When I was in primary school we were told once by one teacher that if "twice" sounds correct in a sentence that you should never use "two times" instead. Has anyone else encountered this "rule" before? I have found the following similar questions (and more) but none of them answer my question.

Once/twice/thrice vs one/two/three times

"2 times", "twice" and "2X", when to use which and why?

two times or twice


It has happened two times before. - Replace with "twice"

24 is two times as large as 12. - Replace with "twice"

It only happened the last two times. - "twice" sounds wrong, don't replace

Note: "It only happened the last one time" sounds weird. You would say "It only happened the last time".

So was our teacher's rule right or is "two times" correct and "twice" usually more correct?

  • If it only happened once, then "It only happened the last one time" contains a redundancy. The simplest format is "It only happened once (or one time)". Once, twice and possibly thrice work well in informal speech. If you are enumerating trials in a scientific study, then I suggest one time, two times etc. if the context requires precision. As other commenters here have pointed out, your teacher's prescription is best treated as a guideline rather than as a rule.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 4:05
  • 2
    That changes the meaning. "It only happened once" (of any of the occasions). "It only happened the last time" (only the last occasion of many).
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 4:09
  • 2
    Since you were told that only once by your teacher, you can safely ignore it. It's a rule that must be stated either twice or two times to be de rigueur. ;-)
    – Drew
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 4:34
  • I can remember being told to never say one time or two times when once or twice should be used by my head mistress at school. I think the more common usage of one time and two times is American and has been adopted from them. That's not to say it's good or bad but I do think once, twice and thrice have a certain beauty and elegance.
    – user150353
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 8:47
  • Also related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/237063/…
    – pyobum
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


This is a stylistic rule, not a rule of the English language. It's good writing advice, but violating it isn't "wrong" it's just less elegant.

  • 1
    Note that I very carefully avoided saying that "two times" was wrong...
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 4:03

Replacing "two times" with "twice" is natural and recommended; replacing "three times" with "thrice" is weird and archaic. There's no logical reason why that should be so — that's just how English is used these days.

"It only happened the last twice" sounds wrong because last is an adjective, and it needs to modify a noun (times). It cannot modify an adverb (twice).


Twice is more used than two times as shown in Ngram, but they can be both used according to the context.


  • 1
    Good link to the BBC site (or should that be cite?). It made me think of "At once" and "At one time" which have very different meanings and are definitely not interchangeable!
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 5:37
  • They cannot; it is never correct, and is childish-sounding to proper grammarians. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 19:26

Just to add on, when these words are used in groups (eg. twice or thrice) try to be consistent in using words of the same type (ie. avoid "two times and thrice" and "twice and three times" in favour of "twice and thrice" and "two and three times"). There might be a weak argument of parallelism favouring "two and three times" over "twice and thrice", but linguistic examination of the etymologies of "twice" and "thrice" is probably needed.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/grammar/comments/1xiwxw/two_or_three_times_vs_twice_or_three_times/

  • In this specific context, the principle of "parallelism" is completely inappropriate, because twice is nearly always to be preferred over two times, but thrice is now "dated" to the point of being "archaic". Non-native speakers in particular would be well advised never to use thrice. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 10:49

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