17

I've always (no pun intended) wondered what the difference is between the two words. I thought they both meant always, but I've never quite grasped in what context they should be used.

Could anyone shed any light on this?

18

They are synonyms.

总是 places an emphasis on frequency.

他上课总是迟到 = He kept being late for class all the time.

一直 places an emphasis on consistency.

他一直是个好孩子 = He has been a good kid through the years.

  • Great, thanks for this. So the 2nd form could perhaps be remembered as being used in more long-term expressions? – jaffa Jan 3 '12 at 23:47
  • @jaffa I think both are being used in equally long-term expressions. – Terry Li Jan 3 '12 at 23:55
  • 2
    @jaffa: I think the point is that 总是 means "frequently" in the sense of many frequent discrete events, whereas 一直 means "continually" in the sense of something happening continuously over a span of time. As Terry says, they are synonyms, but they transmit different feelings. – Jesse Madnick Jan 4 '12 at 5:55
2

总是 means "every time."

一直 means "continuously."

The first is "discrete." The second is "continuous." But they both mean "always."

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