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I was informed that 钟头 and 小时 mean hour. Is there any difference between the two? (situational, more common in different places). Or does it both just mean hour.

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钟头 (zhōngtóu) and 小时 (xiǎoshí) both mean "hour" in Chinese, but there are some differences in their usage:

Formal vs. Informal Language:

小时 (xiǎoshí): This is the standard term used in formal contexts, written documents, news reports, and educational materials. 钟头 (zhōngtóu): This term is more colloquial and is commonly used in everyday conversations, especially among older generations or in specific dialect areas. Regional Differences:

小时 (xiǎoshí): This term is widely used across Mainland China and Taiwan. 钟头 (zhōngtóu): This term might be more frequently heard in northern China or certain specific regions. Frequency of Use: In modern Mandarin, especially among younger people, 小时 (xiǎoshí) is used much more frequently than 钟头 (zhōngtóu).

In summary, while both terms mean the same thing, you are more likely to see 小时 (xiǎoshí) in written and formal contexts. 钟头 (zhōngtóu), on the other hand, might be more common in spoken language, particularly with older speakers or in certain regions.

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    I may be wrong, but I get the impression that the writing here involves AI in some way. If that's correct please make sure to edit and explain what role AI played. (See the AI policy for details.)
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented May 30 at 1:47
  • I thought that was a pretty good answer, if original? Commented May 30 at 2:44
  • 钟头 is definitely used in Cantonese. Commented May 30 at 2:56
  • Yes, mostly colloquially in informal conversations. Commented May 30 at 3:22
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Both mean "hour." I don't think anybody can say you are wrong if you prefer using one over another.

An interesting note is these terms are modern, so to speak. Previously, 時辰 was used in China. Each 時辰 is named after 地支 starting from 子, so the first 時辰 of each day is 子時 and each 時辰 is two hours long.

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  • Yes, the 钟头 and 小时 used now, (meaning an hour's time on the 12 hour clock), is a "modern" classification, (much like the CE for “Common Era”, and BCE for “Before Common Era”) The 時辰 you mentioned is actually a12 equal time periods of 2 hours each. So, if you go back in time to ancient China and make an appointment in an "hour's" time for lunch without any adjustment, you may be an hour's early. BTW, in 1793, the French had a "Revolutionary Time" which was a 10-hour day, with 100 minutes per hour, and 100 seconds per minute. What if France was a great World power then, like Great Britain? Commented May 30 at 3:13
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The two terms are interchangeable here:

他们等了大约两个钟头。
他们等了大约两个小时。

I like the idea of 2 hour hours, but time is an illusion!

2 fish, 阴 and 阳, entwined in the schematic day below.

(子丑: ugly child!)

enter image description here

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In business language / news reporting / government announcement, you never use 钟头 but 小时

In your family / street language, often 钟头 instead of 小时 unless you are patronizing others

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