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The word "actually" is widely used more or less in the same context as "in fact":

You're a doctor, right?

Yes ... well, actually / in fact I haven't graduated yet.

But, is "actually" also used to talk about the present? (like "currently")

What do you do for a living?

Actually / Currently, I'm working at an Insurance Company.

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    I have never come across this usage. None of the existing answers imply any support for it, nor would any dictionaries. I'm voting to close as "too localised" on the grounds that OP may be the only person who thinks actually can mean currently. Perhaps he conflates it with French "actuellement", which does mean "currently". Jan 6, 2012 at 5:12
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    @FumbleFingers: If someone's native language interferes with their understanding of English, should we consider their questions "too localised"?
    – Irene
    Jan 6, 2012 at 8:49
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    @FumbleFingers: for spanish native speakers this mistake is very frequent, this is because in spanish we say "actualmente" to say "currently" or "at the moment", so a lot of people think "actually" is the perfect translation. So, maybe the question is "too localised" for a native english speaker, but it isn't for the rest of world (for whom this website is for) Jan 6, 2012 at 20:46
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    @FumbleFingers: Indeed, most Latin-derived languages use the root "actual" to convey the sense of "current time". Spanish, French, Galician, Portuguese and Italian for sure, at least. I don't see this is a too localised issue at all. It is a good example of a faux ami that may confuse many people. Furthermore, aktuell in German means both "actual" and "current", so the confusion is served, and hence the need for clarification.
    – CesarGon
    Jan 6, 2012 at 22:22
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    @FumbleFingers: Well, I can't vote to close because I haven't reached the necessary reputation yet. But most importantly, I think that at least Julio and I have clearly shown the potentiality that people get tripped up by this issue. I have argued about a number of languages and why this is so; if you know all that, then I would expect that you empathised and found the question equally relevant. :-)
    – CesarGon
    Jan 7, 2012 at 14:26

5 Answers 5

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Actually can be used in the present, but your second example doesn't make sense. In contexts like these, actually is generally used to contradict something said:

Person 1: You're a doctor, right?

Person 2: Actually, I'm a nurse.

Currently is used to indicate something that is happening now, and actually can be used like that too, so long as it is correcting/contradicting something.

In some cases, actually can be used to mean currently without being contradictory, but usually (in my experience) it is only used like that when the information will be coming as a surprise:

Person 1 (knows Person 2 as drug addict from high school): So, do you have a job?

Person 2: Actually, I'm a lawyer.

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  • When you say Actually, I'm a nurse, that doesn't mean At the moment, I'm a nurse. My question was if "actually" can be used as "currently" or "at the moment" without being a contradiction. Jan 6, 2012 at 4:44
  • @julio.alegria I shall edit my answer.
    – user11550
    Jan 6, 2012 at 4:47
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    @julio.alegria: No, "actually" is not a synonym for "currently".
    – MrHen
    Jan 6, 2012 at 4:48
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"Actually" is used to talk about what is true or accurate. In your example sentence, you could instead write, "To be accurate, I'm working at an insurance company", and get a somewhat similar meaning.

"Currently" is used to talk about what is happening now. In your example sentence, you could instead write, "At the moment, I'm working at an insurance company", and get a somewhat similar meaning.

"Actually" does not imply "now". You could equally write, "Actually, last year I worked at an insurance company". But you could not write, "Currently, last year I worked at an insurance company."

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  • My question is if "actually" can also be used to talk about what is happening now. Jan 6, 2012 at 4:47
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    "Actually" does not mean "happening now". See the edit above for an additional example which I hope makes that clear.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 6, 2012 at 5:48
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No. "Actually" simply does not mean "currently" or "presently," in any sense of the word.

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Yes it can be used for presentense as well. Generally you

Did you have your lunch? Actually, I have a small party today. So, I would prefer going there.

How about a cup of coffee?

Actually, I am having little head ache. So, I would prefer tea.

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  • So if you say that "actually" can be used for presentense, does Actually, I am having little head ache. can be replace for At the moment / Currently, I am having little head ache. keeping the same meaning? (that's the main point of my question) Jan 6, 2012 at 4:46
  • Yes it is possible. Jan 6, 2012 at 4:47
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    I am sorry, but EnthuDeveloer is not right. 'Actually' is not a synonym for 'currently' or 'at the moment'. 'Actually' is a prime example of a 'false friend'. This Spanish website lists 'actually' among many other English /Spanish false friends: saberingles.com.ar/curious/falsefriends.html
    – Shoe
    Jan 6, 2012 at 7:45
  • very useful information @Shoe, I didn't know about those "false friends", we (the spanish speakers) make those kind of mistakes frequently. Jan 6, 2012 at 20:53
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Actually simply refers to what is true, often in response to an erroneous statement by someone else or to counter a doubt when the statement seems like the listener might think the statement is erroneous.

The comedian actually owns several dozen cars.

I hear you graduated with a degree in dentistry.

--Actually, I studied palmistry at the Sosostris School of Paranormal Arts.

The word actually is time-agnostic. It can be used with past, present, future, or with no reference to time whatsoever.

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