Comparing "zongsuan" and “zhongyu"
One pair of confusing adverbs is 总算 (zǒngsuàn) and 终于 (zhōngyú). They both can be translated as "finally" or "in the end," but they subtly different in tone.
They have the same grammatical structure
Grammatically, 总算 and 终于 are basically used the same way. They are both adverbs, and they can be placed before the subject or after the subject. However, in comparison to 终于, 总算 is seldom used before the subject. But in these sentences given below, they can be replaced with each other.
Subj. + 总算 / 终于 + Verb
- 你 总算来了 ！You finally came!
- 我 终于 懂 了 。I finally understood it.
- 雨 总算 停 了 。The rain finally stopped.
- 我 终于 找到 你 了 ！I finally found you!
- 飞机 总算 起飞 了 ！The plane is finally taking off!
总算 is more informal and impatient
Both 总算 and 终于 express that an action has finally happened after a long wait, however 总算 implies that the speaker had a bit of an agonizing wait, and it has a heavier tone better suited to complaints.
- 谢天谢地，你 总算 来 了。Thank God, you finally came.
- 总算 没 迟到。You finally didn't arrive late.
- 她 的 感冒 总算 好 了。She finally got over her cold.
终于 is more formal and objective
终于 is more formal than 总算 (in other words, 总算 is more for spoken Chinese), and it also has a more objective feel (meaning that there was indeed a long wait for this thing that finally happened).
- 你 终于 决定 了！You finally decided this!
- 终于 要 放假 了，开心 吧？You finally have your holidays. You're happy about it, aren't you?
- 你们 合作 的 项目 终于 成功 了!This project you've been working on together finally succeed!
Sources and further reading
- 现代汉语八百词（增订本） (pp. 687) [ →buy]
- Chinesegrammar.info: A blog with some information on 终于 by comparing it to 最后.