I've learned about separable verbs, 离合词. I learned that separable verbs such as 游泳 must be divided into the verb (游) and the object (泳) when particles like 了, 过, 着, etc. are attached to the verb or the sentence has time-measuring complements like 三个小时. Now I'm wondering if I can combine it with some time-related elements.

  1. 他游了三个小时泳

  2. 他游泳游了三个小时

For "He swam for three hours", are those two sentences fine?

Apart from the above question, one more question came across my mind. My teacher explained to me that 的 can mean "even" that emphasizes the long duration of an activity by giving a pair of two sentences 我坐了一个小时火车 and 我坐了一个小时的火车. The structure of the former (我坐了一个小时火车) looks very similar to 他游了三个小时泳. So if I put a 的 between 三个小时 and 泳, thus 他游了三个小时泳, would the 的 make a difference to the meaning of the sentence likewise?

  • 的 is usually required if an attributive is put before the second element, 他游了三小时的泳 (个 not needed), it may be more common to say 他游了3个小时, cf. 他睡了3个小时 (instead of 睡觉)
    – user6065
    Feb 18, 2016 at 13:33
  • Question 1: Yes. Question 2: No. Feb 18, 2016 at 14:07
  • regarding use of 的, grammars will say 我坐了一个小时火车 is equivalent to 我坐了一个小时的火车,b/c of the special case of verbs with objects and 时量补语 where 的 is not needed (but may be used), 他游了三个小时泳 might be OK too
    – user6065
    Feb 18, 2016 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


You can say 他游了三個小時泳. People will understand it, but it doesn't sound as smooth as 他游了三個小時的泳. However, that's still not the best way to say it. You should just say 他游了三個小時 or 他游泳游了三個小時.

will make it sound more smooth, but it doesn't change the meaning at all, not even emphasizing.

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