Consider the following sentence,

"You can use Vim, Vi or virtually any text editor when writing C code".

Why put virtually in there? What difference does it make compared to if it wasn't there?

Note: Vim and Vi are text editors and C is a programming language.

  • 2
    Have you checked a dictionary? It could mean 'nearly or almost' source: google.co.jp/#q=virtually
    – shin
    Mar 17 '16 at 6:53
  • Yes, I have. I just thought that maybe, there's other usage's too. Since there isn't a reason to limit the statement to "almost any text editor".
    – Pkarls
    Mar 17 '16 at 6:57
  • In my mind, virtually is stronger than nearly or almost. It can indicate that the speaker doesn't know of any exceptions, and/or believes that there are no exceptions, but they also don't know for sure that there aren't any exceptions. Nearly or almost suggests that the speaker has an exception in mind, and is merely talking about the majority of cases.
    – Era
    Mar 17 '16 at 14:46
  • @Era So it's basically just a way to have your back covered in case there are exceptions?
    – Pkarls
    Mar 17 '16 at 14:50
  • @Pkarls Yes, in my experience that's how it's usually used. You might not want to say all in case someone finds an exception and sends you an angry letter about it. Saying virtually all hedges the statement just enough to avoid backlash without suggesting that there are many exceptions to what you're claiming.
    – Era
    Mar 17 '16 at 14:54

This means that in the speaker's mind there are some limits. He may or may not be aware of exactly what they are, but he doesn't want to make a blanket statement and have to quibble later about some rare corner case that disproves an assertion of "any text editor".

E.G. A few decades ago I might have said "virtually all methods of home heating pollute the atmosphere" with the mental reservation that there were probably a few hippie communes in Vermont that heated purely with solar power.

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