In the text for lesson 20 in New Practical Chinese Reader, 林娜 and her friend 王小云 are waiting for 丁力波 (another student). They plan to take a taxi to somebody else's house, where they have been invited to celebrate New Year. The dialogue contains the following exchange (emphasis added):

王小云: 你又来晚了。

丁力波: 真不好意思。 二位小姐别着急,出租车已经来了。

二位小姐 uses 二 instead of 两 before the measure word 位. I have been told that this is typical of Shanghai. What do speakers of Standard Chinese outside Shanghai typically say? Do they say 两位小姐 (which would be the expected alternative based on Standard Chinese grammar) or use a totally different expression?

3 Answers 3


I know we might be slaying the slain but seeing as you're asking for an

[a]lternative expression for 二位小姐

it might as well be said.

MDBG defines 小姐 as:

young lady / miss / (slang) prostitute / CL: 個|个, 位

with prostitute being the operative definition.

Seeing as 小姐 is so stigmatized - I believe most people tend to stay far away from it.

二位 on the other hand is usually better put as 两位.

两位 is a very common expression for two people you don't know and you don't even need to classify it with guys/gals/whatever.


  • You wrote, "I believe most people tend to stay far away from it". Do you know this for a fact? All Chinese text books I've seen use "小姐" as a perfectly normal word without mentioning the "other meaning".
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 18, 2017 at 19:38
  • Oh absolutely taboo in Mandarin. 美女 is a much safer choice if you insist on saying anything at all.
    – Mou某
    Dec 19, 2017 at 9:21

Well...another seemingly simple but actually complex question...
The usage of 二 and 两 can make most foreigners confused. We don't use 二 before a classifier, but there are exceptions:
给我来二斤/两斤米。 ("Give me two jin of rice. " both are correct, while the former is more colloquial)
给我来二尺布。 ("Give me two chi of cloth. " 两 is rarely used)
Your 二位/两位 problem is the "rarer in the rare". In practice, 二位/两位 are both right. However, 二位 is quite common to show respect to the receiver, and strangely more proper and polite in your case. I can not think of any other examples except this.


In Shanghai Dialect, “两” is closer to what we pronounced.We do speak as "两位小姐" than "二位小姐", which sounds awkward. I think the usage of "二" is for written Chinese purpose.

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