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Possibly comparable, 多早晚 is similar to "when (sooner of later)".
I'm from the northeast of China. At first, I'm surprised to learn that, "多早晚" means "when". Finally I find out that, in my home town, people usually pronounce it as "多咱"（duō zǎn）to mean "when" , and I've never known the exactly written characters of that phrase till I see this question. And I should say, I have NEVER saw this phrase in formal written ...
You can only detect word boundaries by the context and your vocabulary. If you don't know words many enough or the situation at hand much enough, there isn't much other way to ensure you understand the things correctly. The reason that Chinese doesn't have word boundaries is that there are "character boundaries". In English, the basic unit of the lexicon, ...
Today over at LanguageLog, I came across this sentence: 台灣經驗不僅是對其他開發中國家的一種啟發，更是台灣免於赤化的最佳保障。 Inadvertently, when scanning that phrase I ran down a gardenpath (yes, that's what linguists call it: a fruitless attempt that turns out to be the wrong choice, so you have to back up). Turns out it's not 開發 中國(家) *"develop China's (state)??", but, rather, 開發中 國家 ...
Looks like classical Chinese. zdic ◎ 多早晚 duōzǎowǎn [when] 多咱,什么时候(“多咱”来于“多早晚”) 多早晚 什麼時候。紅樓夢．第十四回：「我且問你，你們這夜書多早晚纔念呢？」或作「多早」、「多咱」、「多咱晚」、「多偺」、「多喒」。 甚晚、很晚。 百度百科 中文名 多早晚 外文名 Much sooner or later 性质 词语 来源 红楼梦 多早晚 duōzǎowǎn [when] 多咱，什么时候(“多咱”来于“多早晚”) 《红楼梦》第六四回：“黛玉道：‘可是你没的说了！好好的，我多早晚又伤心了？’” ...
Yes, in Mandarin there is this meaning "when" for "多早晚". But the saying "多早晚" is not common. You could possibly hear this in northern China. It's colloquial. It's not surprising that your Singapore friend never heard of it.
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