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Comparing "changchang" and "wangwang"

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If something happens a lot, we say that it is "often," which in Chinese, the words are 常常 (chángcháng) and 往往 (wǎngwǎng). However, they are used in different ways and different places, so this article will help you distinguish when and where to use them.

Declarative Sentences Differentiation

Basic Differences

常常 simply means something happens frequently and not necessarily regular, and also not restricted to a certain precondition. 往往 is used in certain conditions to mean how things can be or are like, sort of like "tend to." It's a conclusion or judgment of a regular situation. 往往 has nothing to do with how often something happens. When using 往往, the sentence itself usually has a kind of condition of an occurring situation or behavior, for example, 商场往往周末的时候比较热闹。This is where 往往 differs from 常常. For the most part, you can translate 常常 as "often," where as you can translate 往往 as "usually." Also, 常常 can omit a 常, but you 往往 cannot omit a 往.

Examples

  • 常常 迟到 。He often arrives late.
  • 他们 结婚 快 三十 年 了,还是常常 吵架。They've been married for almost 30 years. Nevertheless, they fight a lot.
  • 有钱人 往往 比较 迷信。Rich people are usually more superstitious.
  • 女人 往往 比 男人 长寿 。 Women usually live longer than men.
  • 过年 的 时候,上海 往往 比较 安静。It's usually more quiet here in Shanghai during Chinese New Year.
  • 质量 好 的 产品 往往 不 会 很 便宜。Products of good quality usually wouldn't be expensive.

Other Differences

"常常" can be used in an imperative sentence expressing a suggestion. "往往" cannot be used in this kind of situation.

Examples

  • 你们 常常 见面 吗 ?Do you meet often?
  • 你 应该 常常 去 运动。You should exercise more often.
  • 不要常常吃 辣,对 皮肤 不好。Better not eat spicy food too often. It's not good for your skin.
  • 等 我 退休 了,就 可以 常常 去 旅行 了。I can travel more often when I retire.
  • 我 不 在 的 时候,你 要 帮 我 常常 去 看看 她。You need to watch her more often for me when I'm not here.

The difference between the negative and question sentences

The negated version of "常常" is "不常",expressing "very rarely." "往往" does not have a negated "不往往," but can appear in negative sentences, mostly expressed as "往往不/没." Also, "常常" can be used in question sentences, but "往往" cannot be.

Structure

Subj. + 不常 + Verb

Subj. + 往往 + 不 / 没 + Verb

Examples

  • 不常 在 外面 吃饭。I don't go out for dinner often.
  • 我 老板 不常 来公司。My boss doesn't come to the office often.
  • 我们 是 很好 的 朋友,但是 我们不常见面。We're good friends, but we don't see each other often.
  • 有钱 人 往往 很 难 找到 真正 喜欢 自己 的 人。It's usually very hard for rich people to find someone who truly loves them.
  • 私立 学校 往往 比较 贵。Comparatively, private schools are usually expensive.
  • 下雨天 往往 不 太 好 打车。It's usually not very easy to get a taxi in rainy days.

Sources and further reading

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