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I am currently looking at a text about the situation of chinese kids in schools. The following sentence asks the (rhetorical) question of whether kids are allowed to rest a few weeks in the holidays.

那他们在假期里总能休息几周吧?

I struggle to find a reason/translation for 总 in this context. After looking at it again and again I came up with the hypothesis that this is a mere typo and the originally intended meaning was 中, i.e. "in the holidays/during the holidays" (在假期里中).

The whole sentence would then look like this: 那他们在假期里中能休息几周吧?

Maybe anyone has a valid argument why 总 could also be right? Maybe I don't understand that character in context after all.

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  • FYI 里中 as in how you used it isn't correct. It's either 在假期里 or 在假期中, not both, since they mean pretty much the same thing here.
    – xiaomy
    Feb 13 at 14:38

7 Answers 7

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总能: total energy

What is the problem? Why don't you want to use "always" for 总? That is the most common translation and fits perfectly here.

别人有什么恐惧,他总能觉察到。
(If) other people were afraid, he could always sense it.

她并非总能雇得起一名临时保姆。
She couldn't always afford a babysitter. 

你总能让我感到惊奇!
You never cease to amaze me! 

The text is a question.

那他们在假期里总能休息几周吧?
then they in the holiday period in always can rest a few weeks yes?
Well, can't they always rest a bit during the holiday period?

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  • Thanks a lot, that helped clear things up for me. Apparently I haven't been exposed that much to 总 being used apart from 总是.
    – Xylose
    Feb 11 at 14:19
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    Well, can't they always rest a bit during the holiday period? - I think this English translation implies more than what the original Chinese says. I read the English translation in the voice of someone nagging (towards whoever "他們" refers to) to do an activity before the holiday period has started, then implying that they can rest later.
    – dROOOze
    Feb 11 at 18:55
  • Well, I don't agree with you, again. No more of a complaint than your alternatives, ("Surely ... ?" "They should ... right?"), I believe, but the answer is not directed at 他们, it is directed at whomsoever the speaker is addressing. My translation is no more, nor less, of a complaint than is implied in the Chinese.
    – Pedroski
    Feb 12 at 7:46
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This isn't a typo. 「總」 here means surely / certainly 「總是」, or should 「應該」.

那他們在假期裏總能休息幾週吧?

Choose one of the following:

  • Surely...they will be able to rest for a few weeks in the holidays?
  • They should be able to rest for a few weeks in the holidays, right?
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It is not 总, it is the Chinese structure "总能...吧" .

This structure conveys a sense of hopeful expectation or a confident assumption that something is possible or achievable. It can be translated to "should be able to," "must be able to" accomplish something. 3 More examples.

1.我们总能解决这个问题吧?

Wǒmen zǒng néng jiějué zhège wèntí ba?

We should be able to solve this problem, right?

2.你总能及时完成工作吧?

Nǐ zǒng néng jíshí wánchéng gōngzuò ba?

You can always finish the work on time, can't you?

3.天气总能好转吧?

Tiānqì zǒng néng hǎozhuǎn ba?

The weather should be able to improve, right?

Hope this can help.

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那他們在假期裡總(是)能休息幾週吧?

The speaker expects 他們 should be able to rest for few weeks during the holidays.

那他們在假期裡總共能休息幾週呢?

The speaker is asking how many weeks of rest 他們 would get during the holidays. The expected answer would be one, two, three weeks, etc.

那他們在假期裡只能休息幾週吧?

The speaker emphasizes that he/she expects 他們 can ONLY rest for few weeks.

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It's not a typo.

总可以 ..... 吧 or 总能 ...... 吧 is a sentence pattern which suggests that at the very least a certain thing is possible or true, and expresses the sentiment that no reasonable person could think otherwise.

I would understand 那他们在假期里总能休息几周吧 to mean:

 Then, *at least* they can have a few weeks off during their holidays???

I would understand 总 here to suggest summing or adding up, as in 总数. But "always" (总是) would work as well:

 Then, they can *always* have a few weeks off during their holidays???"

I think the sense is in the entire sentence with the 吧 issuing a mild challenge to the listener to deny the reasonableness of what has just been said.

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Although "总能" can be elaborated as "总是能 - always can", but, as this sentence begins with - "那", a conjunction that indicates this is a piece from a full sentence with "turning tone (转折的语气)", and more likely, the sentence is used to rebut a comment made by others. I think "总能" should be interpreted as "总應該能", or similarly - "也應該能".

A conservation would go like this:

  • A: 這些人對家庭太不盡責了.

  • B: 不要太苛責了, 他們是為了生計而不得不長年在外奔波, 腳不着家.

  • A: 話雖如此, ""他们在假期里总(應該)能休息几周/天吧?

Note that "話雖如此, 那.....他们总(應該)能" = "despite that, they should be able to".

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May be a little bit off the topic, but the meaning of “中” (in/during) is already expressed by “里”, i.e. "in the holidays/during the holidays" = “在假期里”. You may switch between each other, so “在假期里” = “在假期中”; but no need to duplicate it (“在假期里中”).

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