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What is the difference between "normalerweise" and "gewöhnlich"? They both can mean "usually" or "normally". Does it matter which one is used?

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  • Note: it's normalerweise (already corrected). Mar 7 at 8:45
  • It's not entirely clear to me why this is being closed. Perhaps the thought is that a dictionary would resolve this but I think that's arguable. The words "normally" and "usually" aren't quite interchangeable in English, and there's no reason to infer that German follows the same pattern. The German words can be either more different, less different, have the same difference, or be different in different ways than the corresponding English words. For one thing gewöhnlich is an adjective which can be used as an adverb, but normalerweise is only an adverb.
    – RDBury
    Mar 7 at 10:10
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"Normalerweise" is obviously related to "normal", which can also be understood as something like "correct". So, "normalerweise" has a bit of a connotation of "this is the way it's normally done, this is the way it should be done".

"Gewöhnlich", on the other hand, is obviously related to "Gewohnheit", meaning "habit", "custom", "practice". So, "gewöhnlich" has more of a connotation of "this is the way we're used to do it, but other ways can be fine as well".

But this difference isn't really big.

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  • ' ... "normal", which can also be understood as something like "correct" ... ' - just no!
    – Olafant
    Mar 7 at 10:28
  • @Olafant How would you describe the judgmental aspect of "normal", especially with regard to antonymes like "abnormal"? Mar 7 at 10:43
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    Normal heißt unauffällig. Korrekt heißt fehlerfrei. Beides gleichzusetzen ist so stark vereinfacht, dass es einfach nicht mehr stimmt.
    – Olafant
    Mar 7 at 11:08
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    @Olafant Nein, "normal" heißt "der Norm entsprechend". Eine Norm (wie auch immer sie im Einzelfall zustande kommt) legt fest, wie etwas sein soll. Dass etwas, was der Norm entspricht, "unaufällig" ist, ist eher sekundär. Zu sagen, dass etwas nicht der Norm entspricht, ist grundsätzlich mit einer Bewertung, meist einer Abwertung verbunden. Denn wenn etwas nicht der Norm entspricht, nicht "normal" ist, dann ist es nicht so wie es sein soll, sondern in irgendeiner Form falsch. Diese implizite Be- oder Abwertung gibt es bei "gewöhnlich" eben nicht. Mar 7 at 11:25
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    @HenningKockerbeck Of course normal can have a normative meaning, but it can also be used just descriptively: for instance, making some mistakes while typing is normal, but it's not the norm how it's supposed to be. Mar 7 at 14:33
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To get it out of the way first: gewöhnlich can also be used as an adjective, meaning usual or common, but I don't think you mean that.

Normalerweise und gewöhnlich as adverbs can mostly be used interchangeably. Gewöhnlich is on a slightly more sophisticated language level, normalerweise is more commonly used, you would probably use it more often in everyday conversations.

In more refined language you can use both, and I see hardly any difference. If there's a difference at all, gewöhnlich would probably more commonly be used to just speak about habits and the usual way of doing things:

Wir essen gewöhnlich um 12:30 h zu Mittag.

"Normalerweise" would more often be used when you want to contrast it with a case that is different, like "aber in diesem Fall ...".

Wir essen normalerweise um 12:30 h zu Mittag, aber ich würde mit dieser Arbeit gerne vor dem Essen fertig werden.

It's perfectly valid to use both in both situations though.

The etymology of normal is related to "die Norm", a word that can either mean a common standard or a rule/guideline. In current use, normal and normalerweise refer to a common standard, they are not judgmental per se but only descriptive. In contexts where the common standard is seen in a certain way, they can of course still imply a judgement.

Was unsere Erfindung Ihnen ermöglicht, kann eine Privatperson normalerweise gar nicht selbst machen.

Wenn wir Gäste haben, steht normalerweise mein Mann / meine Frau in der Küche.

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As a German native speaker I find the example „Wir essen gewöhnlich um 12:30 h zu Mittag.“ odd or even wrong since I would always say „Wir essen für gewöhnlich um 12:30 h zu Mittag“. You might like to confer https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/gewoehnlich.

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