Language tip of the week: actual

Posted by on November 22, 2011

In this weekly microblog, we bring to English language learners more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult.

This week’s language tip helps with the word actual.

Don’t confuse actual with current or present. Actual is not used for referring to things that are happening now or that exist now. Use current or present to express these ideas:
✗ The actual law obliges every young man to do military service.
✓ The current law obliges every young man to do military service.
✓ The present law obliges every young man to do military service.
✗ They have to work together to improve the actual situation.
✓ They have to work together to improve the current situation.
✓ They have to work together to improve the present situation.
Actual is used for referring to what is really true or exact:
The reports cites 554 AIDS cases, with 2600 persons infected with HIV. But officials concede that the actual number may be closer to 8000.
If you’d like to find out more about the word actual, and two other words (eventual and important) which are often confused, read this MED Magazine article.

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