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Is there a difference in nuance when using once, twice or thrice instead of one time, two times or three times, especially when counting occurrences?

It has happened twice before.
It has happened two times before.

Are they always interchangeable? What about other usages (e.g. when comparing magnitude)?

The blue book is twice as heavy as the red one.
The blue book is two times as heavy as the red one.

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Related: How common is "thrice"? – aedia λ Sep 9 '11 at 16:57
And somewhat related (the answers partly address your question, even if the question does not seem to match): What is the difference between "onetime" and "one time"? – aedia λ Sep 9 '11 at 17:06
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's actually quite unusual to see two times except in a small number of specific contexts...

  • two times two is four (reciting multiplication tables)

  • three tablets two times a day (medical prescriptions)

  • the interval between these two times (where "times" is a noun)

  • my salary rose two times last year (ugly, IMHO, but people do say this sometimes)

I can't think offhand of any other usages where twice wouldn't be preferred. The picture is very different with thrice, where the short form is almost archaic, and the longer form is standard.

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is it still possible to say "three tablets twice a day"? – Juanillo Nov 13 '12 at 17:54
@Juanillo: Of course. But most doctors wouldn't write "two tablets thrice a day" if that was how they were supposed to be taken, because "thrice" is quaint/archaic. They'd write "three tablets three times a day". – FumbleFingers Nov 13 '12 at 17:57

I understand why you might be unsure. Even this site gets it wrong, to my mind.

It's a common artefact of computer programs that generate English text by composing numbers and words.

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