I wonder if the two expressions "it is not exactly clear which" and "it is unclear exactly which"

  1. are examples of a correct use of English


  1. carry mostly the same meaning (I am aware they are not exactly identical).

I am asking because in other languages, constructions such as the first would be more common (I am thinking of German, for example, where the latter would be "it is unclear which ... exactly"), while a Google Fight reveals the second is more frequently used in English. Omitting "which" to avoid ngrams with a length larger than five, the Google Ngram Viewer confirms this, with a relatively steady rise of the latter in the last four decades.

  • In my opinion, "it is not exactly clear which" means "it is not quite clear which", not "it is not clear exactly which". – sooeithdk Mar 14 '16 at 21:04

In the former case, to be clear using exactly before clear is unnecessary. Clear is sufficient. One or something can't be more clear if it is already clear! Therefore the latter is not exactly correct, just correct.

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