2

Both have come up in the course of learning HSK vocabulary, and the dictionary definitions and usage examples I've found for each seem to have a good deal of overlap. Where should they be used, and what differentiates the two?

  • HSK"汉语水平考试词典" 大概 (形)[联合][义1](1)估计;可能(general idea;broad outline;probably);从这里到火车站,~有半个小时的路程。(2)模糊而简略(general;rough):对故乡,我只有个~的印象|这只是个~的计划,很不具体。 大约 (副)[偏正][义1](1)表示可能性较大(probably):他~是看电影了。(2)表示估计的数目不十分精确(approximately;about):每天~有十几万游客。also see previous Q chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/6719/…jukuu :100 samples for each, – user6065 Jul 30 '17 at 0:39
  • only 大概 can be used as attributive adjective (see comment #1,大概 (2)) – user6065 Jul 30 '17 at 2:10
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    "实用汉语近义虚词词典"大概(副;形;名)/大约(副)/大致(副;形) [相同] 都是副词,作状语。表示对数量的估计时可以互换,"大概"多用于口语,"大约"多用于书面语,"大致"较少用:(1)从百货大楼到电影院大概要走15分钟的路。(大概✓大致✓)(2)来回机票大约需要4000元人民币。(大概✓大致✓)(3)这家医院每天大致有六七百人来看病。(大概✓大约✓) [不同]1。 "大概、大约"还可以用于对情况的推测,表示有很大的可能性,"大概"更常用;"大致"没有这种用法: (1)他今天没有出席会议,大概有更重要的事情吧。(大约✓大致✗)(2)下这么大的雨,估计今天的活动大概会取消。(大约✓大致✗)(3)张明一副心事重重的样子,大概遇上了什么烦心事吧。(大约✓大致✗)(4)他没在办公室,大概是去银行了。(大约✓大致✗)(5)看样子他大概是外地人。(大约✓大致✗)(6)这些事情大概明天也做不完。(大约✓大致✗) 2。 "大致(上)"主要表示"就主要方面、基本的情形来说",相当于"基本上、大体上",作状语;"大约、大概"无此用法:(1)开学前的准备工作大致是这样安排的。(大概✗大约✗)(2)这个方案大致包括四大部分。(大概✗大约✗)(3)这两个词的意思大致相同,但有一些小的差异。(大概✗大约✗)(4)这篇文章,我大致(上)能看懂。(大概✗大约✗) – user6065 Jul 30 '17 at 3:32
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    (5)中国的方言很复杂,大致(上)可分为七个方言区。(大概✗大约✗) 3. "大概、大致"还有形容词的用法,意思是"概括的,粗略的",可以作定语、状语:"大约"不能这样用:(1)我只知道他们家大概的位置。(大致✓大约✗)(2)我没有认真看,所以只记得大概的内容。(大致✓大约✗)(3)我在那个地方只待了几天,现在只有一点大概的印象。(大致✓大约✗)(4)请你大致介绍一下你们国家的情况。(大概✓大约✗)(5)他记性很好,大致听了一遍就已经记得了。(大概✓大约✗) 4. "大概"还可以作名词,表示基本的、粗略的内容:(1)很多生词我都没学过,所以只听懂个大概。(大约✗大致✗)(2)十年前的事情,他现在还能记得个大概就已经很不错了。(大约✗大致✗) – user6065 Jul 30 '17 at 3:36
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大概 is more general

大約 is more narrow. Specifically be used to express estimation of numbers

Both 大概 and 大約 can mean "approximately"

"There are approximately fifty people" can be translated as "大概有五十人" or "大約有五十人"

More example:

大概二十英尺 / 大約二十英尺 (about 20 feet)

大概四十岁 / 大約四十岁 (about 40 years old)

大概三年/ 大約三年 (about 3 years)

However, 大概 also means "probably" and "roughly"

You can say 他大概不会来了 (He probably won't come), but you cannot say 他大約不会来了 (He approximately won't come)

You can also say "大概說明一下" (roughly explain a little), but you cannot say "大約說明一下" (approximately explain a little)

Whenever numbers are involved, you can safely use either 大約 or 大概 for "approximately"

  • Actually it won't be an error to say "他大约不会来了". E.g 孔乙己大约的确死了 – nanoix9 Jul 30 '17 at 0:28
  • most modern Chinese say 大概 for "probably" – Tang Ho Jul 30 '17 at 1:09

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