Advanced uses of "zong"


总 (zǒng) can often be simply translated as "always," but it has other advanced uses as well. It can express "no matter how long or under what circumstances, facts are facts." It can also express "no matter what." It is often paired with other words to form set phrases such as 总会, 总归, 总得, 总要, 总能, etc. It can also be structured together with other unconditional compound phrases like 无论 and 不管. You cannot place it directly after the verb.

Used with Auxiliary Verb

In this structure, 总, with its companion character (usually a modal/auxiliary verb), means "always will (fill in character/action here)" Once again, it gives the feeling of something very concrete and factual. One of the examples below says "No matter what happens, people have to eat."


总 + 会 / 得 / 要 / 能 + Verb


  • 这里 是 他 家,他 总 会 回来 的。This is his home. He will always come back.
  • 咱们 总 得 想 个 办法 啊。We always have to come up with something to do.
  • 不管 发生 了 什么,人 总 要 吃饭 吧。No matter what happens, people have to eat.
  • 他 是 你 爸爸,你 总 要 礼貌 一点 吧。He is your father, you should always a little more polite.
  • 你 拿 了 人家 的 钱,总 得 帮 人家 做 事 吧。You took their money, so you're always going to have to help them do stuff.

Used with 不 and 没

When 总 is used together with a negating word (like 不 or 没), it often has a tone of speculation, judgment or suggestion. The sentence often ends with a 吧.


总 + 不 / 没 + Verb


  • 你们 之间 的 联系 这么 少,看 起来 像 是 一 家 人。You talk to each other so little. It seems that you're barely family.
  • 他 这么 大 年纪 了,我们 能 让 他 一个人 去 吧?He'e so old. We can't let him go there all alone. What do you think?
  • 这么 晚 了, 会 出 了 什么事 吧?It's getting late. Do you think something bad happened?
  • 这 件 事 会 是 内部 的 人 做 的 吧?Do you think this is an inside job?
  • 他 想 带 父母 去 旅行,可是 时间。He wants to take her parents to travel, but he's always not able to find time.

See also

Sources and further reading