If I were to say "In theory, I proved my point." would that be correct? I do not see how the word theory can be applied to the past tense usage of "prove". (And I don't even know if that sentence is correct either.)
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You can say that.

Here's a little story: A guy has an argument with his wife. He says her mother comes to visit too often. She gets mad. He pulls out the calendar where he has drawn big red X's on all the days his mother-in-law has been there, demonstrating that her mother has spent 40 of the last 52 weekends with them. His wife is now even more angry, and accuses him of never liking her mother in the first place. He runs from the house and finds his friend at the neighborhood bar, and tells him what happened, and says "In theory, I proved my point." The problem is that his wife is still mad and he's still sleeping on the couch. So in this case, "in theory" means that in practice, proving his point didn't really get him anywhere. He didn't really win anything in the end.
Anonymous If I were to say "In theory, I proved my point."
The word 'theory' is normally used when you use facts or factual information to draw inference or to reach a conclusion. The same applies here. So when you state, "In theory, I proved my point", it means that you have your facts right, even though it may contradict with practical reasoning or may have no practical outcome at all. Barbara's story explains it perfectly.
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I do not understand. If the point has been proven, how can it still be a theory? In the story, his accusation that his mother-in-law comes over to much is the (or just "a" theory?) theory right? So he goes and points out that she comes over more than half of the weekends of the year, so he has proven that she does come over a lot (does it matter that he says "too much" and not "a lot"?). So since he already proved his theory, how could you say "In theory, I proved my point"?
I think it may be used in your context, with the meaning:

in theory=discussing speculatively

You may want to look at:


on examples on theory, including in theory.

See there the differences between the scientific and common usage of theory.


b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or
<the days when law and order was more of a theory than a
fact -- Seth Agnew> -- often used in the phrase in theory<the failure
in practice of what looked so promising in theory>

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"In theory" doesn't relate to the subject under discussion (the "point"): it relates to "proving the point", i.e. the mechanism of proving something.

The point (not the theory) was the she comes over too often. He did prove his point. But it just got him into more trouble with his wife. It's an idiomatic way of speaking.

If someone says that something is true "in theory" it may have more to do with how it helps or doesn't help than whether the facts are strictly true or not.
Thanks for your help, I appreciate it. I have to admit though, those last too posts were a bit over my head. I can't even tell if you are agreeing with each other or not!
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