Is zitten used in a general sense of 'are contained in', or is this something specific to time keeping?
For abstract things you are right, e.g. er zitten 12 stuks in een dozijn or er zit ongeveer 3 voet in een yard (That's about right isn't it? Like most Dutch I hardly have any feeling for all these wacky non-metric units). For physical things it depends what it is:
- er liggen 3 boten in het boothuis (there are 3 boats in the boat house)
- er staan 3 auto's in de garage (there are 3 cars in the garage)
- er liggen 3 knikkers in de doos (there are 3 marbles in the box)
- er zitten 3 kikkers in de doos (there are 3 frogs in the box)
- er liggen 3 touwen in de schuur (there are 3 ropes in the shed)
- er hangen 3 touwen in de schuur (3 ropes are hanging in the shed)
Is there a general rule to understand when we use "staan" and when we use "zitten"? It's maybe my major struggle up to now.
Some things zitten, mostly things inside other things and people and animals (and robots, dolls, etc.) in actual sitting positions:
- de eieren zitten in de mand (the eggs are in the basked)
- de boeken zitten in de tas (the books are in the bag)
- de vrouw zit op de stoel (the woman sits on the chair)
But I think most things either staan or liggen. A rule of thumb is that things that can (theoretically) fall over staan (auto, fiets) and things that cannot liggen (vloer, grasveld, berg).
Apparently, this was rejected: "How many minutes are there are in one hour?" I guess my English is not so good :|