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Sometimes I want to add emphasis to the frequency of something, so I say 很经常 (instead of just 经常), but my teacher has pointed out it's wrong. (Judging from Google, it seems I'm not the only one making this mistake; see e.g. Sohu news, NPC.gov.cn, or the World of Warcraft forum where 很经常 is used.)

However, I'm not precisely sure why 很经常 is wrong: if I'm saying 很经常 wrong, it's likely I'm making similar 很[word] mistakes, so it would be beneficial to identify these too. Sometimes we can add 很 before a word, and other times we can't; e.g. looking up some example sentences on YouDao, we find:

如今她很少公开露面。
很久没有回故乡智利了。
他年轻时很有音乐天才。
作者很善于描写大的场面。

I'm not sure what the rule/pattern is here.

Question: Why is 很经常 ("very often") wrong?

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  • I am not sure what the correct grammatical answer, (or Rules), are, but for myself, I use 经常 when it just means "often", and 常常 when it means "very often" I believe 很经常 ,"very often", is a modern day English influence. Oct 29 at 3:03
  • @WayneCheah Actually, to me, 经常 is closer to "very often" and 常常 is less often than 经常. But that might be just me.
    – dan
    Oct 29 at 3:27
  • Campare there two examples, 常常责怪自己 and 经常责怪自己. 经常责怪自己 sounds more frequently than 常常责怪自己. 常常责怪自己 sounds closer to "sometimes", "not that very often".
    – dan
    Oct 29 at 3:40
  • Thanks for your comment. Looks like we see it differently. In any case, I'll pay more attention when using these two terms. Oct 29 at 3:48
  • 1
    I think the true answer is that "it's just not idiomatic", but I don't believe there's a reference for such a statement.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 29 at 20:41
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I'm afraid there isn't any particular reason for it. We just don't say 很经常 in any case. But we say 很常见 and 很寻常.

In Chinese, to express "very often", I'd probably say: 很(or 非常)频繁,很(or 非常)勤, and etc. E.g. He goes there very often. // 他去那里(的次数)非常频繁.

P.S. This might be my Anecdotal experience. 经常 by itself already denotes the sense "very frequently", so there is no need to add one more character such as 很 for more emphasis. In spoken, we can add a tone emphasis on 经常 if we want more. E.g. 他经常打游戏!

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  • Yes, saying 很经常 somehow seems "odd", though nowadays people just add 很 to everything just for emotive emphasis. But grammatically, that's a different issue. Oct 29 at 3:10
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The following doesn't mean to be a thorough analysis of the usage of the adverb 很, but I wish it can help.

Grammar books describe the usage of 很. In structures like 很+x, the nature of x is limited to adjectives, verbs, verbal phrases, idioms, nouns, and 不. See for example the short description here.

Some examples

很 indicates high degree and is used before adjectives like:

很好
很漂亮

Some adjectives, as those already indicating by themself degree, cannot be preceded by 很 which also indicates degree (the following is not correct):

*很错
*很火热
*很红红的
*很绿油油

很 is also used before a certain kind of verbs, modal verbs, and verb-object structures, like:

很喜欢
很愿意
很可能
很会唱
很有礼貌

很 is also used before a few four-charactes idioms, like:

很平易近人

In recent years, it has also become common (in spoken language) to see 很 preceding nouns, like (strictly speaking, the following is still to be considered incorrect):

很中国
很现代

What about 很经常?

经常 can be used as an adjective (daily) or as an adverb (often), with different meanings.

很 can be used before the adjective 经常 as in the NPC.gov.cn link OP cited, where 经常 means 平常的,日常的:

可以说是很经常性的处罚

On the contrary, the usage of 很 does not include adverbs like 经常:

*要很经常注意环境卫生

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  • 可以说是很经常性的处罚 might be ok because we can take 经常性的 (as a whole) as an adjective phrase, thus 很经常性的 is ok? Stand alone, 很经常 is off.
    – dan
    Nov 2 at 3:57
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I don't think 很经常 is wrong

Typically, 很 (very/ quite) indicates a high degree of an adverb/ adjective.

In theory, 很 cannot be used when an adverb/ adjective doesn't have different degrees, but the problem is all adjectives can have different degrees.

I would say the people saying 很 cannot be used with 经常 think 很 (very/ quite) and 非常(very/ unusually) are the same

  • 非常经常 (adv) (unusually often) is wrong because 'unusually' and 'often' contradict each other.

  • 非常尋常 (adj) (unusually common )is also wrong because 'unusually' and 'common' contradict each other.

Meanwhile, 很经常 (quite often) and 很尋常 (quite common) are perfectly acceptable.

  • If you do something once or twice a month, you 经常 do it; if you do something three or four times a week, you 很经常 do it

  • If you see something every other week, it is a 尋常 something; If you see something every day, this something is 很尋常

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  • 1
    “在马路上看到纯电动汽车已经是非常寻常的事了” 我觉得非常寻常没问题。非常表示的是一种程度。
    – imkzh
    Oct 29 at 2:21
  • @imkzh '非常' 有 '不寻常' 之意, '不寻常地寻常' 似乎说不通. ; 把非常解作很就说得通了
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 29 at 2:26
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经常 is something that repeats frequently, while 很经常 is nothing wrong grammatically, it is in a sense of "劃蛇添足", because "frequent" itself means "coming at short intervals or habitually". Is it wrong to say it means "Coming at very short intervals or habitually"? No, but the adverb "very" is unnecessary. In Chinese, the addition of 很 in front of 经常 is unnatural.

IMO, the better word for "coming at very short intervals" is "頻頻" or 屢屢".

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很经常 is not wrong, but needs context.

很 Is usually used as a confirmation, in addition to the meaning "very". In this case the confirmation word can be omitted. For example: 天气很热(short for 天气确实很热)weather is very hot.

The 很 in 很经常 means the same. It should be in a context of talking about often or not.

  • Q 你经常去酒吧吗? Do you often go to the bar?
  • A 很经常。Yes, every often. (Short for 我是很经常去)
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Language is made of ghosts from the past.

经 jīng:English senses 英语理解: classic works; pass through
from single-thread (纟)糹 mì and loom-warp (𢀖)巠 jīng

常:Original meaning 本义: Meaning common.
English senses 英语理解: common, normal, frequent, regular

很:Original meaning 本义: Meaning (orig) to disobey.
English senses 英语理解: very, quite,

Thus, 很经常 has a meaning from ancient times: not pass through often.

very is from Old French: verray "true, real, genuine," later "actual, sheer" (late 14c.), from Anglo-French verrai, Italian vero (ciao Guiseppe)

Some compound words or phrases never evolved, because their ancient senses could not be amalgamated.

If you think of 经常 as "often", why not say “很精常”?

But if you think of “经常”as "pass through frequently" do you still like “很精常”?

But language is always changing. Maybe, in 50 years time, no one will bat an eyelid if you proclaim, “很精常”。

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It is by convenience that 经常 is translated as "often".

Yes, "often" is equivalent to 经常, but they are different in terms of use. 经常 is used in a manner closer to that of "every now and then" and "from time to time". We don't say *very every now and then or *very from time to time.

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「很經常」沒甚麼不對,看你用在甚麼地方。

例如:

Q:這裡看得到野生動物出沒嗎? A:很經常啊!

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