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I always see 在……时/的时候,but whenever I try to use this phrase, natives tell me to say 当……时/的时候 instead. Examples of 在……时/的时候 from natives:

如果我讲话的时候用到这些词的话……

阅读某些文章的时候……

我觉得我给你发了修改的文章说会更好一点。

上班……

课堂……

我自己造句的:

当我说中文时……(在我说中文时……?)

当他去中国旅行时……(在他去中国旅行时……?)

当下雨时我用雨伞。(在下雨时我用雨伞 ?)

Just wondering if anyone can shed some light on this. When is it more preferable to use one over the other?

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在 is "at...something is happening"; 当 is "when...something is happening". Sometimes they are interchangeable, but not always.

"在我"讲话的时候, ... = "当我"讲话的时候, ... The two sentences are interchangeable.

But 如果"在我"讲话的时候... (If at the time I am talking, ...) and 如果"当我"讲话的时候... (If when I am talking, ...) are not, because "if" conflicts with "when" - "if" indicates uncertain about something, but "when" indicates certainty.

Usual patterns of 在 and 当:

  • 我觉得我给你发了修改的文章说会更好一点。[Pattern: 在...(之)後]

  • 我觉得我给你发了修改的文章说会更好一点。[Pattern: 当...(之)时]

Comments on the example sentences:

  • 当我中文, 很搞笑. (When I speak Chinese, it sounds funny.)

  • 在我说中文时…… does not match the usual pattern 在...之前/後/間. But, 在我演說时…… = 当我演說时……, because 演說时 is a complete phrase by itself, that does not fall within the usual patterns.

  • 当他去中国旅行时…… = 在他去中国旅行时…… Same as above, 旅行时 is a complete phrase by itself.

  • 当下雨时我用雨伞。= 在下雨时我用雨伞。下雨时 is a complete phrase by itself.

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  • May I ask for some clarification regarding: ”演說时 is a complete phrase by itself“ And by extension, if I want to use 在……时,then it must be a complete phrase by itself? Dec 12 '21 at 16:16
  • I don't quite understand what you mean. But look at the pattern - 演說, 旅行, and 下雨 all are actions (verb) that differ from 中文, a noun, 中文时 can't be a standalone phrase.
    – r13
    Dec 12 '21 at 17:27

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