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Meanings of “二” and “三” except being numerals

Chinese numbers, learning Chinese

When the numeral word "二 (èr, two)" is placed before some Chinese nouns, it loses its function as a numeral and the compound words become derogatory terms. For example:

有些中文名词前加上数词"二"后便成了贬义词,从而失去了数的概念。例如:

 

二心 (èr xīn) – being disloyal to someone

"二心"表示对人不忠实;

 

二把刀 (èr bǎ dāo) – the smatterer or a person with poor skills

"二把刀"表示知识不足或技术不高的人;

 

二流子 (èr liú zi) – the loafers or triflers

"二流子"指游手好闲、不务正业的人;

 

二愣子 (èr lèng zi) / 二头青 (èr tóu qīng) – reckless men

"二愣子"、 "二头青"都是指鲁莽的人;

 

二傻子 (èr shǎ zi) – a mindless person who talks or behaves ridiculously (sometimes it is just a nick name in jest rather than an insult)

"二傻子"指说话、行为不动脑筋、可笑的人(有时是开玩笑时用的昵称,并无贬义);

 

二赖子 (èr lài zi) – despicable and cheeky men

"二赖子"指卑鄙无耻的人。

 

"二" also has the derogatory meaning when used with other numerals. Have a look at some examples:

"二"也可以和其他数词连用表示贬义。看看一些例子:

 

二五眼 (èr wǔ yǎn) – originally means eyesight difference between two eyes, later, it refers to an incompetent person with poor judgment

"二五眼"原指两眼视力不一,后转意为判断能力、办事能力差的人;

 

二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ) – unreasonable and unreliable people

"二百五"表示不明事理、不靠谱的人。

 

Anyway, instead of being a numeral, "二" has lost its basic meaning as a numeral, but indicates "inferior" or "second-rate" and implies the sense of derogation.

总之,在以上这些含有"二"的词语中,"二"表示数的基本意义已完全消失了,都具有了"次等"、"二流"的意思,也就具有了贬义。

 

"三 (sān, three)" often means "many" when used flexibly. For examples:

"三"活用时常常表示"多"的意思。例如:

 

Both 再三 (zài sān, repeatedly) and 事不过三 (shì bú guò sān, Enough is enough.) indicate an action is done many times. The "三" in "三思 (sān sī, think again)" implies a high frequency of thinking. And similarly, in "三个臭皮匠,顶个诸葛亮 (sān gè chòu pí jiàng dǐng gè zhū gě liàng, There is always wisdom in a crowd of people.)," it indicates several people.

"再三"、"事不过三"中的"三"表示动作的次数多;"三思"中的"三"表示思考的次数多;"三个臭皮匠,顶个诸葛亮"中的"三"表示人数多等。

 

"三" also means "many" when it is used with other numerals. Have a look at some examples:

"三"与其他数词连用时也表示"多"。看看一些例子:

 

举一反三

jǔ yī fǎn sān

From one sample you may judge the whole.

三五成群

sān wǔ chéng qún

in knots, in small groups

三番五次

sān fān wǔ cì

over and over again

三年五载

sān nián wǔ zǎi

in a few years

 

"三" can also form a derogatory term with other numerals. Examples:

"三"还可与其他数词连用构成贬义,例如:

 

三心二意

sān xīn èr yì

be of two minds

两面三刀

liǎng miàn sān dāo

be double-faced

不三不四

bù sān bú sì

neither fish nor fowl, unbecoming

说三道四

shuō sān dào sì

make carping comments on

丢三落四

diū sān là sì

miss this and that, forgetful

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2016-06-22

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