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My English teacher feels very strongly that exact same is redundant and therefore incorrect. I disagree with her.

She feels that exact should be used in place of exact same, but I have rarely heard someone use exact by itself. For example:

I have the exact same shirt
I have the exact shirt

In the same manner, I believe that she shuns exactly the same as well.

What support is there (if any) supporting the use of exact same or exactly the same? What proof can I provide for using exact same when challenged?

  • 1
    Voting +1 for questioning others, standing by your opinion and fighting for what you believe. I hope someone will help you resolve the problem and you can win over your teacher. In the meantime, read the huge discussion about this problem at painintheenglish.com/case/1006 – RiMMER Oct 22 '11 at 1:17
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    Gathering ammunition to use against your English teacher. Is that a good use of this forum? – GEdgar Oct 22 '11 at 1:42
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    possible duplicate of Shouldn't "the exact same" always be "exactly the same"? – aedia λ Oct 22 '11 at 2:45
  • 2
    You could say I have that exact shirt. – Sam Oct 22 '11 at 5:55
  • Ask your teacher what she thinks of selfsame. – Barrie England Oct 22 '11 at 6:40
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"Exact same" represents a grammatical practice that is particularly prevalent in American English; the use of an adjective for an adverb. In this phrase "exact" modifies "same" and is functioning as and adverb.

In the literal sense "exact same" is indeed redundant, however, words aren't quite so precisely defined as apparently your teach would have you believe. If I have a Hugo Bos blue shirt with an 18 inch collar, someone with a Hugo Bos blue shirt with a 20 inch collar might think we have the same shirt. In fact, someone with a Hugo Bos white shirt with a 20 inch collar might think we have the same.

You might even argue that if they are two shirts identical in every respect they are still not "the same" shirt. If I wore my shirt today, and again tomorrow, you might tell me "you're wearing the same shirt as yesterday", and that would be absolutely literally true. Which is to say, "same" is used rather more loosely than "the identical object" in common language.

By modifying it with "exact" you are emphasizing that they are even more "same" than if you did not so modify.

Many words sound like they are absolute, binary, and not subject to gradation. However, I am reminded of a discussion between Sheldon Cooper and Stuart the comic book guy on the hilarious TV show "The Big Bang Theory":

Stuart: Ooh, Sheldon, I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong.

Sheldon: More wrong? Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.

Stuart: Of course it is. It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.

3

Same by its definition implies exact duplication. If it were not exactly the same, it would be similar.

I have the same shirt.
I have the exact same shirt.

Those two sentences mean the same thing, therefore the "exact" modifier is redundant.

That said, just because it's redundant doesn't mean it's wrong, particularly if you're using it for extra emphasis.

Wow, I have exactly the same shirt!

In that situation I believe it would be most appropriate to use "exactly" as an adverb modifying "same".

  • As you said, it can be used for emphasis. I also feel though, that same often takes on a modifier just as similar does. For example, the shirt that Billybob has may be mostly the same, or almost the same. Does adding something such as 'completely' only add emphasis or can it add additional meaning? – Daniel G. Wilson Oct 22 '11 at 1:48
  • Sure, you can change the meaning of the word by adding modifiers to it. Saying that something is almost blue is quite different than saying it is blue. But is saying something is completely blue or exactly blue any different from saying that it's blue? I don't think so. In absence of any modifiers, blue is blue and same is same :) – Lynn Oct 22 '11 at 2:08
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    @XenElement: it's used for emphasis, but your teacher probably doesn't like it because it -is- a 'pleonasm' (redundancy) and gives the feeling that you're not sure (ok or really you just aren't aware) of the exact meanings of things. It is perfectly natural -informal- way to speak but in writing 'exact same' seems out of place. – Mitch Oct 22 '11 at 2:47
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    In both your examples, there is no exact duplication. The two shirts are distinct physical objects. If someone said "I wore the same shirt yesterday", it can mean either the exact same shirt (the same physical object) or it can mean a different shirt of the same design/pattern. Normally "same" does not indicate identical objects but similar ones, which can have varying degrees of similarity. – David Schwartz Oct 22 '11 at 2:48
  • One may say "same shirt" (for short) when they mean "same style/design/pattern of shirt" but that does not mean that "same" equates to "similar". They have distinct meanings. Also, "I have exactly that same shirt!" vs "I have that same shirt!" does not help you distinguish whether the "sameness" applies to the style or the physical object. – Lynn Oct 22 '11 at 3:05
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When comparing two items/situations using "same" you have to include "as" as a qualifier. Without "as" you are referring to the same thing. An example would be; "I drove the same car yesterday and today." in other words, it is one thing/situation used/done repetitively. On the other hand, a comparison would be something like "he drives the same car as mine." Two different items that look similar.

