时间 vs 期间
Is the main difference between these two words is that 时间 is a shorter period of time and 期间 is a longer period of time?
tingyunDecember 09, 2012, 04:16 AM
That may often be true, considering how widely 时间 is used to refer to everyday circumstances, but not nessecillarly true.
The difference is 期间 is used to refer to some specific period of time, and usually modified by a term appearing before. So 会议期间，实习期间，战争期间，(to give examples ranging from possibly an hour to several years) you are generally going to have something appearing right before it, and it turns that into 'during the time of' type of meaning.
First let me answer a slightly different question (ignoring the part about almost the whole life) - here you would use 期间 and 时间 would feel weird, because it's such a defined period of time.
example: 在美国期间 （ie, usually no 的 inbetween if using 期间)
Or 在美国的时候 or 在美国时...but 时间 would be not be as natural in this case as 时候 or 时
期间 is often part of more formal expressions - ie 周恩来访美期间 (When Zhou Enlai was visiting America)
Now if you had been almost your whole life - 时间 is still weird, and 期间 also becomes weird, because usually 期间 wouldn't be used to refer to such a long period of time (long relative to the actor involved, not in absolute terms, so if you were talking about a country and not a person things would be different). This probably flows from 期间 being about defined periods of time...odd to define it as almost the entirety. But it wouldn't be wrong, just not usual.
More usual would be to use 时 or 时候 in that circumstance, perhaps more natural (if say you had recently left) would be to say something like: 当我还在美国的时候, there the 还 plus context can also indicate that the majority of the past was spent there.
Also, usually you would want to write 某个国家 or 某国, but not 某国家, as that feels awkward. Generally, there is a striving for balance in these modifying formal terms, and that means 1 character modifies 1 character or 2 with 2, but then there are complicated rules about when this is not necessary that are probably a waste of time to learn, it seems an unconscious understanding will build over time of when it is necessary and what sounds right. But using even numbers generally sounds a lot better, and is necessary in some places (like here).