These two have the same meaning which is "conveniently" but I'm not sure if there is any difference in using these two.

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    Yes there's notable difference. "随手 do something", the "something" here should be performed by your hands (手), while 顺便 doesn't have such a limitation. – Stan Sep 16 '15 at 13:47
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    regarding triple 顺手/顺便/随手 "实用汉语近义虚词词典"顺手(副;形)/顺便(副) [相同]都是副词,作状语,修饰动词短语,表示在某件事时很容易地,随便一伸手又做了另一件事。修饰需要用手的动作行为时可以互换:1他出去的时候顺便关上了门。(顺手✔)2他拖完了地,又顺便把拖把洗干净。(顺手✔)3你出去时,顺手把垃圾丢了。(顺便✔)4我洗了澡,又顺手把衣服洗了。(顺便✔)[不同]1。"顺手"通常只修饰需要用手的具体行为,"顺便"不受限制,使用的范围比"顺手"大,可以修饰不用手的行为,表示趁做某件事的方便做另一件事:1你见了刘老师,顺便替我问个好。(顺手✖)2这次旅行我们去了上海,顺便还去了上海附近的小镇。(顺手✖)3。我家离这里不远,顺便去我家坐坐吧。(顺手✖)4。你去买书,顺便帮我看看有没有 «成语词典»。(顺手✖)2。"顺手"还可以作谓语、补语,前面常有"不、很、挺、非常"等副词,表示做事顺利、没有阻碍或某样东西用得习惯;"顺便"不这样用:1虽然是新工作,但他干得很顺手。(顺便✖)2这部新手机我用起来还不太顺手。(顺便✖)3。这支笔我用着觉得挺顺手的。(顺便✖) – user6065 Sep 16 '15 at 20:59
  • 顺手(副;形)/随手(副)[相同]都是副词,作状语,修饰和手有关的动作行为,表示在做某件事时很容易地一伸手顺便做另一件事,做得顺利不费事。有时可以互换:1随手关上水龙头,别浪费水!(顺手✔)2他坐下来,随手拿起一份报纸看了起来。(顺手✔)3吃了冰淇淋,我顺手把包装袋扔进了垃圾箱。(随手✔)4你出去的时候顺手把门关上,好吗?(随手✔)[不同]"随手"带有"随便"的意思,在表示不受约束和限制地做不好的事时,只能用"随手',不用"顺手":1为了环境卫生,请不要随手扔垃圾。(顺手✖)2你怎么又随手丢果皮了?(顺手✖)3他随手把香蕉皮扔在地上,害得一个路人差点摔跤。(顺手✖)2。在祈使句中,提醒别人注意个人行为时,一般用"随手":1请随手关好水龙头。(顺手✖)2办公室里开着空调,请随手关门。(顺手✖)3下班时,请随手关灯,随手关空调。(顺手✖)3。"顺手"还有形容词的用法,可以作谓语和补语,可以受"不、很、挺、非常"等副词的修饰,表示做事顺利,没有遇到困难,或某样东西用得习惯;"随手"没有这样的用法:1最近工作很顺手,张鹏心情也好了。(随手✖)2这副球拍虽然旧,但他(原文如此)打得很顺手。(随手✖)3这部手机是新的,我用得不怎么顺手。(随手✖) – user6065 Sep 16 '15 at 21:00

How should 顺便 be used?

顺便 does not mean "conveniently" per se. One can say, 从我家去地铁站很方便, but one cannot say 从我家去地铁站很顺便.

Rather, as stated by Shudong's answer, 顺便 implies that the action is part of a larger set of events. Moreover, this action is something of an "afterthought", something we might as well do because it's convenient (as a result of the larger context). For instance:


Today I'm going to see my advisor, so I might as well stop by the university library to borrow a book.

These dictionary suggestions of "on the way" or "by the way" can thus also be more appropriate than "convenient", although they are rather lacking.

  • "on the way" suggests some sort of ordering that may be inappropriate (since that would imply that whatever is "on the way" comes before the more important event). (For instance, in my example, it's possible that I might go to the library after seeing my advisor; there's nothing to suggest otherwise.)

