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В последнее время не было возможности побыть одной, немного расслабиться, чтобы пару часов не думать о домашних делах.

Given the meaning of the phrase, it seems as if the preposition "за" with the meaning of "for/during" is dropped. I wonder if it is unusual to say "за пару часов" instead in an instance like this?

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    The accusative case points at things--indicates where, or when certain events happen. Without a preposition it's a "pure" form, and shows when an event happens in time. It's like a road on which the action happens. With за it's like a summary of the path in time--the end of it. In English, by the way, it's possible to say "I thought (didn't think) about this three hours". It's not super natural, but, nonetheless possible. – VCH250 Mar 21 '18 at 21:30
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"За пару часов не думать о домашних делах" is wrong.

"За" in such expressions means that it took that time to perform some action. The verb must be perfective. Without "за" it must be imperfective.

  • За два часа она сделала домашнее задание (it took two hours for her to do her homework - she started to do it, then finished it, all in two hours)
  • Она два часа делала домашнее задание (she spent two hours doing her homework - maybe she finished it, maybe not, maybe she made little or no progress, or maybe she started her homework yesterday, and now just continued to do it).

PS: за ... не ... means some task is not done for this time, the verb still should be perfective. Examples:

  • За два часа она ни разу не подумала о домашних делах
  • За целый день ты ничего не сделал
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    still it would be correct to say За два часа она ни секунды не думала о домашних делах or За целое лето она и часа не сидела на берегу both with the imperfective verb, although the second sentence would be correct with perfective as well... i believe it's because of how we perceive temporal differences between markers of time – Баян Купи-ка Mar 21 '18 at 19:50
  • It is because one such expression (и часа) is within another expression (за целое лето). The outer expression is with за, while the inner expression is without за. – user31264 Mar 21 '18 at 20:30
  • but so is the first sentence and yet only imperfective verb fits there – Баян Купи-ка Mar 21 '18 at 20:39
  • in the first sentence, there is only one, rather than two, period of time (два часа). – user31264 Mar 21 '18 at 20:53
  • OK, here's an example with раз + imperfective - за целое лето она ни разу не сидела на берегу, i believe the aspect validity depends on the nature of the verb – Баян Купи-ка Mar 21 '18 at 22:43
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Preposition "за" can be used when there supposed to be a specific accomplishment during mentioned time period. In this case, "думать" is imperfective, and no accomplishment is anticipated, meaning that "за" cannot be used.

Compare to "сделать домашние дела за пару часов" (to finish home chores in couple hours).

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Presence of a preposition in this context depends on the aspect.

If a verb is in the perfective aspect, the preposition is used, and isn't used otherwise.
Examples:

... чтобы пару часов не думать о домашних делах. (imperfective)
... чтобы за пару часов отойти от произошедшего. (perfective)

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Using just the accusative with no preposition is a common way of describing an action that is 'spread' over a time span or a distance:

  • Подождите минуту. - Please wait a minute.
  • Проехать милю. - To drive for a mile.
  • Отдохни недельку-другую. - Have a rest for a week or two.

It may not be as obvious with masculine and neuter nouns (or numerals) because their nominative and accusative are the same:

  • Я прождал автобуса целый час.
  • Проехать пять километров.
  • Попрыгунья Стрекоза
    Лето красное пропела;
    Оглянуться не успела,
    Как зима катит в глаза.
    (Крылов. Стрекоза и Муравей)

Believe it or not, the bold words above are in the accusative case.

The 'pure accusative' sets the boundaries of the described action; за + accusative sums up what happens by the end of the time interval:

За сколько сделаешь?
За день сделаю.
– А за два?
Фильм "Формула любви"

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You can think of the accusative here like this:

... so that I'd have a couple of hours of not thinking about housework.

(The opposite: ... so that I'd spend a couple of hours enjoying my housework.)

The prepositional version with "за" is for a different meaning: you'll are limited in time to a couple of hours while have to complete something.

.. so that I'd get all of my housework done in a couple of hours.

(... чтобы за пару часов переделать все домашние дела)

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