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Do I need commas around "exactly"?

For example:

1) What exactly does this mean?
2) What, exactly, does this mean?

Which one is right?
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AkavallDo I need commas around "exactly"?

For example:

1) What exactly does this mean?
2) What, exactly, does this mean?

Which one is right?
#1 is correct. (No commas needed.)
Thanks. But would it be wrong to use the commas? My understanding was that if you can take out a word or a phrase and the sentence still make sense, then you could (should in some cases) put commas around it. In this example, I can take out "exactly" and the sentence still makes sense and has pretty much the same meaning.
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Both are correct.

2 inserts pauses in speech around "exactly" which force a stress on it, giving it more importance in meaning.
I got it. Thanks a lot!
Akavall
Thanks. But would it be wrong to use the commas? My understanding was that if you can take out a word or a phrase and the sentence still make sense, then you could (should in some cases) put commas around it. In this example, I can take out "exactly" and the sentence still makes sense and has pretty much the same meaning.


Hi Akavall

He knew exactly how much they were worth_II She gave it everything she was worth_II. NN1 is used when worth is obviously nominal, and also in expressions ...
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She is not exactly an expert, but he is very good. (English Essential Dictionary)

Tell me exactly what he said. (English Essential Dictionary)

In the above sentences, if you take out 'exactly', the sentences still make sense. Hence, my conclusion is that commas are not needed in the sentence provided by you.

Best wishes.

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Hi Akavall,

My 2-cents:

Commas could be used to list items. Therefore, removing an item between two commas might alter the meaning of a sentence. This does not have anything to do with restrictive or non-restrictive.

In the case of restrictive vs. non-restrictive elements, here is the rule:

A restrictive element defines or limits / tightens the meaning of the word it modifies and is therefore required. Non-restrictive element contains non-essential or parenthetical information. Use commas to set off non-restrictive elements. Do not use commas to set off restrictive elements.

Here is an example:

Street vendors who think they own the road are partly blamed for the traffic congestion.

The who clause restricts the meaning of Street vendors; thus, it is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Surrounding the who clause with commas causes a misinterpretation that all street vendors think they own the road.

In regard to the sentence ‘What exactly does this mean? that you questioned, often people do not use commas for this case. The word exactly does contribute to the tightness of the meaning of the sentence. Similarly, we don’t put commas around only. These words have neither a conparative nor a superlative form. Their presence or absence shows an intentional differentiation in the meaning of a sentence.

However, I have occasionally seen commas around exactly. That could be what Marius explained earlier, the need for stressing / emphasizing an idea.