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In English, one can use the verb spend with units of time. You can say, for example:

"spend your time how you want"

or

"spend your days and nights like that"

Are there German idiomatic phrases like this with the corresponding verb verbringen? What are they?

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The phrase Zeit verbringen is indeed used and with the same meaning as in English. Just details in usage might differ. Both phrases above can be translated that way:

Zeit so verbringen, wie man möchte

or

(seine) Tage und Nächte damit verbringen

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Of course this works:

Meine Kinder verbringen die Ferien bei Oma und Opa.
Ich habe meine Kindheit auf dem Dorf verbracht.
Im Durchschnitt verbringt jeder Deutsche 221 Minuten täglich vor dem Fernseher.

"Verbringen" has exactly the meaning of "spend time", usually with a slight focus on the duration and some continuity.

So if you say

Ich habe den Abend mit meiner Freundin im Restaurant verbracht.

you (slightly) stress the amount of time, whereas

Ich war gestern Abend mit meiner Freundin im Restaurant.

simply states where you were and with whom.

But note that the stress on duration is rather slight, to really emphazise you would need a qualifier like "den ganzen Abend".

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