I am very often asked about how to say in Russian the word “actually”. And the very first thing which comes into my mind is the word “вообще-то”. But I have to say that it doesn’t sound good in all the contexts like in English. Sometimes it is better to use the phrase “на самом деле”. So here I will try to explain when to use which phrase. Read next following two dialogues and feel the difference between these two phrases.
Диалог 1 / Dialogue 1
- А: Что ты тут делаешь? / What are you doing here?
- Б: Вообще-то, я тебя жду. Мы договорились встретиться. / Actually I’ve been waiting for you. We agreed to meet.
Диалог 2 / Dialogue 2
- А: Какие планы на выходные? / What are your plans for the weekend?
- Б: На самом деле, у меня нет планов. / Actually I don’t have any plans.
So as you can see from these examples, we use “вообще-то” when there is a little (or maybe not very little) claim. And the phrase “на самом деле” could be replaced with the phrase “indeed” or “in fact”. Very often we use it as phrase to fill the pause, it gives us some tim to think what we are going to say next.