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In Mandarin, there are many words to express the meaning "usually" - 通常,平常,平日,素,率,素来,往往,常,etc... (actually there are way more, but I don't list all of them here).

There are too many to choose the correct word. How are all of them different and more importantly, how can I know which word fits the best for my specific purpose?

At least for me it feels that 通常 and 平常 are used more often, but I'm not sure.

For example, in these contexts:

Do you usually go to the cafe?

What do you usually do after work?

Do you usually come to Shanghai on your holiday?

In these cases, how can I know which one to use? Or are these more or less the same and which to choose does not affect that much?

  • see online dictionaries, bkrs: 通常#2750,常 #3352, 平日 ordinarily usually on ordinary days(一般的日子) ordinary days (as distinguished from holidays, festivals, etc.) (平时) everyday; week day #6073 素副 (素来;向来) usually; habitually; always: 平素 usually 青藏高原素有世界屋脊之称。 The Qinghai-Xizang Plateau has long been known as the roof of the world.,*率 bound morpheme,大率如此。 This is usually the case. 素来 always; usually; all along: 他素来不吸烟。 He never smokes. 他素来守法。 He always abides by the law.#25421往往(see Q&A for 往往 and 常常) (bound morpheme when used as adverb))(1) 经常, 常常 [frequently; often] – user6065 Mar 11 '18 at 7:37
  • 通常、一般 can be used in all 3 proposed sentences – user6065 Mar 11 '18 at 7:40
  • @user6065 How about 平常 and 平时? – Blaszard Mar 11 '18 at 11:35
  • see examples in online dictionaries, anyhow comments #1,2 only copy parts of online dictionaries (or as far as "bound morpheme" is concerned may draw the necessary conclusion) – user6065 Mar 11 '18 at 13:44
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Just like "usually, typically, normally and often" in English, "通常, 平日, 素来, 往往 and 常常" In Chinese have overlapping meanings but they all have subtle differences with each others.

"通常" = usually /typically (emphasizes on normalcy)

Example : "他通常不做好事" (usually, he doesn't do good things - not doing good things to him is normal)

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"平日"= "in normal days/ normally" (emphasizes on regularity)

Example : "他平日不做好事" (normally, he doesn't do good things - it is a regular routine for him to not do the good things)

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"素/ 素来" = "always" (emphasizes on constancy)

Example : "他素来不做好事" (always, he doesn't do good things- he has always been like that )

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"往往" = "often" (implies 'ironically')

Example : "他往往不做好事" (often, he doesn't do good things- despite other's expectation )

~

"常/ 常常 " = often (implies more often than not)

Example : "他常常不做好事" (often, he doesn't do good things- he is like that more often than not)

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