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Ask and Answer Questions About the Length of Time in Chinese

Apr. 21, 2014

Correct Answer: C

In daily communication, Chinese people often ask questions about time. For example, they are interested in how much time it takes for someone to finish a task, how many months somebody needs in order to learn a new language well, etc. Do you know how to properly choose time words? In fact, the chosen time word usually depends on how much time it takes to finish an action under normal conditions.

There are two major structures used in posing such questions: “多少+天(duōshǎo+tiān), how many days,” and “多长+时间 (duōcháng+shíjiān), how much time.”

“天(tiān)” means “day,” therefore, “多少+天(duōshǎo+tiān), how many days” is used to ask about some actions or tasks which usually need more than one day to finish and to answer the question, we say “X天(X tiān), X days.”

Example

Linda: Nǐ chūchāi xūyào duōshǎotiān?
Linda:你 出差     需要   多少天

Different ways to ask about the length of time in Chinese
Linda: How long did your business trip take?

 

Suzanne: Shíwǔ tiān.
Suzanne:十五 

 

Suzanne: Fifteen days.

While “时间(shíjiān)” means “time,” “多长+时间(duōcháng+shíjiān), how much time” is used when the length of time is unspecified and to answer the question, we choose time words depending on the actual length of time, such as “分钟(fēnzhōng), minute,” “小时(xiǎoshí), hour,” “天(tiān), day,” or “星期(xīngqī), week,” ect.

Examples

Mike: Nǐ chī zhōngwǔfàn xūyào duōcháng shíjiān?
Mike:你 吃 中午饭         需要    多长         时间

 

Mike: How much time do you need to eat your lunch?

Amie: Yígè xiǎoshí.
Amie:一个小时

 

Amie: One hour.

Jason: Nǐ wánchéng zhège gōngzuò xūyào duōcháng shíjiān?
Jason:你完成         这个    工作       需要    多长          时间

 

Jason: How long will it take to finish this job?

Lǐ lì: Yígè xīngqī.
李丽:一个星期

 

Li Li: One week.

Translation of the dialogue:

Mike: Nǐ měitiān huíjiā xūyào duōcháng shíjiān ?
Mike: 你 每天     回家   需要   多长           时间?

 

Mike:  How long does it take you to get home every day?

Wáng Wěi: Sānshí fēnzhōng.
王       伟:  三十    分钟。

 

Wang Wei: Thirty Minutes.

In the above test, because it definitely takes less than one day to go home every day, we cannot use “天(tiān),” which is used for periods lasting more than one day. Instead, we use “多长时间(duōcháng shíjiān),” which represents an unspecified period of time. Therefore, the correct answer is C.

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