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Is there any rule when can I say 的时候 and when 时候? For example: 小时候 and 小的时候, is there any difference?

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  1. Most of the time the should not be omitted. Exceptions include fixed expressions (e.g. 小時候) or when pronouns are used (e.g. 什麼時候, 這個時候, 那時候). In the latter case, adding is not permitted.

    For other bisyllabic words, the still should not be omitted: 下雨的時候 ('when it's raining').

    More so if we are using a phrase, as in

    飛機降落的時候,請繫好安全帶。
    Please fasten your seatbelts when the plane is landing.

    It's very unnatural to say 飛機降落時候.

  2. However, we don't require if we use ~時 in ~的時候's stead:

    下雨時
    飛機降落時,請繫好安全帶。

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