  • "by the way" doesn't give us the full picture. I would translate 顺便问一下 more closely as "while I'm at it, I might as well ask", even if "by the way" does work as a gloss of the entire phrase (once an appropriate verb -- here which should be related to speaking -- is added to 顺便).

What is the meaning of 随手?

My dictionary gives "at one's convenience" as the definition for 随手. This can work for an approximate gloss, although "carelessly" (or words with the same connotations) tend to fit more the scenario consistently. For instance, using examples taken from here:

  • 废旧电池即使没有了使用价值也不可随手乱丢,因为它们会污染环境!Old batteries can't be discarded casually even when they are no longer useful, because they'll pollute the environment!

    "at one's convenience" still works, because "at one's convenience" would imply a certain lack of care.

  • 护林人随手扔下的一个烟头居然引燃了这场森林大火。A [cigarette butt] left in passing by a forest ranger could have caused the forest fire.

    "at one's convenience" definitely doesn't work here. Nor does "conveniently".

However, "carelessly" still fails as a translation in cases like 请随手关门 ("please close the door on your way out"). There are similar examples in the source I linked to. Given all this, it would seen that there's no one-size-fits-all translation for 随手. However, we can at least deduce that it is used for actions that can be done with a lot of convenience, which is also why "carelessly" is sometimes a good fit.

Moreover, 随手 is restricted to actions that involve the hands. For instance, we cannot say 随手问. (As pointed out by NS.X., there is also 随口 or 顺口. As with 随手, 随口 tends to only be used for the relevant body part, here things related to speaking, although it can be more consistently interpreted as "careless" than 随手 can be. While 顺口 can mean something like "flowing" even if a similar lack of restraint can be implied in the right contexts, it also is restricted to things that might involve some sort of speech.)

So what's the difference?

随手 does not imply that the related action is connected to a larger set of things. The example sentences with 随手 would still make sense out of context if I removed the unrelated clauses, whereas a sentence with 顺便 must be at least be understood to fall within a larger framework. (I can say 我顺便去图书馆借本书, but it's understood that I am also going to do something else because of the use of 顺便.)

"conveniently" is a poor fit as a direct translation for both terms, for the reasons I described above. In terms of clearly connoting convenience, 顺便 does a slightly better job, but it can only be used in specific scenarios. Moreover, the convenience aspect when 顺便 is used may be a bit more dependent on context than when 随手 is used -- it's convenient for me to go to the library because I'm already meeting my advisor, whereas it's almost always convenient to simply throw batteries in the trash.

Finally, 顺便 can generally be used for any types of actions, whereas 随手 cannot be.

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  • @Stan raises a good point, which I thought of including, but I need to think more about it to verify the exact usage did not want to include something I was unsure about. – user5714 Sep 16 '15 at 19:03
  • @user6065 's comments above quoting from the dictionary 实用汉语近义虚词词典 have the same opinion: 顺手/随手 ... 修饰和手有关的动作行为. Maybe these two examples can highlight the point: 1) 他踩了油门的同时,顺手打开了雨刷, correct; 2) 他打开雨刷的同时,顺手踩了油门, wrong. – Stan Sep 16 '15 at 23:52
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    Maybe worth noting 随口/顺口, which is the only other word that's specific about body part involved in the 顺便 action. – NS.X. Sep 17 '15 at 2:49
  • @NS.X.: thanks for the note. The limitations of 随口/etc. are reasonably obvious to me compared to 随手 (probably because I've seen the former more), but I'll revise this later (having some other stuff to attend to at the moment). – user5714 Sep 17 '15 at 2:52

顺便 seems to imply a inclusive relations, e.g. 我顺便回家 'I 顺便 go home', in which 'go home' is located in a bigger event unuttered. 顺手, by contrast, relates to immediacy, e.g. 我顺手关门'I 顺手 close the door.' However, it also sounds OK if we speak 我顺便关门, and the sentence *我顺手回家 sounds very bad. This asymmetrical accepted replacement indicates that to some degree their usages overlap.

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  • Thank you everyone for the answers. I understand it better now. Thank you so much! :) – Phrase Phrase Sep 17 '15 at 14:18

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