Confusing words: Actually x Currently

It’s natural and healthy for adults to resort to words which sound similar to the ones in their own mother tongue when learning a foreign language. That’s why Brazilians tend to use the adverb “actually” when they mean that something is happening now or around now. This word looks and sounds very similar to “atualmente“, which in Portuguese means exactly “now, these days“.

So, how would you express this idea in English? Here are some possibilities: currently, at present, at the moment. Let’s take a look at some examples.

“The company currently produces 3,000 vehicles a month.”
“There are twenty doctors in the hospital staff at present.”
“He’s working as a clerk at the moment.”

And now for the $64,000 question: when should we use “actually” and what does it mean?

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (7th Edition), there are four uses to the adverb “actually”: 1) to emphasize a fact, or to day that it’s really true (ex: The plane can actually seat 60 passengers comfortably); 2) to show contrast between the truth and what one believes, expressing surprise (ex: I can’t believe he actually knows the President!); 3) to correct somebody in a polite way (ex: Actually, I was born in São Paulo, not in Cotia.); 4) to attract someone’s attention or to start a new topic (ex: Actually, I was just thinking about going for lunch. Would you like to join me?).

Now that you know when to use one and the other, there’s just one thing left to do: practice! Get down to it!


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