1

It's all about the context

My answer started out as a comment, but then it evolved until I think it justifies consideration on its own. It remains primarily in response to other answers, but my perspective I think is broader and more useful.

I completely disagree with the various ideas that "same" must imply unalterable, literal "exactness" or a state of being "identical", primarily because in very many cases which one might consider "literal" or "exact", it is still only within a certain context. Imagine if both shirts (borrowed from another answer) have the same color, same buttons, some collar, same everything that you might think of in the moment... so that in your context they are exactly, literally the same. You may well be justified in simply calling them the "same" without any extra modifier whatsoever. You could insist that "exact/exactly" is redundant and unnecessary. What if I then expanded the context and asked which shirt was dry cleaned and which not (assuming that only one was dry cleaned)?

Perhaps then, if like so many who insist that adding a modifier to "same" is absolutely redundant, you say

"Oh, well I guess I was just wrong then. They are not the same now in the new context and so they were never the same to begin with. It was only my ignorance that kept my statement from being correct or from having a 'literal' meaning. Instead the shirts always were and must remain merely similar."

We could continue playing that game until even the meaning and usefulness of "literal" or "exact" begins to be questioned. But before we get that far, I assert that we can never box in words like "same", since there is probably always an expanded context in which the meaning of those words are only relative (unless, perhaps, you are omniscent).

So the perfectly acceptable use of modifiers (and frankly I don't care which form... "exactly the same" or "exact same") is simply a way of expressing a comparison between two contexts. In one context they are "the same", perhaps with never the need to consider more. But from the perspective of an expanded context, "exactly the same" implies that something continues to be identical, even when the expanded context introduced the possibility of destroying the "same-ness".

In short, there is nothing wrong with using these phrases, and anyone who argues against it probably has not thought long and hard enough about the broader context in which we all think or speak... and this even applies to English teachers.


My perspective originally developed from the use in describing computer programming constructs. It would get rather old if I could never call anything "the same" without implying precise, unvarying exactness. Likewise, it would be extremely unproductive if I always had to use only the word "similar" followed by a long list of qualification for what degree of similarity. Instead, I establish a context: I first declare (or let it be naturally implied by people with my same mindset) what particular set of properties I am discussing at the moment. Then I freely use words like "the same" to mean "all of the properties in my limited context are identical". But then if I need to expand the context while still holding the previous context in consciousness... I use the wonderfully simple, useful, short phrase "exactly the same" to now imply that not only is the limited set of properties identical, all other properties in the expanded context are also identical. Wow! It's amazing what a simple word can do in avoiding having to be ridiculously verbose.

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It's wrong. Not maybe. "Exact" is an adjective. So is "same." An adjective cannot be used (in a grammatically sound way, at least) to modify another adjective. For that, in English, you need an adverb. This is not a question of opinion. Just write it as "I have exactly the same shirt." But really, it's redundant. The same is the same. Exactly the same. The example someone said of a shirt not actually being the "same" shirt and that adding "exact" would clarify is not true. Everyone knows that when you say, "I have the same shirt," you don't mean the one the other person is wearing now but rather the same style, pattern, brand, etc. Further, "exact" does not mean "same"; it means "precise." You would never say, "I have the same precise (or precise same) opinion. It sounds awful and is grammatically wrong. So does "same exact"/"exact same." You've just got used to it.

  • "Bright yellow" is a perfectly correct construction, but both bright and yellow are adjectives. – C Perkins Jun 9 '17 at 21:46
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excact same is redundant. Same is equal to exact.
If my shirt is the same as your shirt - I can't tell them apart.
If my shirt is similar to your shirt - I can tell them apart.

"exact" is not necessary to add precision to the discription - otherwise why not add a few extra words eg. I have totally the excact same precise bla bla bla shirt.

protected by tchrist Oct 5 '18 at 1:46

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