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I know they have the same meaning. But I'm wondering if there is any difference between them, like in some cases we can only use one of them?

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    Why don't you look these two words up in a dictionary? – Irene Dec 27 '11 at 11:10
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    I think I can understand why you're confused. In cases that "true" and "real" can be employed interchangeably, you'll need to check which version is more common. For instance, "The true nature of reality" and "The real nature of reality" both are valid phrases, yet the first usage is more common, so you might want to stick to "true reality". Now, how we figure out which usage is more common? You need to read a lot in order to be able to detect and memorize common patterns. You can also use Google Ngram and similar tools. – Nate Sep 15 '13 at 15:02
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Despite @Irene's suggestion to check a dictionary, I find it hard to put the difference into words. The easiest might be to look at antonyms:

  • "True" vs "False": Mainly mathematical/logical?
  • "True" vs "Untrue": Mainly referring statements made by an individual?
  • "Real" vs "Fictional": Existing in "the real world" vs only in imaginary worlds (books, movies, etc)?
  • "Real" vs "Unreal": "as it appears" vs "not really as it appears"?

Sorry this isn't a complete answer (and those certainly aren't complete definitions), hope it helps anyway.

  • We say “a true story”, but I have never heard about “false story” or “untrue story”. If the story is not true, I would say that it is “fictional”. Is this an exception? – Franklin Yu Jan 14 '18 at 22:59

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