There’s no two ways about it: phrases with the number two.

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by Liz Walter

In my last post, I wrote about phrases containing the number one. Today I’m going to look at some common phrases with the number two.

If you put two and two together, you guess the truth about a situation because of something you have seen or heard. However, if your guess is wrong, especially by being more shocking or extreme than the truth, we say that you put two and two together and make five:

‘How did you know he was starting his own business?’ ‘I saw the new van outside his house and put two and two together.’

I couldn’t believe she thought I’d stolen the necklace. When she saw it in my room, she put two and two together and made five.

Another useful phrase (if a rather unpleasant image!) is kill two birds with one stone, which means to achieve two things at the same time:

I had to go into town for some shopping, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and visit Mr Sharp while I was there.

We use the phrase it takes two to tango to say that both people involved in a bad situation have at least some responsibility for it. We sometimes use the phrase to say that both people involved in a situation need to co-operate in order to achieve something. Still on a dancing theme, if someone has two left feet, they are extremely awkward and clumsy when they dance:

Don’t try to excuse his behaviour. I know his friend suggested the prank, but it takes two to tango.

We would like to negotiate a solution, but it takes two to tango.

It’s no good asking me to dance – I’ve got two left feet!

If two people are like two peas in a pod, they look very similar and are sometimes similar in the way they behave too, and if they are two of a kind, they have very similar personalities and beliefs:

Kira and her friend are like two peas in a pod.

Jake is just as generous as his friend – they’re two of a kind.

We use the phrase That makes two of us! to show that we are in the same unpleasant situation as someone else, or that we have the same bad opinion about something. The phrase two can play at that game is used when someone has done something bad to you to say that you intend to do the same thing to them:

You’re bored? Well that makes two of us!

He’s been spreading rumours about me, but two can play at that game.

Finally, if you are in two minds about something, you can’t make a decision:

I’m in two minds over whether to take the job because although it’s more money, I’d have to move house.

As always, do feel free to suggest other phrases with ‘two’, and if you find this post useful, look out for the next one, which will cover some phrases with other numbers.

25 thoughts on “There’s no two ways about it: phrases with the number two.

  1. Yuti

    Two’s company, three’s a crowd.
    It takes two to tango.
    A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
    Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    Miss goody two shoes!
    Like two peas in a pod

      1. Liz Walter

        Thank you! It’s a description of a girl or woman who is extremely well-behaved (and usually implies she’s a bit *too* good!).

      2. Pere Joan

        In fact is a negative expression used to describe a person who always tries to do the right thing and also tries too hard to be perfect.

  2. Greetings Liz Walter,

    I have been following your time to time posts ,and they have proved very constructive and helpful for me as an ESL speaker and i thank you very much for your selfless work , I would like to ask if we can not use the phrase ”That makes the two of us” to show that we are in pleasant situation with some else.

    Thank you.

    1. Liz Walter

      Thanks for your kind words! I think it’s very unlikely that somoene would use this phrase in a pleasant situation – I can’t say it’s 100% impossible, but it’s far, far more commonly spoke in anger or exasperation.

    1. Hello Joven,

      ‘To put two and two together’ means figuring things out or making sense of something: “He finally put two and two together and realised his friend was lying to him”.

      I hope that helps!

      Zulema.

  3. 5 SPANISH IDIOMS USING NUMBERS VS ENGLISH EQUIVALENT:
    soy un cero a la izquierda – I am worthless
    cuesta un ojo de la cara – it costs an arm and a leg
    cada dos por tres se apaga solo – it keeps turning off by itself
    Está en el quinto pino – It’s in the boonies
    seguir en tus trece/testarudo – to stay headstrong

    1. Liz Walter

      Very interesting, thanks! I had to look up ‘in the boonies’ – we don’t use that one in British English. Great to learn a new phrase!

  4. Beatriz Lycarião

    Magali Caldas

    Em qua, 19 de mai de 2021 às 08:02, About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog escreveu:

    > Liz Walter posted: ” by Liz Walter In my last post, I wrote about phrases > containing the number one. Today I’m going to look at some common phrases > with the number two. If you put two and two together, you guess the truth > about a situation because of something you” >

    1. Wow..! selflessness can’t get better than yours.. you are a one stop complete shop when its comes for someone to encounter a phrase or two.Your elaboration on the the words are really helpful for ones to know things about what you convey here.. and of course the readers point of view is an icing on the cake!
      Pls.keep it up!
      I wish you all the success!Thank you so much!
      Jyoti Ghosh (India )

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