I had a student send in a very good question recently. The student asked: What is the difference between "as usual" and "as always"?
For example, if I take your lesson every day and want to express my feeling for today's one, which should I say "I enjoyed talking with you as usual" or "I enjoyed talking with you as always"?
Or, is it unnatural to use "as usual" or "as always" in this situation? I'm asking this because we Japanese tend to use these kind of phrase, especially when we want to say "thank you" more politely.
The answer is rather long and complex, but here is slightly simplified explanation.
First of all, this is a common phrase in English, so using it properly is a good thing and none of the phrases you wrote are unnatural. Americans use these types of phrases regularly. However, it does Not show an extra degree of gratitude or politeness. Rather what it is intended to show is that the other person (whoever they may be, but let’s use a tutor like on Cafetalk as an example) always does a great job and this lesson was great just like the ones before. It actually doesn’t compliment the specific moment itself, but rather the overall performance of a person.
The difference between ‘as usual’ and ‘as always’ is very subtle. As you probably know, unlike in Japanese with the single word ‘itsumo’, in English ‘always’ means ‘all the time’ while ‘usual’ means ‘most of the time’. So within these phrases ‘as always’ implies a longer period of exposure and 100% consistency or performance quality. So, for example, if you have only had 2 lessons with a tutor, you would use ‘as usual’ instead of ‘as always’ because you really haven’t known that tutor for long. “I enjoyed your lesson as usual.” simply shows that this lesson and the one before it were both enjoyable lessons. It is not any more polite than saying “I enjoyed your lesson today.”
If you have had a tutor for a long time, many months for example, and you have enjoyed every single lesson with them (they are obviously a very good tutor) then you could start to use ‘as always’ because you have known this tutor for a long time and have probably taken many lessons with them, and they have a high rate of consistency in giving good lessons. Again, ‘as always’ at the end of your sentence does not show more politeness.
Now, let me make sure I understand correctly. When you say “want to express my feeling for today’s one” do you specifically mean you want to show how you feel about today’s lesson in particular, as in it was a great lesson and better than the tutor’s previous lessons? Because if the lesson today was better than the other lessons, you would Not use ‘as usual’ or ‘as always.’ These two phrases show a consistency over time and that, although this lesson was very enjoyable, it was not any better than previous ones.
So, for some examples: “Today’s lesson was really great!” <- this is what you would say if this lesson was very good and (possibly) better than previous lessons. (the person you are speaking to won’t ever think that you mean the other lessons aren’t as good or were bad though.)
“Today’s lesson was really great, as usual!” <- this is what you would say when all the teacher’s lessons are great and today’s was great just like previous lessons.
On the issue of politeness. As an American, ‘as usual’ and ‘as always’ do show a higher degree of complimenting. When you say “Your lesson was great as usual” this is a nicer (or better) compliment than “Your lesson was great today.” However, I do want to point out that a compliment is not equal to politeness (at least in American culture.) I realize this may be difficult to understand, but giving someone a compliment does not automatically make someone polite. That’s why these two phrases, although they are complimenting someone, are not showing a higher degree of politeness.
I hope that is easy for everyone to understand. There are still more nuances of these two phrases, but I won't go into those here as it can be a bit confusing. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send me a message! To the student who sent the question, I will be sending you a 50% off coupon for your next Q&A Column Lesson. Thank you so much for a great question! :)
Do you have your own question that you want to ask? I answer any questions in my Q&A Column Lesson, and every now and then I choose questions to be featured in my Tutor's Column like this! You can book the lesson here: http://cafetalk.com/lessons/detail/?id=33845&lang=en
Until next time!