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Just starting learning German and a number of texts I've read say that 'zwei' takes on a morphological change to 'zwo' in spoken speech to differentiate with 'drei'. How often do people actually use this alternative in everyday speech, or is this one of those textbook 'Good to know!' asides that actually only live within the confines of textbook pages?

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It is important to know that R2-D2 from Star Wars always has two "zwo"s and no "zwei". Here the "zwo" is mandatory! ;-) –  Chris Aug 3 at 20:05
    
Wikipedia backs you up on this, but I would have called him Err-Zwei-De-Zwei without batting an eyelid... Of course I only ever saw the movies in English. –  Ingmar Aug 4 at 6:28
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''Zwo'' is definitely more common than ''fünnef'' (5) and it’s more likely to be used with digits than with numbers. It’s also canonical in some places that already have been mentioned, most notably ''links, zwo, drei, vier''. –  Crissov Aug 4 at 6:36
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3 Answers 3

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Above all, it's good to know. Speaking for Austria, it's not very common in spoken language (any more -- used to be much more frequent), unless you are on the telephone, say, and want to make extra certain that no mistakes are made. It's routinely used in radio communications, too, much like the English "niner".

Personally I use it for important things like a phone number, bank account or credit card number, thinks like that. It's definitely used, but not as common as you might think.

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That's dependent of the Region.

As you may know in German there are more Dialects than in English.

In the southern 'states' (e.g. Bavaria) zwo or zwoa or even zwaa (but zwaa more in Austria) are used pretty often (sometimes people use only zwo or zwoa). In the northern parts of Germany most people use zwei.

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Zwa(a) is used in Austrian dialects, too, not more. "Zwo" is not originally Bavarian. Zwoa and zwa(a) are. –  Grantwalzer Aug 3 at 18:32
    
But we use mainly zwo and zwoa. –  LittleByBlue Aug 3 at 18:34
    
Are you from western Bavaria? –  Grantwalzer Aug 3 at 18:35
    
nope 'Oberpfalz' –  LittleByBlue Aug 3 at 18:37
    
It's not a dialekt thing, afaik. –  user unknown Aug 3 at 19:57

In the Bundeswehr, use of zwo when counting is definitely still common, although it might be dependent on region.

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Yes, getting the feeling that this is very much a regional thing. Playing it by ear dependant on where you are in Germany appears to be the key! –  Ryan Aug 18 at 6:01

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