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Comparing "pingshi" and "pingchang"

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平时 (píngshí) and 平常 (píngcháng) look very similar (after all, they do start with 平!), and they have similar meanings of "often," but they have different grammatical uses.

Used as an Adverb

Both 平时 and 平常 can be used as an adverb. They are interchangeable in this case.

Structure

Subj. + 平常 + Verb

Examples

  • 平常 会 健身 吗 ?Do you usually work out?
  • 平常 不 吃 零食 。I usually don't eat snacks.
  • 平时 看 新闻 吗 ?Do you watch the news often?
  • 平时 不 买 奢侈 品 。She usually doesn't buy luxuries.

平常 as an Adjective

When 平常 is used as an adjective, it expresses the meaning of "common." 平时 cannot be used this way.

Structure

Subj. + 很 + 平常

平常 + 的 + Noun

Examples

  • 清洁工 的 工作 很 平常 ,但是 也 很 重要 。The street cleaners are ordinary, but they are also very important.
  • 这 种 事 很 平常This kinda things are common.
  • 对 中国 来说 ,2008 年 是 很 不 平常 的 一 年 。To China, the year 2008 is not an ordinary year.
  • 在 中国 ,去 酒吧 是 不 是 很 平常 的 娱乐活动 ?Is it a common entertainment to go to bar in China?

An example dialog:

  • A: 你 平时 / 平常 做饭 吗 ?Do you often cook?
  • B: 对的 。Correct.
  • A: 你 会 做 什么 菜 ?What can you cook?
  • B: 都是 很 平常 的 菜 。Just those ordinary ones.

Sources and further reading

Books