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when I was looking the definition of both of these words. It showed that they both meant night. Does both of these words mean night?

5

As a native speaker, these two word actually mean very different things to me:

晚上 refers to in the evening, the period of time between sunset and going to bed.

夜里 refers to in the night, anytime after people have gone to bed.

There should be very few cases where these are interchangeable, just like you can’t always swap “evening” for “night”

晚上一起吃饭吧? Wanna eat out tonight(aka this evening)?

夜里一起吃饭吧?【误】 Wanna eat out tonight(aka at night)? [wrong]

Note how in English we are actually accustomed to use tonight for both meanings and I think that’s where the confusion kicked in.

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2

: 古字形用“夕”表示晚上,“亦”作为声旁。夜指从天黑到天亮的一段时间。

Night refers to the period from dark to dawn

~

: 本义指日落之后的一段时间。由傍晚引申指靠后的一段时间

The original meaning refers to a period after sunset. (in modern Chinese. it is used to refer the night itself)

Examples:

  • 晚上我不外出 = I don't go out at night (as soon as the sun is down and until the sun rises)

  • 夜間我不外出 = I don't go out at night (when it is dark)

裡 in 夜裡 means 'in'

夜裡 = in the night time = at night

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2

It's hard to explain. Because there are overlaps between 夜裡 and 晚上。

Below is a simple and ugly graph I drew.

enter image description here

e.g.

晚上10點 and 夜裡10點 => 10PM

夜裡7點, 7PM => odd, because 7PM is not so late night, use 晚上7點 or 傍晚7點 instead would be more appropriate.

夜裡一兩點 半夜一兩點 凌晨一兩點 all have the same meaning.

夜裡12點 晚上12點 半夜12點 凌晨12點 all means 00:00.

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  • We say 三更半夜 while 三更 means 23:00~01:00+1d,so 半夜 should not only after 00:00. – tsh Aug 28 at 6:15
  • @tsh 基本上的確不會用明確的時間來區分,應該是越靠近什麼時間點就會有相對應比較合適的說法。若說到三更半夜,三更確實的時間如你所說,但實際使用上未必,例如:你三更半夜不睡覺在幹嘛?實際時間可能是凌晨三點,對吧! – HungYu Chang Aug 28 at 12:56

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