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So, a teacher explained to me that 究竟 is a more formal way of saying 到底. However, I'm still curious are there any other usage differences between the two? Is 究竟 only used in examples that are relatively “夸张” Ex。 你究竟为什么要离开我。

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1) "究竟" is more formal than "到底". In everyday spoken Chinese, "究竟" is rarely used. It is used almost only in drama and written Chinese.

2) Well, I would say that the magnitude of "究竟" is equal to that of "到底". They are all equivalent to "on the earth".

  • Would you ever use 究竟 in writing? For example 那么, 说不清究竟有什么意思? ? – Stephen Sep 11 '14 at 3:58
  • @Stephen: Yes I do, and so do lots of writers. When a professor writes an email to question some student, he would write "你究竟想做些甚麼呢?". But when they talk face to face, this sentence reduces to "你到底想做些甚麼呢?". The latter is more casual and colloquial. – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 4:13
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    @Stephen: No problem! :) And just to add something further: "到底" would be a bit more "offensive" than "究竟". So to prevent unnecessary misunderstanding it is safer to use "究竟" when writing. – Megadeth Sep 11 '14 at 4:54
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When used as an intensive, they are synomymous. Both translated as "on earth," "exactly."


究竟, 穷尽. literally means "investigate to the end." It can also be used as a noun which means "outcome," "final truth."

究 谋划;研究;探求. Study, investigate. Originally means "exhaust," "limit." See http://xh.5156edu.com/html3/15922.html

竟,终了,完毕. End, finish. See http://www.zdic.net/z/20/js/7ADF.htm

Source: http://baike.baidu.com/view/812975.htm?fr=aladdin


到底, 直到尽头. Literally means to "the bottom," "to the end."

Source: http://baike.baidu.com/view/893285.htm

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    special meaning of 究竟 "what actually happened",not shared by 到底 iciba: 我们都想知道个究竟.We all want to know what actually happened. Example from today's web news:(妻子磨蹭延误动车 丈夫出租车上将其殴打) 他下楼看见一名女子在哭泣便凑上前去看个究竟 , – user6065 Sep 11 '14 at 13:15

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