I was born in China but came to the US at a young age. Growing up, I was told that the character 两 could sometimes mean a small number other than two, depending on context. And indeed, yellowbridge has "some" or "a few" as part of the dictionary definition. But my girlfriend and her friends are convinced that 两 can never mean anything other than exactly 2. It's hard for me to explain when I would use 两 to mean "a few" other than it feels more casual when used that way. Can anyone give some concrete examples or explanations for when 两 is used as "a few"? If it makes a difference, I was born in Beijing but my girlfriend is from Shanghai. Maybe this is a regional discrepancy?

Btw, I've tried explaining that 两 is analogous to the English word "couple", which I also use to mean "a few". My girlfriend is convinced that a "couple" also refers to 2 exactly, so that line of reasoning is ineffective.

  • Further to other answers, there are other examples which has nothing to do with numbers, quantities, two or twice or double at all, like, "两下子", which means the ability to perform certain specialized tasks, tricks better than ordinary people could; and 两小无猜, which describes the innocent, sentimental, playful bygone days of young children, particular of a boy and a girl. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 3:29

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CC-CEDICT: 两 (liǎng​​) two / both / some / a few / tael, unit of weight equal to 50 grams (modern) or 1⁄16 of a catty 斤 (old)

There are cases when 两, when interpreted numerically (instead of a measure word as in 二两米饭 and in chengyu like 三下两下 and 三言两句) does not precisely mean 2. Actually, a while back I asked a question about 少说两句 where 两 is interpreted as a synonym of 几 (and 两句 doesn't literally mean "two sentences").

Some other examples are:

我打了两下儿子 (source)

This wouldn't necessarily be interpreted literally as "I hit my son (precisely) twice".

45天婴儿偶尔咳嗽两声 (source)

Again, this wouldn't be interpreted literally as "45-day old infant occasionally coughs (precisely) twice".

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    My gosh -- "I hit my son precisely twice" is a pretty brutal example sentence Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 8:52

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