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From the novel 活着 (p.8):

我长大以后喜欢往城里跑,常常是十天半月不回家。

I got no real idea what 十天半月 means. Baidu suggests 十天半个月 is more common. Literally it says "10 days; fortnight". The closest to an answer I could find is Baidu Zhidao:

Answer 1: 半个月之类 一星期以上 类似于 上中下旬
Answer 2: 10~15天之间

I can't make sense of the first answer, and I have no idea if the second answer is correct.

Question: What does 十天半月 (or 十天半个月) mean?

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十天半月 or 十天半個月 means 十天~半個月 (10 days to half a month).

我長大以後喜歡往城裏跑,常常是十天半月不回家。

After I grew up, I loved going into the city, often not returning home for about a fortnight at a time.


For reference, both the Baidu Zhidao answers say approximately the same thing. 上中下旬 means the first, second, or third period of a month, with a period of a month being a 旬 (10 days).

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I'm a native speaker, for your example:

我长大以后喜欢往城里跑,常常是十天半月不回家。

The meaning of 十天半月 is actually vague here. It can mean 10-15 days, or it possibly means a long period of time, so every reader can have different understanding of it.

Please note that the numbers in Chinese usually are not accurate, so even the guy usually not returning to home for two months, we can still say "他常常十天半月不回家".

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The English equivalent would be:-

-- in a few days;

-- for a little while.

The idea being that the person has no definite idea when he or she will be back and hence the vagueness or "elastic" period of between 10 to 15 days.

The Chinese divides a month into 3 periods of 10 days each called a 旬 (Xún) The first 10 is 上 旬, middle 10 is 中 旬, and last 10 is下 旬. (Much like the Western way of saying 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th quarter of a calendar year) Thus giving an elastic period of 10 days or so to play around with because of uncertainty, hence the 十天半月.

This practice stems from a time when traveling meant walking the whole way or horse cart or river boat unlike now where one could say quite definitely when things happen.

An equivalent with a longer period of time is "一 年 半 载" (Zài), in a year or so; in about a year's time.

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