I know of the words 日 and 天, which both mean "day" in Chinese, but I'm not sure which to use in phrases such as "I've been in Taiwan for 25 days".

When I look in Wiktionary I'm even more confused:

  • 日 is marked "literary or dialectal"
  • 天 is marked "Obsolete sense in Modern Standard Chinese - may be preserved in fossilised compounds and expressions or other varieties of Chinese."

So which should I use for saying things like "I think I will stay two or three days"?

Maybe there's a third word I don't know about?

  • 1
    why not feed "days" to jukuu: 12。母牛的发情周期平均为21天。23。 这几天你显得很轻松。25。总之,这两天我们玩得非常好。etc。 better, good old days日子: 22。我们期待较好的日子的来临。 27。成年人常常回想过去的日子。 or Line Dict/examples: 5天的宽限。3天后开赛。交货期为28天。 etc。 – user6065 Aug 31 '16 at 8:18
  • 1
    It means that you shouldn't rely on Wiktionary. 天 is in no way obsolete as a word for counting days. – 米好 '-' Aug 31 '16 at 21:21
  • @michau: Indeed. I use Wiktionary almost daily since 2002, but I never rely on it (-: – hippietrail Sep 1 '16 at 4:05
  • You may use 日 in 三日票, 七日游 only, in this case you can see that 三日 and 七日 likes an adjective for the noun 票 and 游. You may use 三天 or 三日 to express three days, but the 三天 is commonly used. You can use both 2月15日 or 2月15号 to express February, 15th. – 賈可 Jacky Jun 14 '17 at 16:39

Both of the "天" and "日" as the "量词" are correct.

In the modern standard Chinese, people will say "我觉得我会待两三天" in their daily life, and will say "我预计我将停留两三日" in the formal situation such as applications or official documents.

Basic difference:

天 (n) sky; day

日 (n) sun ; day; date

When stating number of days, you can use either 日 or 天

Example:

三個月另八日 /三個月另八天 ( three months and eight days)

十六日 / 十六天 ( 16 days)

For non-specific day, you can use either 日 or 天

Example:

今日,昨日,明日= 今天,昨天,明天 (today, yesterday, tomorrow)

這一日 = 這一天 (this day)

那一日 = 那一天 (that day)

today, yesterday, tomorrow, this day and that day can be any day on calendar.

When stating a date on calendar, use 日 or 號

Example:

三月八日 / 三月八號 ( 8th March)

you cannot say 三月八天

When stating a specific date, use 日

Example:

國慶日, 開放日 ( Independent day, open day)

you cannot say 家長天, 開放天

In summary:

  • When stating number of days, 天 and 日 are interchangeable
  • For non-specific date, 天 and 日 are also interchangeable
  • When stating specific date, use 日

but I'm not sure which to use in phrases such as "I've been in Taiwan for 25 days".

Since you are referring to the number of days, you can use either.

For daily usage I suggest you use "天", but "日" is still widely used in literacy (especially old books) and on formal occasions.
For example:
扬州十日 (A )Ten Day('s massacre) in Yangzhou
我觉得我会呆两三天。 I think I will stay two or three days.

EDIT: More examples for you:
过年七天乐(a popular TV program) 7 Days' Fun on New Year
北京一日游 a one-day tour in Beijing
And you may always say 天 in daily use instead of 日:
给我十天时间就够了。 Ten days are enough for me.
本航班需要航行一天又六个小时。 This flight will take one day and six hours.
Plus, for Sunday, 星期天 is used in spoken and informal languages, while 星期日 in formal:
星期天一起出去玩好吗? Shall we go out on Sunday?
截止日期为星期日晚九点。 The deadline is 9 p.m, Sunday.

EDIT: For your example, the correct word is "天".
我已经在台湾呆了25天。I've been in Taiwan for 25 days.

  • For Sunday, 周日 is common and not that formal, while 周天 is extremely rare and could be misunderstood – jf328 Aug 31 '16 at 16:10

You should use "天" here, since it needs "量词(unit)" here.

Both 日 and 天 could be used as noun like "day" in English. e.g. 星期天/星期日 are both correct for "Sunday". But you should always use 天 when you try to express "a number of days", like 十天,三天,etc.

I think I will stay two or three days. 我觉得我会待两三天。

But there are exceptions as well. When you want to use a phrase which contains days, usually you should use 日 but not 天。 e.g

我们报了一个新马泰七日团。 We ordered a Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand seven-days group tour.

  • So 天 acts as counter/classifier in such sentences? I don't need any other word to be counter/classifier? Adding in 个 would be wrong? – hippietrail Aug 31 '16 at 7:55
  • 1
    You don't need. Just say “number +天”。 – thinwa Aug 31 '16 at 7:59

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