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I am not a native speaker, and I'm having a hard time consciously understanding the difference between "allegedly", "presumably" and "supposedly" (There are many others!). From what I've heard: "allegedly" is used when someone in particular made an allegation (does that include oneself?), "presumably" is used when there is a great level of uncertainty and "supposedly" is for when you are making assumptions that are not based on anything in particular.

Can someone explain the proper differences to me as if I'm 5 years old?

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I would use them as follows: "allegedly": somebody says that; "presumably": this is a reasonable guess as to what's going on; "supposedly": it is widely believed that. I'm not giving this as an answer, since I think for an answer one would need to look up the definitions in dictionaries. – Peter Shor Aug 31 '11 at 0:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You're close. To presume something is to make a reasonable assumption, usually based on logic or information. When Henry Morton Stanley said "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", he was pretty sure he was talking to Livingstone (for one thing, he was the only other white man around).

To suppose something is to make an assumption or statement of belief, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a well grounded one. When someone says "presumably," therefore, it usually means they're pretty sure, or at least that they've got a good reason for making the statement. When someone say "supposedly," they may be pretty sure, or they may not--you don't have enough information to judge.

Now, this is a very general rule of thumb. In practice, people don't always make those fine distinctions while speaking or writing. But if you're looking for which word to use yourself, use "presumably" if you're fairly sure and "supposedly" if you're less sure.

As for "allegedly," it should really only be used when someone has made an explicit allegation, although that isn't always the case, unfortunately.

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Not quite. From the Oxford Dictionaries Online: "Supposedly: according to what is generally assumed or believed (often used to indicate that the speaker doubts the truth of the statement)." – Peter Shor Aug 31 '11 at 13:03
Would you say that the example "She said the club was still open at the time, allegedly for a private party." from oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/allegedly is one of these unfortunate uses? – Carsten S Jan 11 at 19:28

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