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[一度]{いちど(ひとたび)} means once, but [一遍]{いっぺん} also mean once in sentences like once I did something or once I am a something.

常に means always in sentences like I always am a something or I always do something

But idiomatically, Once bitten twice shy is translated as [羹]{あつもの}に[懲]{こ}りて[膾]{なます}を[吹]{ふ}く in Japanese.

So if I want to say Once a thief, always a thief, is this phrase grammatical 盗人一度, 常に盗人?

What if I want to say Once a X, always a X? and X is a noun/noun phrase?

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There is also 一回 for "one time/once". –  Earthliŋ Jun 5 '13 at 15:49
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ALC has an entry for Once a thief, always a thief: eow.alc.co.jp/search?q=once+a+thief%2c+always+a+thief –  snailboat Jun 5 '13 at 15:53
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You might also opt for 泥棒 over 盗人... which apparently is read ぬすっと –  ssb Jun 5 '13 at 16:33
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+50

I believe you are making the mistake of attempting to replicate an English pattern in Japanese.

As snailboat points out, the idiomatic equivalent is as follows:

泥棒はいつまでたっても泥棒。/三つ子の魂百まで。/性格を変えることはできない。

And if you make this search,

http://eow.alc.co.jp/search?q=Once+a+always+a

one finds that the nearest Japanese equivalent seems to be:

noun phrase はいつまでたっても noun phrase

If one uses the vocabulary you suggested, the nearest equivalent seems to be:

Once an actor, always an actor. 一度役者をやればやめられない。 Once an addict, always an addict. 一度中毒になるとやめられない。

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anyone want to explain 三つ子の魂百まで? or link to an explanation? –  yadokari Jun 5 '13 at 19:45
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@snailboat, thanks. but i still don't understand it. do you? –  yadokari Jun 5 '13 at 20:36
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The spirit of a three-year-old child remains the same, even when they're a hundred years old. –  snailboat Jun 5 '13 at 20:49
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sorry i kept reading 三つ子 as triplets. thanks. –  yadokari Jun 5 '13 at 20:59
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For "Once a X, always a X", some suggestions would be 「Xはなおらず」 or 「XはXのまま」.

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