Two Mouths, One Marriage (Elementary)

Today is Lisa’s wedding day. Lisa’s friends Amy and Celia are attending the celebration. A wedding is supposed to be a happy occasion; however, Celia doesn’t seem very cheerful. What’s wrong with her? Amy’s going to find out.

           Nǐ wèishénme bù gāoxìng?
 Amy:你    为什么     不    高兴?

           Why are you so upset?

           Wǒ gēn Andy chǎojià le.
Celia:我    跟  Andy   吵架   了。

            I had an argument with Andy.

           Nǐmen liǎngkǒuzi zěnme le?
 Amy:你们       两口子    怎么  了?

           What happened between you and your husband?

As you can see, to ask about Celia and her husband, Amy says, “两口子 (liǎngkǒuzi).” You know that 两 (liǎng) is “two” and 口 (kǒu) means “mouth.” Maybe you also know that 子 (zi) is a suffix which indicates that a word is a noun, but this expression is one puzzle where even having all the pieces doesn’t help.

To explain this idiomatic phrase, we have to learn a story.

Sometime during the Qing Dynasty (about 1632-1912 A.D.), two lovers were framed and sent to jail for a crime they did not commit. While locked in prison, the man wrote many articles. The emperor happened to read one such article written by the man, and he was so impressed by the man’s talent and so moved by his writing, that he decided to intervene on the couple’s behalf. He sent the man into exile in a place called 卧虎口 (Wòhǔ kǒu) and the man’s lover was sent to 黑风口 (Hēifēng kǒu). To his court, it seemed as if the emperor was punishing the couple, but the two places were actually very close to one another. Therefore, by sending the couple to the “two mouths,” the couple was free and able to live happily ever after. Since then, people have used 两口子 (liǎngkǒuzi) to refer to a husband and wife.

两口子 (liǎngkǒuzi) is a very colloquial expression in Chinese meaning “couple” or “husband and wife.” A more formal expression with the same meaning, which is often seen in written Chinese, is 夫妻 (fūqī).


Nèi liǎngkǒuzi jīngcháng chǎojià.
那      两口子      经常        吵架。

That couple is always quarreling with each other.

Zhè duì fūqī shì dàxué tóngxué.
这    对 夫妻 是   大学     同学。

The husband and wife were college classmates.

We can additionally add 老 (lǎo) or 小 (xiǎo) before 两口 (liǎngkǒu) to describe an older couple or young couple respectively. If you use one of these words, you no longer need the suffix 子 (zi).

Zhè lǎoliǎngkǒu bāshí duō suì le.
这       老两口      八十   多   岁 了。

The older couple is more than 80 years old.

Tāmen xiǎoliǎngkǒu hěn ēn’ài.
他们         小两口        很  恩爱。

The young couple is very much in love.

You may also hear people say, “我们家那口子… (wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi…).” For example, “我们家那口子爱吃鱼。(Wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi ài chīyú.),” which means, “My spouse likes to eat fish.” 我们家那口子 (wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi) is derived from 两口子 (liǎngkǒuzi) and means “my spouse.”

Wǒ hé wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi chǎojià le.
我   和   我们   家  那  口子    吵架  了。

I quarreled with my spouse.

Wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi shì yíge sījī.
我们      家  那  口子  是  一个 司机。

My spouse works as a driver.

So, “two mouths” actually means “husband and wife.” What about you? Are you married? Are you and your “那口子 (nèi kǒuzi)” happy together?


1. What does 口 (kǒu) mean in Chinese? _______

A. husband

B. mouth

C. wife

2. What is the meaning of the sentence, “他们小两口去旅游了。(Tāmen xiǎoliǎngkǒu qù lǚyóu le.)?”_____

A. The older couple went traveling.

B. The young couple went traveling.

C. The little two mouths went traveling.

3. Which of the following is the correct explanation for “我们家那口子 (wǒmen jiā nèi kǒuzi)?” _____

A. It means, “my spouse.”

B. It means, “there is another mouth in my family.”

C. It means, “someone in my family is hurt.”

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