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Wondering if it makes sense to say “That is typically exactly what happens “. My wife tells me I can’t use the words typically and exactly together.

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    Yes, you can use them together. Some people may not like how it sounds, but it's perfectly fine. Although you don't have to, you can also add a comma before and after typically. Jan 17, 2019 at 4:28
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    Even "approximately exactly" is grammatically correct, although the meaning is not clear.
    – user323578
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:03

3 Answers 3

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You ask whether typically exactly works. The question isn’t about grammar, but yes, they can go together.

In your example, typical refers to how often the occurrence happens ‘like that’, while exactly relates to what it means to be ‘like that’. One relates to frequency and the other to content. There’s no contradiction or funny business going on there.

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  • strictly, typically doesn't refer to frequency, but to the representation of a certain type.
    – Toothrot
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:04
  • Oops, sorry, I deleted my comment after rereading it. Have a look at ODO, definition 1.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:20
  • interesting how they put the primary meaning under the colloquial meaning. i wonder how that makes sense.
    – Toothrot
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:25
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I feel this confusion arises from the fact that a lot of people associate "typically" with "roughly"/"approximately".

  • I eat lunch at about 1 pm.
  • I eat lunch typically at 1 pm.

You can understand the similarity here. Implicitly I read from both that lunch is not eaten at exactly 1 pm every day, but sometimes later and sometimes earlier. If I have that understanding, then I can say that "typically" and "about" could have the same function in that sentence semantically, that is both can be read as lunch being eaten at usually 1 pm. However the mistake should not be made that they mean the same thing in other cases. "Typically" means:

1.In most cases; usually.
Oxford Living Dictionaries

and words like "about" or "precisely" are used as accuracy or precision modifiers. So whereas in the above example "typically" and "about" can reasonably be seen to have the same semantic function as a modifier, it's not the case in the following examples:

  • People typically don't know what they want from life.
  • People exactly don't know what they want from life.

Leaving aside that "exactly" is in an unidiomatic position, these two mean different things. If we add both adverbs it looks like this:

  • People typically don't know exactly what they want from life.

The more contentious question is that of having two adverbs next to each other:

  • People typically exactly don't know what they want from life.

These do tend to sound unnatural, which is why many people object to them.

See this question on this site about this very topic

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  • The assertion that, "a lot of people associate 'typically' with "roughly"/"approximately" is not my experience. I would never use it to mean that and I have never heard anyone else do so. For me "I eat lunch typically at 1 pm." simply means that I usually eat it then but sometimes I don't have lunch, or I eat it at a completely different time. Mar 18, 2019 at 9:16
  • @chaslyfromUK That's a possibility too. I feel saying I go to bed typically at ten is similar. Give or take, that's the typical time I go to bed, so whatever the variance may be from that time before or after, and however large the difference, I feel it means on average that's the time I can be expected to go to bed, and so I get the meaning of roughly. I don't mean to say "typically" is equivalent to "approximately", I mean to say in certain statements it can mean that, in my opinion at least. Though it's interesting you don't seem to think so.
    – Zebrafish
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:18
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“That is typically exactly what happens “

That is perfectly correct in terms of grammar.

I personally would write:

"Typically that is exactly what happens."

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  • I'd insert a comma after "Typically" in your revised version.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2019 at 12:06

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