I'm used to using 每 for every. However, 各 came up one day and appears to me to have the exactly same meaning. Is there a contextual difference between the two that I am missing or can they be swapped for each other? When should someone use 各 instead of 每?
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各 is more like "each". It is more frequently used when the intention is to describe some sort of individuality of some group. It is more common to see this character in describing the difference in each item in a group. Example: 各种不同的花 (many different kinds of flower)
每 is more like "every". It is used more when the intention is to describe a group's collective property that all members share, and consequently seen more often when describing the sameness of items in a group. Example: 每种花都一样 (all the flowers are of the same kind)
The confusion is that they are both used when describing some property of the individual in a group, but with different intentions. You can see them as two kinds of "every" with different connotations.
As @LadyP indicates, these two words have totally different meaning when used as adverb.
When used as 'every', sometimes, they are interchangable, e.g. (每/各)个学校. But:
Another difference, beyond the subtleties of each/every, is that 每 can be used as an adverb meaning frequently or at every occasion, while 各 can be used as an adverb meaning separately or independently. 各 also appears in constructions such as 各V各的 (ex: 各唱各的) and 各V所B (ex: 各有所好).
Also note that the common word 各种 means various kinds, while 每种 would be every kind.