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My professor teaches that duration of non action should come before the verb. For instance:

我三天沒來上課了。

On the other hand, native speakers have said both these sentences containing 已經 are correct:

我沒吃飯已經兩天了。

我已經兩天沒吃飯了。

Is there a difference of meaning between the last two? Or else why can 已經 render the rule my professor teaches nought? Or is the rule wrong?

EDIT: I asked the same question inside my weixin group - there sentence one was labelled 2 and vice versa! Opinions diverged greatly. Some of the longer comments are the following. Unfortunately, I don't understand them completely, because they are in Chinese:

Commentator A: 结果一样是三天无饭,但两句意思隐藏了无饭的选择关系有主动与被动,不知陆迪兄弟能否get 到.

Commentator B: 第一个含义我很饿。第二个含义我可能吃了其它食物或我还可以继续不吃饭。

EDIT 2: Two native speakers claimed that one of them emphasised time, the other not eating. But they disagree as to which is which.

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    to test teacher's assertion enter e.g. 没 年/天/小时 into jukuu, displayed results seem to confirm it, except perhaps for the following 他没上过几天学。 He had hardly any schooling. if 已經 is added in front, it seems jukuu just ignores it, so it seems impossible to test whether 已經 makes any difference There also are results with 没 in front of duration and duration starting with 几 like 他发现自己毕业了没几年。。。He discovered that while it had not been many years since he graduated...他上任没几天,就成了公司里最不得人心的人。Within a few days of taking office he...那张海报贴上去没几个小时就让人给偷走了 The poster only stayed up a few hours,. – user6065 May 6 '17 at 16:26
  • .But this may be beside the point and anyhow does not refer to non-action, only to shortness. – user6065 May 6 '17 at 16:26
  • 我沒吃飯已經兩天了 violates the general rule that adverbs occur before verbs (or adjectives), so if e. g. 已经三天了 (ungrammatical w/o verb or adjective between 已经 and duration) is entered into jukuu the displayed examples will all have a verb or adjective in between (w or w/o negation) Of course, omission being a basic feature of Chinese, it may be asked whether 已经三天了 by itself may not be a valid phrase, e.g. as a confirming answer, or if it is separated from the preceding by a suitable punctuation mark added as an afterthought it may be admissible. – user6065 May 7 '17 at 0:15
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    I wouldn't say the placement after the predicate is wrong, but it has a distinctly colloquial feel to it, with a definite increase of emphasis on the duration, like the italics on "I haven't eaten for two whole days." – Brian Tung May 10 '17 at 21:51
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    我沒吃飯已經兩天了 indicates a status being persistent, it doesn't care about reasons of this result, even if 我想吃饭 or not, sometimes it implies that the status should be stopped (by myself or someone, 我不一定想吃饭,或我吃不下); while 我已經兩天沒吃飯了 implies that 我已经很饿了and 我想吃饭 (something prevents me)。 – Daniel Yeung Aug 24 '17 at 2:19
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I think the rule is not correct. It should be fine to say

我沒來上課三天了。

Comparing to 我三天沒來上課了。, the meaning is same but the former puts more emphasis on the duration, i.e. 三天.

Then about the last 2 sentences, 已经 doesn't change the meaning; it's used for emphasizing the duration further.

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For the second example:

我沒吃飯已經兩天了。

This sounds weird to a native speaker, although people can understand what you are talking about and the meaning doesn't change.

As mentioned in another answer, the example above could be thought as emphasizing 三天. But it still sounds weird, since native speakers will just say something like:

我已經兩天沒吃飯了。

(Stressed at words in bold to emphasize it.)

So, my conclusion is that 已经 will change neither the structure nor the meaning of a sentence.


Not to confuse you, but the following examples from the comments are also correct.

他发现自己毕业了没几年。(He found himself just graduated a few years ago.)

上任没几天,就成了公司里最不得人心的人。(He becomes a unpopular person in the company for just few days of work.)

那张海报贴上去没几个小时就让人给偷走了。(The poster was posted, but got stolen after a few hours.)

The grammar order seems to violate the rules, but I consider the parts in italic are adverbs or clauses (which is not consider as using that rule). The reason is that you can delete the italic parts, and having no effect to the sentence structure.

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我沒吃飯已經兩天了。- I haven't been eating for 2 days.  
我已經兩天沒吃飯了。- I for 2 days haven't been eating.  

In terms of grammar they're both not wrong, but you can already tell it's weird for the second line in English. Same goes for Chinese for the first line.

For the origin question -

我三天沒來上課了 = I didn't come to class for three days.  
我已經三天沒來上課了 = I haven't come to class for three days.

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