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Actually: as the truth or facts of a situation; really.

I've heard native speakers use the word actually as filler word in contexts that don't actually mean the truth or facts of a situation.

When someone uses the word actually, is it commonly interpret as filler word?


Added a random example as suggested by @fev

Actually, there is no concrete context in using the word actually as the use of it is.... actually quite random. It actually doesn't convey any additional meaning to a sentence. It seems like a word but some people use it as a filler actually.

Actually, what she said is not true. The exam is not that difficult actually. The lecturer is actually quite good, she gave us some hints on what subjects to spend more time on.

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    Please be more specific to spare us from guessing. If you give a concrete context, your question will receive clear and valid answers.
    – fev
    Jul 5, 2021 at 9:00
  • @fev Actually, there is no concrete context in using the word actually as the use of it is.... actually quite random. It doesn't convey any additional meaning to a sentence actually. It seems like a word but some use it as a filler actually. Jul 5, 2021 at 9:51
  • Give an example, that's what I am saying.
    – fev
    Jul 5, 2021 at 9:52
  • What do you mean "why"? Do you want a historical reason? Why is any word used for anything in any language?
    – gotube
    Jul 6, 2021 at 1:52
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    @gotube No problem. You asked and I assume you know and able to share. I received good answers from the members here and so I believe the question is understandable. Thanks for your time and input. Jul 6, 2021 at 6:54

2 Answers 2

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"Actually" is a common filler word, as this article testifies. Other words similarly over-used as 'fillers' include "probably" and "basically".

However, that doesn't mean these words are always to be considered filler words. They all have legitimate uses. "Actually" is useful when stating what is true in contrast to what is not true.

For example:

Legitimate use of 'actually':

  • Some people think I am only 40. Actually, I am nearly 50.

Unnecessary use of 'actually':
Q. How old are you?
A. Actually, I'm nearly 50.

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What you call a "filler" is in fact a discourse marker. And it is true, in spoken language, actually is very commonly used in this way:

Actually is often used in speaking as a discourse marker. We use it to indicate a new topic of conversation or a change or contrast in what is being talked about. We also use actually to give more detail about a topic. We do not use it to refer to time:

A: I suppose you’re going away this weekend?

B: Actually, I am going to stay at home. I’ve got a lot of work to do on the computer.

[a customer (A) in a large bookshop is asking about books about travel.]

A: Could you tell me where your books on Austria are kept?

B: What kind of books?

A: Well, actually I’m looking for a book on skiing in Austria.

B: Er, yes, they’re in that corner over there. (Cambridge)

Just note that discourse markers are also used in formal language, too:

Discourse markers are words and phrases used in speaking and writing to 'signpost' discourse. Discourse markers do this by showing turns, joining ideas together, showing attitude, and generally controlling communication. Some people regard discourse markers as a feature of spoken language only.

Example Words like 'actually', 'so', 'OK', 'right?' and 'anyway' all function as discourse markers as they help the speaker to manage the conversation and mark when it changes.

BUT

Discourse markers are an important feature of both formal and informal native speaker language. The skilful use of discourse markers often indicates a higher level of fluency and an ability to produce and understand authentic language. (BBCTeachingEnglish)

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