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3 Answers 3


It's a joke:

  • The first is read (一个半)小时 = "(one and a half) hours".

  • The second is read 三个(半小时) = "three (half hours)".

With these two interpretations, they're mathematically equal lengths of time. But, of course, if you read:


it looks silly. If you were to say this aloud, you'd add appropriate pausing to indicate word boundaries, like this:

一个半 [pause] 小时是三个 [pause] 半小时。

  • 1
    With a pausing and (or) a stressed syllable.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 13 at 23:39

一个半小时是三个半小时 true?

It is a word-playing joke

一个半...brief pause...小时 (one and a half hour) = 三个(three)...brief pause... 半小时 (half an hour) - TRUE

一个半...brief pause...小时 (one and a half hours) = 三个半...brief pause...小时 (three and a half hours) - Fault


As in any language, when people communicate with each other, they have to do their best to avoid any possible confusion and ambiguity. Intentionally taking advantage of word ambiguities is a kind of art in Chinese comic shows, such as in 相声表演, but it does not belong to the study of the language.

The way people can avoid mistakes in communication is to use "internal language", which means they talk to themselves first and see if it can be correctly received by their "internal ears".

To your question, the Chinese would say:

  1. 我花了一个半小时才到家. - means 1 and half hours.

  2. 走高速公路需要花半个小时. 如果不走高速公路,就要花三个半个小时. - means three units of a half hour.

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