Scientific English as a Foreign Language
Answers to Lesson of May 15, 1998
Actual and Eventual

The words in German and French that sound closest to actual are "aktuell" and "actuel", respectively. They mean contemporary or up-to-date. Paired with "actual" they are "faux amis", in that "actual" usually means "in fact". I say usually, because a less common definition of actual does correspond to contemporary. I suggest that it's best to forget the second definition, for it is so often ill-applied.

Eventual is used for what in the future may actually become true. Here are the defintions from the Random House Unabridged CD-ROM Dictionary.



Replace the blanks with actual, actually, eventual, or eventually.

1. Eventually, the instrument will run correctly.
2. Actually, it does not run. (This sentence is a case where both the common and less common meanings of actual, i.e. real and contemporary, both work.)
3. The eventual data will be very interesting.
4. Although our simulations predict what the data will reveal, we have no actual data.

There rolls the deep where grew the tree
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothings stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

-Tennyson, on geological change

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Created May 15, 1998, by Nancy Burnham and Fred Hutson.