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" 時々" means "sometimes" and "しょっちゅう" means "frequently", right? And, the meaning is well short of "いつも".

Now, I can't imagine "しょっちゅう" is used in writing or formal speaking, right?

So, what is the proper way to express the idea of "しょっちゅう"?

  • Couldn't you just use よく? – sqrtbottle May 27 '15 at 19:00
  • @Sqrtbottle "よく"? Definitely not "よく". A more refined and interesting word might be preferred. In fact, I'm pretty sure "よく" is not used that much in formal documents (unless the context is where the "よく" is understood to be the author's observation). Other than editorials, or whatever, I don't think you'd see "よく". BUT.... I could be wrong about that. – Wrythe May 27 '15 at 20:05
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    @natlang よく is sometimes used in formal documents in certain meanings of the word. Here's a random example: 「事象叙述と属性叙述の違いはこれまでも、海外では状態述語における stage-level predicates(場面レベル述語)と individual-level predicates(個体レベル述語)の区別(Carlson 1980、 Krifka et al. 1995)として形式意味論でよく知られており、また、我が国では佐久間(1941)の示唆を発展させた益岡(1987,2004)、益岡(編)(2008)で叙述の類型として論じられているが、その区別が統語構造と形態構造の「形」にどのような影響をもたらすかという問題はほとんど手がつけられていない。」 (Source) But this isn't the same use of よく you're asking about. – snailcar May 28 '15 at 0:09
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Yes, you are right that "しょっちゅう" is not appropriate in a formal context. As others said, "度々(たびたび)", "頻繁に(ひんぱんに)", "よく" are good in formal contexts. I would like to add "繰り返し(くりかえし)" and "何度も(なんども)" as more options when you want to express that something happens repetitively.

Let me give an example in which "しょっちゅう" sounds wierd. Suppose that a head of a company comes up to a press conference and apologizes about a sequence of accidents revealed by a journalist. If he says, "社内で調査しましたところ、同種の事故がしょっちゅう発生していたことが判明いたしました。申し訳ございません。", that sounds strange. He should say, "社内で調査しましたところ、同種の事故が度々、発生していたことが判明いたしました。申し訳ございません。", or he could replace "度々" with "頻繁に", "繰り返し", or "何度も". In this example, "よく" does not fit well.

As another example, if you want to say "I am sorry for calling you many times.", "しょっちゅうお電話差し上げて申し訳ございません。" sounds strange. The mode of formality is obviously different between "しょっちゅう" and the rest of the sentence. You should say, "度々お電話差し上げて申し訳ございません。". You can replace "度々" with "何度も" or "繰り返し", but "頻繁に" sounds a little strange somehow. In this example, "よく" does not make sense.

As yet another example, if you want to say, "I often came to this library when I was a student." in a speech upon the closing ceremony of the library, then you will say, "私は学生のとき、この図書館によく来たものです。" but not "私は学生のとき、この図書館にしょっちゅう来ていました。" unless you want to present yourself as a relaxed and friendly person.

As a final example, if a policeman writes an official report stating that a suspect has visited the victim's house frequently, he will write, "被疑者は被害者の家を頻繁に訪れていた。". He can use "何度も" and "繰り返し" in this context. It is strange to see "しょっちゅう" in such an official document as well as in an academic thesis, a news paper, etc.

  • Excellent answer with "real-life" examples! – l'électeur May 28 '15 at 1:09
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Japanese has many levels of formality and writing is not necessarily formal by definition. Let's look at a thesaurus:

http://thesaurus.weblio.jp/content/%E3%81%97%E3%82%87%E3%81%A3%E3%81%A1%E3%82%85%E3%81%86

屡屡 ・ 再再 ・ 往往 ・ しげしげ ・ 屡々 ・ 始終 ・ 頻繁 ・ 間間 ・ 再三 ・ 度度 ・ 間々 ・ 良く ・ 頻く頻く ・ まま ・ 頻って ・ 往々 ・ 比々 ・ 許多度 ・ 繁繁 ・ 度々 ・ 重重 ・ 頻りと ・ 繁々 ・ たびたび ・ 頻りに ・ 時時 ・ 比比 ・ 重ね重ね ・ 繁く ・ よく ・ ちょこちょこ ・ ちょいちょい ・ ちょくちょく ・ 数多度 ・ しきりと ・ しきりに ・ しばしば ・ 屡

Hmm, let's see たびたび (度々)is definitely formal so maybe that's a good word--but people don't really use it in the same way they use しょっちゅう. It's used in a lot of set or almost set phrases though.

頻繁に is quite commonly used:

About 12,400,000 results (0.37 seconds)

as is its noun 頻度. And could be nice additions to your options.

On the other hand I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with しょっちゅう or よく(良く) especially in formal conversation, in writing then sure you might prefer 良く or 頻繁に over しょっちゅう, but there are lots of types of writing and I'm not even convinced there.

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    Why are you answering with a thesaurus and Google? I'd prefer to write like a native speaker, not Google Translate.... But, whatever. I might to die vote your "answer" though. – Wrythe May 27 '15 at 23:37
  • I guess it's my personality. Teach a man how to build a fire sort of thing. I was just implying that looking in a thesaurus and using words you've actually seen before is a useful technique. Using unknown words from a thesaurus is not (or from anywhere really). Same as English. Similarly, Google Translate is terrible for Japanese. But I didn't use Google Translate. What I did was Google a phrase to see how commonly it comes up in the web. This is a very quick was to see how often phrases are used, searching millions of native speaker's blogs and message boards across the web. – jhenn May 27 '15 at 23:59
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    Your technique of googling for "frequency of use" is extremely unreliable. Japanese language revolves around context, context, context. Throwing out a cast net with a google captures zero context. – Wrythe May 28 '15 at 0:27
  • I think it a bit of a stretch to say that 頻度 is the noun of 頻繁に. The two may be related meaning-wise, but it could not be said one is the noun form and the other an adverb form. – l'électeur May 28 '15 at 1:15

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