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I often use the word 察覺, which, I believe, corresponds to 發現 in colloquial context, meaning "to realize".

But I recently encountered the word 覺察 in a similar context as the following:

小偷覺察屋子裡有人,就從後門逃走了。

The thief realized there was someone in the house, then slipped away from the back door.

If my translation above is correct, are the two words interchangeable? Or do they have different meaning/usage?

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    iciba seems to suggest interchangeabiliy: 觉察 1. (动)发觉,看出来。 detect ; become aware of ; perceive ; sense ; suspicion 察觉1. (动)发觉,看出来。be conscious of ; become aware of ; perceive, both are in the IME pinyin editor – user6065 May 6 '15 at 20:46
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    As can be suspected, the question has been discussed on the web,googling e。g。""察觉"和"觉察"之间的区别" produces lots of results, e。g。觉察 察觉 区别 ”察觉”是有主动去发现的意思!而”觉察”是无意中发现的意思! – user6065 May 7 '15 at 16:43
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Although both mean "to become aware of", I feel there is still subtle difference in terms of which action happens first.

  • 觉察 is from 觉 to 察: you suspect something first, then observe some facts that supports the suspicion. For example, 突然教室里很安静,我觉察到原来大家都走了。
  • 察觉 is from 察 to 觉: you observe first, then draw a conclusion about something. For example, 我抬头左右看了一圈,察觉到大家都走了。

Which one happens first, 察 or 觉, can indicate some difference. Usually we use 察觉 because people often draw conclusions after observing the facts. But when 觉察 is used, the emphasis is on the suspicion or cautiousness.

Note that it is also possible to say

  • 觉而不察: to suspect but not to examine
  • 察而不觉: to observe the facts but not to realize/understand
  • This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for the comprehensive answer! – Thomas Hsieh May 7 '15 at 4:49
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    Most people use "察觉" all the time in daily conversation. I think "觉察" is often used in writing, e.g. novel. – Ricky May 8 '15 at 0:41
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I think the two are the same thing. However, I've never used 覺察 in any context in my life as a native speaker.

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Your translation is right.These two words are of the same meaning and interchageable, but we are used to using 察覺 in our daily life.

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In my eyes, they are synonyms, but I prefer to use 觉察 in writing and 察觉 in daily life personally.

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Tzu的回答不是很准确,现代汉语中经常把意思相近的字组合一起作为一个词语,表达近似的意思,属于词法中的“联合结构”。古代汉语中“觉”和“察”是有区别的,但以此来解释现代汉语是不妥当的,事实上,这两个词是同义词,基本可以通用。 我是一个汉语言文学专业的中国人,不小心来到这里,大家关照。

  • It's better to explain in English. – songyuanyao May 25 '15 at 1:49
  • Sorry,I suppose to explain it in Chinese is another way to improve your levels. Generally,"觉察" and "察觉" are exactly the same word, they are totally interchangeable, either of them can be replaced by the other in every contexts and all circumstances. Thanks. – 猫咪家的熊 May 25 '15 at 8:10

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