German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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?

share|improve this question
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 '14 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 '14 at 6:28
''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 '14 at 6:36
related:… – Vogel612 Aug 4 '14 at 15:49
up vote 8 down vote accepted

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.

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer
Zwa(a) is used in Austrian dialects, too, not more. "Zwo" is not originally Bavarian. Zwoa and zwa(a) are. – user6191 Aug 3 '14 at 18:32
But we use mainly zwo and zwoa. – LittleByBlue Aug 3 '14 at 18:34
Are you from western Bavaria? – user6191 Aug 3 '14 at 18:35
nope 'Oberpfalz' – LittleByBlue Aug 3 '14 at 18:37
It's not a dialekt thing, afaik. – user unknown Aug 3 '14 at 19:57

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

share|improve this answer
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 '14 at 6:01

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.