Language Development: Two Year Olds

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Language typical children, in the year after turning two, begin to go through what is known as a language explosion. They are developing new language at a rapid rate and parents will be finding it difficult to keep up with just how much their child now understands and says.


In this 12 month period, your child’s vocabulary will continue to grow and grow. There is a reason we call it a language explosion, as the average child will turn two with a vocabulary of 200-300 words, and will reach their third birthday with around 1000 words. Last week I explained the types of words a one year old will be acquiring. After their second birthday, a child’s vocabulary will expand beyond their immediate environment and experience, and they will begin to use words that are less common. They will also be acquiring a lot of functional words. These words, like “and”, “is” and “the” don’t carry much meaning alone, but add meaning and grammatical structure to sentences.


Speaking of sentences, by two years of age a child should at least be putting two words together. As they move beyond their birthday, their expanding vocabulary will lead to the development of longer sentences with more detail. As they approach their third birthday, many of their sentences will be around 3 or 4 words in length.

Emerging Word Structures

From around 2 and half on, you will also witness your child adding certain structures to their words. Known as morphology, this is when words are added to or changed, altering their meaning. Examples of morphological development that happen in this stage are the use of “-s” endings on plurals (e.g. cats, babies) and “-ing” endings on present tense verbs (e.g. running, jumping).

Receptive Language

Your child’s comprehension of language is also continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Around this time they will be developing the ability to follow two step unrelated instructions (e.g. “get your shoes and find the cat”). Unfortunately the ‘terrible twos’ may have an effect on how willing they are to actually complete these instructions. Contrasting concepts will become easier for them to understand, like “hot” and “cold”, “wet” and “dry”, “nice” and “yucky”, and “stop” and “go”.


Not only is their vocabulary getting bigger, their sentences longer and their comprehension better, conversations with adults and peers are also lengthening. Small back and forth interactions become more common and two year olds are becoming more interested in holding longer communicative exchanges.

At two, your child is working on becoming a communicator. If your child is experiencing difficulty achieving these milestones and/or you are concerned about their communication development and you would like to speak to a Speech Pathologist, you can find our contact information via the Contact Us page on this site.

Learn more about typical language development with these other posts in our language development series:

Birth to Six Months
Six to Twelve Months

One Year Old
Three Years Old
Four Years Old
Five Years Old