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Discourse markers: actually Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Avançado

Discourse markers are essential to speech. Without them we would sound unnatural, and conversation would be more difficult to produce and understand. They add meaning to what you are saying, and also do things like allow you time to think and prepare the listener for the nature and content of what you are saying.

Let’s take a look at how we use the discourse marker “actually”.

The word actually is not the same as atualmente in Portuguese. It has various uses in English, and is especially common in spoken language. It is essential because it allows the speaker to stop and “backtrack” in the middle of speech.

Use 1 – Actually meaning “in fact” (similar to na verdade in Portuguese). Usual position: at the beginning.

A – Are you Portuguese?
B – Actually, I’m Brazilian.

A – There are 51 states in the USA.
B – Actually, there are only 50.

Use 2 – Actually meaning “thinking again” (similar to aliás in Portuguese). Usual position: at the beginning.

A – Do you have a pen?
B – No, sorry. Wait! Actually, I have one right here.

A – Are you sure there’s no other way?
B – Yes, I am. Actually, there is one other way.

Use 3 – Actually meaning “really” (similar to realmente in Portuguese). Usual position: after subject.

A – Did you hear? Joan ran the Boston Marathon.
B – Yeah. I heard. I can’t believe she actually did it!

A – So, John’s finally getting married, huh?
B – Yeah, he’s actually doing it.

Use 4 – Actually as a “softener” (similar to para ser sincero in Portuguese). Usual position: at the end.

A – Do you have a minute?
B – I’m kind of busy, actually.

A – Want to come to the party?
B – I can’t, actually. I have to work.

Use 5 – Actually as “friendly confirmation”. Usual position: at the end.

A – Are you John?
B – Yes, I am, actually.

A – Are you finished?
B – Yes, I am, actually.

Use 6 – Actually meaning “this may surprise you”

A – I would love to learn how to make sushi.
B – Actually, there’s a place right down the street that teaches people.

A – I don’t know anyone named “Dilbert”.
B – Actually, that’s my father’s name.

This post is part of the book Como dizer tudo em inglês avançado, by Ron Martinez and is reproduced here with his permission. Thanks, Ron!

Click here to buy Como dizer tudo em inglês avançado at Submarino.

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About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.