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What is the difference between the following introductory phrases?

To tell the truth

Frankly speaking

To be honest

Are any of the phrases more old-fashioned or formal than the others or are they completely interchangeable?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Basically, they all mean in truth:

  • actually,
  • really,
  • in fact,
  • in reality,
  • as a matter of fact,
  • in actual fact,
  • in point of fact,
  • if truth be told

The last four are bit a bit more formal.

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I heard "in accordance with the principles of fairness and justice," once when someone was being facetious. –  Claudiu Nov 4 '10 at 16:56
    
I tend to avoid the phrases "to tell the truth", "frankly speaking" and "to be honest" as they could suggest to your audience that you are not always open and honest. –  Alex Feb 10 '11 at 4:53
    
Good list. All of them do NOT mean the same thing, though. –  Kris Jan 13 '12 at 11:17
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They are all the same when used in a facetious way.

Each of them connotes a different thing when used appropriately. As in:

To tell the truth,: You have misconstrued my words and started speaking at length on that basis. I could interrupt with 'To tell the truth, ...' to draw your attention to the fact that the truth is different from the presumption behind what you are currently saying.

...and so on.

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