“Continuously” or “Continually”

Let’s assume that nurses have transferred a patient after surgery to the recovery room a couple of hours ago. The patient has come to already and during this period of time has kept moaning. His/her surgeon comes to check the patient up and asks the head nurse about his/her situation. The nurse wants to describe what has happened to the patient after the recovery. Which one of the choices sounds more correct to be said by the nurse:

  • The patient is ………………. restless.

a. continuously [The correct choice in my view]
b. continually

What about the popular sentence below:

  • Life is ……………. changing.

a. continuously [The correct choice in my view]
b. continually

To me, “continuous” means “without stopping” and “continual” means “very frequent“.

Note: I know there are many possible choices. I just need to know about these two cases.


From the web:

Continual means repeated but with breaks in between; chronic.

Example: The continual problem of our car’s not starting forced us to
sell it.

Continuous means without interruption in an unbroken stream of time or

Example: The continuous dripping of the faucet drove me crazy.


Continuous = Constant
Continual = Repeated

However, I think for the first example you should say The patient is quite restless as being restless is already continual state, with varying degrees of severity (Unless they are restless for 1/2 hour, then sleep 1/2 hour, repeat). I think the severity of the restlessness would be more important here.

For the second example I would also suggest an alternate Life is constantly changing which, although still means continuously, I think is more idiomatic.

Source : Link , Question Author : A-friend , Answer Author : Smock

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