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I've always avoided using the common phrase "the exact same" because it sounds incorrect to me (unless perhaps a comma were inserted thus: "the exact, same".) Shouldn't "the exact same" be "exactly the same"?

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SFAICT nobody inserts a comma in "the exact same"; the phrase can stand by itself, punctuation-less. Which to use seems to be a matter of taste (viz. "He keeps wearing the exact same pair of pants" vs. "He keeps wearing exactly the same pair of pants", but the former sounds better for me.) – user730 Aug 24 '10 at 5:27
    
The British National Corpus reports that exactly the same is found in 1329 sentences, and exact same in 22 sentences. The Corpus of Contemporary American reports that in academic texts, exactly the same is used more times (6 times more) than exact time. – kiamlaluno Aug 27 '10 at 10:39
    
A third variant exists, doesn't it: "the same exact..." – sumelic Jan 19 at 9:06

According to these Google Ngrams, both American and British English use exactly the same more than the exact same. Here is the usage in American English:

And here it is in British English:

Despite its usage, the exact same is considered informal (but is not deemed incorrect) by this site at Washington State University:

In casual speech we often say things like, “The fruitcake he gave me was the exact same one I’d given him last Christmas,” but in formal English the phrase is “exactly the same.”

However, there is a long discussion of the phrase which writes that:

The traditional construction is “exactly the same time,” with an adverb (“exactly”) properly modifying an adjective (“same”).

Critics of a phrase like “the exact same time” condemn it because “exact” (an adjective) is being used as an adverb (like “very”)....

Proponents of the phrase note, however:

Elsewhere, the Cambridge Grammar notes that noun phrases including “the same” often include modifiers to reflect varying degrees of sameness. Sometime modifiers come after “the” (as in “the very same mistake”), and sometimes before, as with “much,” “almost,” “roughly,” and “exactly.”

I would add “exact” to the list of modifiers that can follow “the” (as in “the exact same mistake”). In my opinion, this usage is acceptable in all but the most formal writing.

If you’d like another authority, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English also says “exact same” is “standard in all but the most formal and oratorical contexts.”

Both phrases are redundant, and the exact same can be considered correct or not depending on which style guide one subscribes to. An American English grammar guide specifically mentions that the phrase is mostly standard, and a British English guide notes that there are similar phrases. So use depends on context: in formal writing, avoid it, but in anything else the exact same can be (again, it depends on who you follow) acceptable.

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In British English, yes. "The exact same" sounds (to my British ears, at least) like an American phrase.

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It seems to me like "same" is being treated as a noun in this case and "exact" is an adjective, where both entities are being compared to a single noun "the exact same".

Mike's car and Jennifer's car are both the right car.

Mike's car and Jennifer's car are the exact same.

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I can imagine a slight difference.

Mike's car is exactly the same car as Jennifer's.

So, Mike got the same make, model, color, and accessories as Jennifer did.

Mike's car is the exact same car as Jennifer's.

Mike's car not only looks like Jennifer's car, it is Jennifer's car. Maybe Mike bought it or borrowed it or stole it from Jennifer...

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This is something I was thinking as well, but I don't know whether there's any evidence to back up this usage difference! – I Stanley Jan 19 at 11:00
    
I was thinking something similar: "to be X", "to be exactly X" (where exactly modifies the verb to be), and "to be the exact same" (where "exact same" functions as an object) – Adrian Jan 19 at 16:46

The expression the exact same [X] can often be heard in US informal speech (TV dramas are rife with it), whereas (in my experience) it is still something of a rarity in the UK.

Sloppy? Perhaps it is -- but then again, it is the norm for spoken language to be the product of imperfect improvisation.

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"Exact same" should be identical, in the same way that "At that point in time" should be "Then".

My mother wore the exact same suit that she was married in on their anniversary for 30 years.

The two women could not have worn the exact same outfits at the same time to the party. Identical outfits would not be identical after one had been worn. Ask any bloodhound.

I avoided using "exact same" until SSA Dr. Spencer Reid used it on "Criminal Minds".

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People use the word 'same' in sentences like 'the same car' (where same is an adjective and will take adverbs) or 'I'd like the same!' (where same is a pronoun and will take adjectives).

The problem is that sometimes people use the word same as a pronoun (by putting adjectives in front of it) when they use it in front of another noun. In front of another noun, though, it can only be an adjective and not a pronoun.

In its adjective form, it cannot take adjectives - only adverbs, like any adjective at that.

Examples (not the best ones, but I hope they make my point): 'The taxi you and I used on new year's eve was the exact same!' (pronoun) 'On new year's eve you and I used exactly the same taxi!' (adjective)

Conclusion: when used together with another noun, it's an adjective and must be garnished as such.

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@AndyT I'm sorry, but I meant for my answer to only apply when 'the same' was used as an adjective; e.g. 'the exact same car', which is wrong because same here is an adjective. When 'same' is used without another noun, then it is a pronoun indeed, falsifying my statement. -- edit: Added to my answer. – klaar Jan 19 at 9:31
    
@AndyT And done. – klaar Jan 19 at 10:35
    
Much better. My previous comments are no longer relevant and will be deleted forthwith. – AndyT Jan 19 at 10:39

No comma and no "exact same." Ever. It's wrong. One adjective modifying another. That's not opinion. It's how English works. It's no more sound than saying "ain't." People do it, but it's still wrong. Grammatically, not morally.

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