Ordinary, Normal and Usual

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  • Post last modified:06/07/2021
  • Post category:Real English
  • Reading time:8 mins read

Here you will learn the difference between ordinary, normal and usual.

Common vs usual vs ordinary.

Usual vs normal. And how to use these words correctly in English.

Ordinary, Normal and Usual - What is the difference?

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Hi there I’m Harry and welcome to English in a minute.

Today, I want to talk to you about three words that my students often get confused but the words are similar but they have different uses and those words are COMMON, USUAL and ORDINARY.

If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find synonyms for each of them are the same. 

So when you look up common, you’ll see synonyms usual and ordinary. When you look up ordinary, you see that it’s synonyms are usual and common also.

There are similarities there but there are certain differences. Let’s take them one by one.

Intermediate to Advanced English Marathon

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Let’s start with the word COMMON

Common is something that is used by everybody. It can be something that is public. Like the park is a common place for everybody to use because it’s open for everybody. It’s not a membership, you don’t have to pay to get into it so it’s common. Or it’s accessible by the public. 

Something that is common is something that is normal. Something that is the normal thing to do.

Well, sure it’s common for everybody to use the English language so this is why people are learning English because it’s the common language spoken throughout the world. 

When I’m teaching my students English, I like them to use common ordinary everyday English.

For example, when we’re greeting people hi or hello, they’re common words we use to address people.

We’re not saying Good morning, sir that would be uncommon or quite unusual to how to express yourself. 

Unless you’re talking to somebody in some business capacity. Or it’s much more formal like a lord or a lady.

So common is something that you do every day.

Difference between Ordinary and Usual

Difference between ordinary, common and usual. Advanced English learning.

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If you look at British history, for example, you have two houses in the Houses of Parliament.

You have the House of Lords which is the upper house.

And you have the lower level which is the House of Commons for the common people. So as in history, the House of Lords represented the elite and the House of Commons was as I said the lower level which represented the common or ordinary people. And that’s how they looked at people; the difference between the high and the low. So this is another definition of common.

And the opposite of common is uncommon. Something that is different or something that is unusual.

If we look at the word USUAL, another word for that would be NORMAL.

It’s usual for you to do something that you do every day.

You get up and you clean your teeth and you have your breakfast. You go to work. That’s your usual event.

What is a normal or usual week for you?

Every day of the week I teach my English lessons.

For you, it might be to go to university.

For your friend, it might be to go to their office or it might be usual for them to go to the gym first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening. These are things that we do every day as a sort of habit. Something that is established as part of our routine.

So it’s usual for you to have your dinner at 7:00 in the evening. 

It’s usual for you to visit your family at the weekend if you don’t live at home. 

It’s usual for you to walk the dog before you go to the office or university, or before you go to bed in the evening. 

So usual and everyday habit and everyday event.

Difference between ordinary, normal and usual

And if we look at the word ORDINARY. Again, as I said earlier, the synonyms for this are USUAL and COMMON.

So ordinary is something that happens every day. It’s a normal activity. It’s a normal event. It’s not so unusual. Somebody can say:

I have a very ordinary life, nothing exciting happens to me.

So ordinary is something just the usual things: 

I go to work, I come home, I look after the kids, I put them to bed, I have a beer on a Friday or at the weekend with my friends.

Just an ordinary everyday life. Nothing changes.

And when something is unusual, we can say it’s out of the ordinary.

Meaning it’s different from what I normally do.

So it can be extraordinary. Meaning really really different.

So you have extraordinary – out of the ordinary, to describe things that you don’t normally do. And then ordinary – everyday things.

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More Information

For more information on English idioms, English collocations and English phrasal verbs, click on the following links:

Phrasal Verbs with WEAR

12 Collocations with the preposition IN

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