suitable adverbs

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Nov 14, 2007
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i want some help to choose the appropriate adverb (really or in fact or actually) in the sentence below. I am lost. Is it also possible to get an explanation about the choice? thank you.
Unfortunately, I could only afford language classes twice a week, and consequently I had to rely on my own resources to acquire as much english as possible.Really ,or In fact, or Actually, to my surprise I managed to pass Cambridge First Certificate after only two years.

David L.

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Nov 7, 2007
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None of the three is suitable, nor is any adverb required before, "To my surprise..."

The closest would be 'actually', but the preceding sentence doesn't really lend to it at the start of the sentence, and 'to my surprise' serves the same (and better) purpose. However, you could say,
"To my surprise, I actually managed to pass..."
Here, 'actually' gives the sentence the meaning: To my surprise, the truth of the matter is that despite the obstacles, I managed to pass in only two years, which I think you will agree, is to my credit.
It is a polite, understated way of 'selling' yourself and your achievement.

'actually' has several uses, but as a substitute for 'in fact', look at this situation:
A movie star is being interviewed, and he is asked to respond to what another actor XYZ has said of him, that he's not a very good actor even if he did win an Oscar. The movie star might say, "Actually, two. I seem to have been able to fool the Academy of Performing Arts twice with my mediocre acting abilities."
The actor could have said, "In fact, two...." The difference is, that 'in fact' is used in a much stronger sense, to 'set the record straight', 'let's be quite clear about this!' The use of 'actually' gives the sense of, 'well, as it happens', 'if I might just mention this'. The person is not going to make a big deal out of it. HOWEVER, for that very reason, with the right tone of voice, it is a sly way of making the correction that makes actor XYZ look a bit of a fool for getting his facts wrong.
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