Chinese Grammar Bank


总是 & 一直 are synonyms.

They can always substitute for each other in sentences. You can also refer to our other article, how to use 一直 to better understand the usages of this word.


Like most of the expressions in Chinese, the adverb 总是 has a corresponding word in English too, which is “always.”

Basically, these two characters together mean on every occasion, forever or very frequently.

FOR EXAMPLE | 她总是迟到 (tā zǒngshì chídào). This sentence means that “she is always late” in English.

When you hear or read the adverb 总是 in its usual position, before modifying the verb, it generally has the meaning of “habitually“.


Subject + 总是 + Verb

zǒng shì chuān nà shuāng xié 


He always wears those shoes.
zhī zhū zǒng shì shǐ tā hài pà 


Spiders always frighten him.
View More Phrases
他总是能很快学会。tā zǒng shì néng hěn kuài xué huì He always learns quickly.
电话总是响个不停。diàn huà zǒng shì xiǎng gè bú tíng The phone is always ringing.
他总是在家里吸烟。tā zǒng shì zài jiā lǐ xī yān He always smokes at home.
他们总是争吵。tā men zǒng shì zhēng chǎo They are always quarrel.


Now things are slightly different when 总是 is used to modify adjectives.

In those situations, we often add another adjective behind as an expression of habit.

This change is not demanded grammatically, but it’s an implicitly set up expression rule.


Subject + 总是 + Adjective

zǒng shì hěn kāi lǎng 


He is always lively.
zǒng shì hěn chén mò


He is always silent.
View More Phrases
地铁总是很拥挤。dì tiě zǒng shì hěn yōng jǐ The subway is always crowded.
他总是很忙碌。tā zǒng shì hěn máng lùHe is always busy.
回忆总是很美好。huí yì zǒng shì hěn měi hǎo Memories are always good.
她总是打扮得很漂亮。tā zǒng shì dǎ bàn dé hěn piāo liàng She always dresses up beautifully.


You might think that our explanation of the adverb 总是 ends here, but it does not!

One important thing to add to this article is that sometimes, you will hear Chinese speakers emphasize the word 总是.

When the word is being emphasized, it always involves the mood of the speakers. In this case, the meaning of the sentence has changed. Think back to our previous example sentence: 


tā zǒng shì chí dào 

She is always late.     

If the speaker says, “她总是迟到” with the emphasis on the word always then the speaker is expressing annoyance.

Perhaps the speaker is angry that another person is not being punctual all the time.  

Here is another example, you may hear a mum say: 


tā zǒng shì geǐ zìjǐ zhǎo jièkǒu

He always finds excuses for himself

This sentence uses the adverb 总是 to express a habitual or ordinary action.      

However, if you hear the mum say it with emphasis the adverb, then you’ll know that she is probably unhappy with her child’s trait of running away from responsibility.

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What is 总是?

总是 is an adverb and a synonym of 一直.

It is a quite common adverb to see in a daily conversation.

How to pronounce 总是?

总是 is pronounced zǒngshì.

Where to learn more about Chinese adjectives?

You can learn more about Chinese adjectives here.

Where to learn more about 一直?

You can learn more about 一直 in this article we listed in our Chinese Grammar Bank.

Feel free to visit LTL’s Grammar Bank for even more articles like this one.

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