by the measure word. For example, 兩個人 (loeng5 go3 jan4) "two people," or 兩對鞋 (loeng5 deoi3 haai4) "two pairs of shoes."
What's the rule for using 二 (ji6) and 兩 (loeng5)?
For counting and ordinal numbers, we always use 二 (ji6); same for twelve, twenty-two, thirty-two, and so on. For instance, 第二 (daai6 ji6) "second", 二樓 (ji6 lau2) "second floor", 三十二個人 (saam1 sap6 ji6 go3 jan4) "thirty-two people". Also, when referring to things or activities for two people, most of the terms use 二 (ji6), such as 二人世界 (ji6 jan4 sai3 gaai3) "romantic couple time" (literally "two people world"), 二人套餐 (ji6 jan4 tou3 caan1) "set meal for two," or 二人組合 (ji6 jan4 zou2 hap6) "a team of two".
For most other indications of the amount of "two", we use 兩 (loeng5). 兩點 (loeng5 dim2) "two o'clock," 兩本書 (loeng5 bun2 syu1) "two books," 兩個星期 (loeng5 go3 sing1 kei4) "two weeks," 兩打 (loeng5 daa1) "two dozen," etc.
There are exceptions to the above rules when we're talking about money, and here's where it gets a little confusing.
"Two dollars ($2)" is 兩蚊 (loeng5 man1) and NEVER 二蚊 (ji6 man1) by itself. "Twenty dollars ($20)" is 二十蚊 (ji6 sap6 man1) and NEVER 兩十蚊 (loeng5 sap6 man1). And for larger denominations (hundreds, thousands, ten thousands), either 二 (ji6) or 兩 (loeng5) can be used, except when the number 二十 (ji6 sap6) "twenty" is involved, such as "two hundred thousand (200,000)" 二十萬 (ji6 sap6 maan6). [Note that this is a different counting system: in English we say "two hundred thousand," but in Cantonese, it's literally "twenty ten-thousand".]
In the lesson notes, you will find a list for your reference!
So what does this character mean, 廿?
廿 (jaa6) means "twenty." It's interchangeable with 二十 (ji6 sap6) in most cases, given that it's followed by another character. For instance, "twenty-two" is 二十二 (ji6 sap6 ji6) OR 廿二 (jaa6 ji6)."Twenty people" is 二十個人 (ji6 sap6 go3 jan4) OR 廿個人 (jaa6 go3 jan4).
Interestingly, when 二(ji6) is the last character in certain words, it is pronounced with the second tone, ji2, instead of the sixth tone. Here are some examples, 尾二 (mei1 ji2) "second last," and 十八廿二 (sap6 baat3 jaa6 ji2) "young girls" (literally "18,22").

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!
"See you next time!", 下次見! (haa6 ci3 gin3!)

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