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I was reading a sentence from a friend about apartments:

Mein Bruder hat lange Zeit in einer Mietwohnung gelebt.

Now, translating this to myself I thought this meant

My brother has lived a long time in a rented apartment.

But, I thought as Zeit is a noun in this sentence, I would need the indefinite article "eine" i.e.

Mein Bruder hat eine lange Zeit in einer Mietwohnung gelebt.

2 Answers 2

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Both variants are possible. The one without the indefinite article sounds more natural. Some people may even think of the number word ein if you used the indefinite article in this way, and ask if you specificially meant one, not two or more.

Das hat mich große Mühe gekostet.

Das hat mich eine große Mühe gekostet.

If you want to make sense of it, as a rule of thumb a noun shouldn't be lonely in German but three are one too much. This is more a stylistic than a grammar rule, of course.

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Given the fact that there is not one single example of the usage "eine lange Zeit" in all of DWDS, compared to thousands of examples of the usage "lange Zeit" without eine, one must conclude that the usage with the definite article is, in fact, not acceptable. Although, if Zeit is qualified by an adjective, the definite article can be used:

Wissen sie, sie beide haben eine lange gemeinsame Zeit.

Wir werden Bart Simpson aus dem Weg räumen, für eine lange lange Zeit.

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