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When casually speaking English I use the word "actually" a lot at the beginning of a sentance, or as part of the flow of my speech. e.g.

Actually, next semester doesn't start for a month.

Actually, I don't have any siblings.

I would like to be able to continue this speech habit in Mandarin Chinese, I have been using 事实上 (shìshíshàng), but from my listeners' reactions I am not sure if this is really the same.

What is the closest equivalent expression?

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Starting your sentences with "actually" can be an effective way to annoy people. – Orion Dec 15 '11 at 5:49
mandarin chinese is the perfect opportunity for new beginnings. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 15 '11 at 23:10
@NullUserException Actually, not always. ... :P ahah sorry, I couldn't help it. – Alenanno Dec 22 '11 at 22:36
up vote 11 down vote accepted

"其实" or "其实呢" is more similar to what you wanted, casually. E.g.


"事实上" is not wrong, but it is literally "in fact" or "as a matter of fact".

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实际上... Will be ok too – AntiGameZ Dec 15 '11 at 3:29
@AntiGameZ That's right. At first, I thought "实际上" is more similar to "事实上" without thinking too much. Now I get it... – Flake Dec 15 '11 at 3:43

Following on from Flake, I also often hear people saying 那么 (那) or just as a way to begin sentences, or 那个 when stopping to think in mid sentences. Is that the sort of thing you mean?

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sort of.. but I was after something conveying the sense that I am attempting to clarify the topic under discussion – jsj Dec 15 '11 at 2:47
@trideceth12 Do you want to imply that others in the conversation need you to clear it up for them? – Colin McLarty Sep 27 '13 at 16:34
@ColinMcLarty yeah – jsj Sep 28 '13 at 1:06

An addition to other great answers:

反正 can be used as "actually" too sometimes.


  • 谢谢你过来帮我 (Thanks for coming over to help me)
    Xièxie nǐ guò lái bāng wǒ
  • 反正我刚好在这边附近而已 (Actually, I happened to be just around the corner)
    fǎn zhèng wǒ gāng hăo zài zhè biān fù jìn ér yǐ
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I corrected the examples but they need to be peer-reviewed first. I wrote a _ (underscore) where I didn't know the pinyin. Who knows it, feel free to add it and correct possible mistakes! :) – Alenanno Dec 22 '11 at 22:40

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