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Well technically, it can, but would it be bad to use it in narration in the context of:

After loading his gun, he aimed at the bird, and he pulled the trigger. With a bang, the bullet flew through the air, and a dark shadow could be seen falling down from the air. He actually shot the bird from a thousand meters away!

The "actually" in that context implies "unexpectedness". However, for some reason (no idea why), it sound...off. In fact, I think I would prefer to remove the "actually" from the paragraph above, making it:

After loading his gun, he aimed at the bird, and he pulled the trigger. With a bang, the bullet flew through the air, and a dark shadow could be seen falling down from the air. He shot the bird from a thousand meters away!

I think the second one sounds a bit better, and even with "actually", the unexpectedness is already there.

So, questions: 1) Which example is better? 2) Is the first example "proper", grammatically wise? 3) Is "actually", in terms of "unexpectedness", should only be used in conversations and not narration?

  • Could you add a dictionary reference where you found actually to mean "unexpectedness"? – user3169 Jul 19 '15 at 2:10
  • @user3169 It doesn't particularly mean "unexpectedness", but it somewhat implies it – john2546 Jul 19 '15 at 2:20
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After loading his gun, he aimed at the bird, and he pulled the trigger. With a bang, the bullet flew through the air, and a dark shadow could be seen falling down from the air. He actually shot the bird from a thousand meters away!

Actually is fine here, either in conversation or narration.

Actually is not required, so there is no "better", just which one do you prefer? Often, such adverbs add little to the meaning and so they can be dropped.

If I had to make a change, I might change the last sentence to

He had (actually) shot the bird from a thousand meters away!

I would do this mostly because this sentence is not really an action that takes place in your narrative but a statement regarding the past actions (involved in shooting the bird).

  • Ah yes, thanks for the answer, and your change (the had) was also what I was looking for. Thanks! – john2546 Jul 19 '15 at 2:22
  • This answer does not address the concern "actually in that context implies unexpectedness". – user3169 Jul 19 '15 at 3:08
  • No, but you might not find this sense in your dictionarry. To add "actually" in emphasis of something clearly stated as factual, is to refute the unheard (but anticipated) objection "really? That's unbelievable!" – Brian Hitchcock Jul 19 '15 at 7:12

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