Languages are evolving constantly. As you read this, a new word is being used for the very first time somewhere in the world. And somewhere, a word that already exists is also being used in a completely new way.

But this is nothing new.

One word that entered the English language many years ago from Latin via French was ‘actual’.

Originally, the word was used to refer to the present and still has this meaning in languages like French (actuel), Spanish (actual), Italian (attuale) and German (aktuell), just to name a few.

In modern English, however, it is used to talk about what is real or true:

● the actual situation – die eigentliche Lage
● the actual time of arrival – die tatsächliche Ankunftszeit
● I actually wanted to say something – Ich wollte eigentlich etwas sagen
● Did he actually do that? – Hat er das tatsächlich gemacht?

Generally, ‘actual’ and ‘actually’ are not used with the original meaning anymore. Here are some examples of translations of ‘aktuell‘:

die aktuelle Lage – the current situation
die Informationen sind aktuell – the information is up to date
die aktuellsten Nachrichten – the latest news
Aktuell habe ich viel Arbeit – I have a lot of work at the moment

This can cause a lot of confusion and it takes a long time to know which expression you need for each situation.

The most important thing to remember is: aktuell and actual/actually are NOT the same!

Have you ever made this common mistake?