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?
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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.
总是 means "every time."
一直 means "continuously."
The first is "discrete." The second is "continuous." But they both mean "always."