I was learning in a Mandarin class and I was kind of stumped on the use of "本来" and "原来" when filling in the blanks in a sentence. Here's my attempt to these questions (taken from 汉语口语速成: 基础篇 pp. 91-92):

  1. 这儿____是个冰场,现在盖起了高楼。(My answer was "原来", the answer is can be both.)
  2. 回国的日子____定在下月二十号,可是因为没有买到机票,就改到二十七号了。(My answer was "本来", the answer is "本来".)
  3. 这盘虾炒得太咸了,虾_____的味道都没有了。(My answer was "本来", the answer is "原来")
  4. 我找了你半天,____你在这儿呀。(My answer was "原来", the answer is can be both.)

There's no problem with the sentence #2 and #3. I got it right on the second sentence. I got it wrong on the third sentence, since I just know that "原来" can be used as an adjective, and the speaker already realized that the taste of the food is not good, hence my mistake.

What makes me confused is the answer of #1 and #4, is it true that either "本来" or "原来" correct in sentence #1 and #4? I thought only one of them can fit.

From what I understand from Chinese Grammar Wiki and some Chinese movies, my thinking is this:

I'm using “本来” when something unexpectedly happened, and the speaker doesn't realize until it happens. But if the speaker accidentally find out or realize the situation has changed, I should use “原来”.

Is my thinking true? If not, then on which case should I use "本来" or "原来"?

UPDATE: Here's another example I got from a movie:




The speaker use "本来" here, can it be changed to "原来"?

  • 1: yeah, both works, but I prefer 原来。4: No, 本来 does not work here. – fefe Jun 2 '18 at 8:25
  • @fefe, #1: Why both works? #4: Yeah, 原来 seems the most logical answer here, my answer should be correct here. – Reynaldi Jun 2 '18 at 8:57
  • @Reynaldi If I can answer why, I would have written an answer. – fefe Jun 2 '18 at 12:59
  • @user6065, After carefully looking to your explanation, it seems their meaning are same when they act as an adverb (both meaning 以前、从前). That means both 原来 and 本来 should be okay on sentence #1 and #2. Sentence #4 match with your explanation 不同 (3), so 原来 should be fit. Sentence #3 match with your explanation 不同 (1), you said there's a slight difference if it acts as adjective. Which one you think is the appropriate one to fill in the blanks for sentence #3? Your explanation seems very good, it would be nice if you make it as an answer. – Reynaldi Jun 6 '18 at 4:43
  • @Reynaldi you really asked a very hard question. I thought hard of it, but still could not find a perfect way to explain it. Native speakers can distinct them by intuition, but it's really hard to rule it out. I think your question deserves more upvotes than what it is now to attract more great answers. – dan Jun 6 '18 at 6:25

'本来' means 'original/ originally/ at first'

For example: "我本来不想去的" (originally, I didn't want to go )

'原来'(the truth from the origin) means 'actually' /as it turns out

For example:

"原来你不想去" (you actually/ don't want to go)/(as it turns out, you don't want to go)

"原来你沒錢去" (you actually don't have money to go)/ (as it turns out, you don't have money to go

'原本' = '本来'

For example: "我原本不想去的" (originally, I didn't want to go)

  • 这儿(本来/原本)是个冰场,现在盖起了高楼。

  • 回国的日子(本来/原本)定在下月二十号,可是因为没有买到机票,就改到二十七号了。

  • 这盘虾炒得太咸了,虾(本来的/ 原本的)味道都没有了。(the original taste)/ 这盘虾炒得太咸了,虾(原来的)味道都没有了。(the actual taste)

  • 我找了你半天,(原来)你在这儿呀。

Many people use 原来 instead of 原本 when they meant "originally" because they think 原来 and 原本 are the same

原本" = “本來” ; "原來 = 其實

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  • In fact, in my thinking, 本来 has the sense of meaning "actually". Am I right? I didn't know there's a word "原本", though, that's interesting. – Reynaldi Jun 2 '18 at 9:23
  • Some people also confuse 本来 with 原来 when they meant 'actually' . Just remember 原来 means 'actually' ; 本来 means 'originally' – Tang Ho Jun 2 '18 at 9:45
  • Many people use 原来 instead of 原本 when they meant "originally" because they think 原来 and 原本 are the same Is "原本" = “本来” = "原来" then? – Reynaldi Jun 2 '18 at 10:21
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    原本" = “本来” ; "原来 = 其实 – Tang Ho Jun 2 '18 at 11:50
  • You gave the answer 本来/原本 on sentence #1 and #2. Can they be changed to 原来? – Reynaldi Jun 4 '18 at 4:45

In my opinion, 1,2,3 can be both. 4 should be filled with 原来.

原来 could be used when you don't know something and then you find it out all of sudden. For example, 原来是你啊! 原来是你干的啊! 本来 can't be used for this sense.

Most of time they are interchangeable.

In your update sentence, 本来 is preferable, and 原来 is not that good. But if you put 原来 in the middle (丁鐺:"是的,我原来要去百代試音的,但是我弄錯了日期,是明天,) that will be ok. This might be because if you put 原来 at the beginning of an sentence, that sounds you have found something all of sudden, which you didn't know. But actually you want to convey the sense originally.

I guess the key might be they are interchangeable within a sentence, but not at the beginning of a sentence!



I feel this dictionary definition are accurate:


  1. 原来,原先。


2 . 原有的。


3 .指人本有的心性。


4 .表示理该如此。



1 . 当初;未经改变的。


2 . 副词。表示发现从前不知道的情况。


I think this should help you a lot if you can understand those definitions in Chinese.

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  • Okay, now I'm getting more confused. Could you explain why you say sentence #1 ~ #3 can be both? – Reynaldi Jun 2 '18 at 8:59
  • @Reynaldi sorry for the confusion. I'm not sure what you have learnt. In practice, they are interchangeable most of time. The only case where you can't use 本来 is the one I put it in my answer. As of now, I can not really think of other cases where you can only use one over the other. If you have more examples, I can help you to analysis. Good luck! :) – dan Jun 2 '18 at 9:06
  • I see. Yeah, when I check in dictionary, both of them mean "original / originally". I'm curious what makes them different. I've edited the question for another example. – Reynaldi Jun 2 '18 at 9:33
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    @Reynaldi even in the sense 1 original, there is still a nuance, 原来 has the sense of 当初;未经改变的, referring to the definition 1 of 原来. Well, 本来 connotes what the thing should be originally, usually referring to its 'nature'. In the example of 把脸盆放在床上原来的地方接水, 原来 would sound better than 本来 here, because it denotes the sense of unchanged. – dan Jun 8 '18 at 3:40
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    @Reynaldi sometimes, the nuance in definition 1 is not that important, that's why we can use them interchangeably. Back to your original 4 examples, 1 & 2 can be roughly both. For 3, 本来 sounds better, because 虾本来的味道都没有了 talks about 虾 itself, its 'nature' taste. Well, 虾原来的味道 sounds that originally (in the past or before you put the salt) 虾 taste like. So, that's why I said both can be used for 3, but actually 本来 is more preferable. 4 is very obvious, it should be 原来 as it falls the definition 2 表示发现从前不知道的情况. Hope this could help you out! – dan Jun 8 '18 at 3:55

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