Early in their studies, almost all Chinese learners are taught“有时候”（yǒu shíhou）, which means “Sometimes”. However, when you go deeper into learning Chinese, you’ll find that it cannot be used in all cases. Besides “有时候”, there are other words for “Sometimes” that can be used in daily life. In this article, we are going to share two more commonly used ways to say “Sometimes,” and to demonstrate the ways to use each one.
时而 is an adverb which is normally used in written Chinese. When using this word, it indicates something happens repeatedly and not regularly. There are mainly two sentence structures for this word.
1) 时而 …… 时而 ……
When the word is used repeatedly, it is to show alternating situations or different phenomena in a certain period of time. For example:
(Zuìjìn tā yǒudiǎn qíguài, shí’ér kū, shí’ér fādāi, bù ài shuōhuàle.)
Recently, she has been a bit strange, sometimes crying, sometimes dazed, not talking any more.
(Nàgè rén shí’ér kàn wàimiàn, shí’ér kàn shǒubiǎo, kěnéng zài děng rén.)
The man sometimes looks outside, and sometimes looks at his watch. Maybe he is waiting for someone.
(Shí’ér kāixīn, shí’ér nánguò, shí’ér píngjìng, zhè jiùshì shēnghuó.)
Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes peaceful, this is life.
(Jīntiān shí’ér chū tàiyáng, shí’ér xià yǔ, zhège bǐsài bùnéng zài hùwài jìnxíngle.)
Sometimes the sun comes out, sometimes it rains, this game can’t be held outdoors.
2) 时而 + verbal phrase / adjective phrase ……
When the word is followed by a verbal phrase or an adjective phrase, it`s not allowed to be used repeatedly. For example:
(Zhè duàn shíjiān shí’ér huì xià hěn dà de yǔ.)
At this period of time, there would be heavy rains sometimes.
(Shēngbìng yǐhòu, tóngshìmen shí’ér lái wǒjiā kàn wǒ.)
After getting ill, colleagues sometimes come to visit me at my home.
(Wǒ shí’ér tīng dào línjū chǎojià de shēngyīn.)
I sometimes heard the sound of neighbors quarreling.
(Suīrán tā zài kāihuì, dàn yě shí’ér kàn kàn shǒujī.)
Although he is in a meeting, he also sometimes looks at his phone.
In addition to the word 时而，we can also use 不时 to express the same meaning. When “时而” is not used repeatedly, 不时 can be used to replace 时而 in the second sentence structure. However, in the first structure of “时而……时而……”，it cannot be replaced by 不时.
For more detailed illustration and more grammar points explanations, you can check Chinese Grammar Course – HSK.