clearly vs. evidently

zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
clearly vs. evidently - are they interchangeable and do they mean the same? Is 'evidently' stronger?

A: Hmm, something is missing in the package. I guess there is no protective case.
B: Well, the package had evidently/clearly been opened by the customs officers, so they might have lost or stolen it.
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    What is B trying to express? Is he/she certain the customs officers opened the package, or does he/she only think that it seems that way?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Evidently is a conclusion based on evidence that is strong but not 100%.

    Clearly is based on evidence so strong that it appears to be indisputable. It doesn't even seem like a conclusion.

    Evidently can be secondhand knowledge. Clearly is generally based on first hand evidence or reasoning.

    Example:
    You come home to find that one of the windows in your house is broken. You ask your son what happened.

    "Something happened?" he asks.

    "Clearly, the window is broken," you reply. Your evidence is the hole in the glass and the glass pieces scattered about.

    Your son says he doesn't know what happened. So you go talk to your neighbor and come back and tell your son, "Evidently, some boys were throwing rocks and one of them broke the window." You don't have first hand evidence of this, you can't prove it happened, but that's what your neighbor told you and you have no reason to doubt them.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I don't think evidently is ambiguous. It clearly means that there is evidence to justify the stated conclusion.
    It is only indirectly ambiguous in the sense that we don't know whether the conclusion is correct because we don't know whether the evidence is kosher or "fake news".

    Clearly, on the other hand, is what we might call self-evident.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Does either work? Say we see someone groaning.

    "He must evidently/clearly be in pain"
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    They don't work too well with "must be". I'd use "is".
    Both would work. He might be groaning while pretending to be in pain, or because someone told an awful joke.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Does either work? Say we see someone groaning.

    "He must evidently/clearly be in pain"
    I saw him taking an aspirin. He is evidently in pain. (Actually, he takes an aspirin everyday for his heart condition but I didn't know that.)
    I saw the grimace on his face and heard him scream. He is clearly in pain.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how would these two differ?

    A: Did you see that guy lose his balance and fall down?
    B: Yeah, he is evidently/clearly drunk.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Say I bought a used car and notice some scratches around the cup holders. I guess I need to use "clearly", don't I? However, would "evidently" sound off?

    The previous owner clearly drank lots of coffee.
    The previous owner evidently drank lots of coffee.


    1651824946615.png
     

    CaptainZero

    Senior Member
    English
    Either word would be fine in that context. The word you chose would depend on whether you thought it was a definite thing, or just a likely thing.
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    Say I bought a used car and notice some scratches around the cup holders. I guess I need to use "clearly", don't I? However, would "evidently" sound off?

    The previous owner clearly drank lots of coffee.
    The previous owner evidently drank lots of coffee.
    How do you know that it was coffee they drank, it could be tea, chocolate, or any other kind of beverage.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I made this up. Does it work?

    A: Hey, look. Your car has clearly been scratched.
    B: Damn it. My neighbour’s child was evidently riding his bike in my driveway again.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's not the best logic ever but the grammar is fine.

    It is a little more formal than I would expect. “My neighbor's child“ isn't very casual and I'd probably expect evidently in a somewhat less causal setting.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    It's weird in that I don't know why A would add the word "clearly" in there. Grammatically it's ok but it's not a normal dialogue.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I made this up. Does it work?

    A: Hey, look. Your car has clearly been scratched.
    [...]
    The part above seems unlikely to me. The car has either been scratched or it hasn't. You could in theory have a disagreement about whether certain marks were in fact scratches, but then you wouldn't start it by saying "Hey, look."
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I see. So say someone notices what they think is another scratch. They're not sure 100% whether it was present before.

    A: Hey, look. Your car's clearly been scratched again.
    B: Damn it. My neighbour’s child was evidently riding his bike in my driveway again.
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I made this up. Does it work?

    A: Hey, look. Your car has clearly been scratched.
    B: Damn it. My neighbour’s child was evidently riding his bike in my driveway again.
    As others pointed out, it's grammatically fine, but somewhat stiff and unrealistic.
    In regular US colloquial neighborly English that I would speak, assuming A is a friend or acquaintance who doesn't know who my neighbor or his kid might be:

    A: Hey, looks like someone scratched your car.
    B: Damn it. I bet it was my neighbor's kid. He's always riding his bike in my driveway.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    As others pointed out, it's grammatically fine, but somewhat stiff and unrealistic.
    I'm looking for a scenario where 'clearly' and 'evidently' would idiomatically be used in a short coversation like the one I made up. Can you help please?
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I'm looking for a scenario where 'clearly' and 'evidently' would be used. Can you help please?
    Just... any scenario? I think you've gotten good explanations here so far. "Clearly" expresses a greater sense of certainty or conviction than "evidently," with this latter word also being more formal/less likely in conversation.

    Imagine I went on a date with a girl, then I try calling her over the next few days and she doesn't answer, nor does she call back.

    She's not returning my calls. Clearly she's trying to avoid me. = "In my mind, it is obviously the case that her not returning my calls means she's trying to avoid me."

    She's not returning my calls. Evidently she's trying to avoid me. = "It is apparently the case that/it seems logical to conclude that her not answering my calls means she's trying to avoid me."
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    She's not returning my calls. Evidently she's trying to avoid me. = "It is apparently the case that/it seems logical to conclude that her not answering my calls means she's trying to avoid me."
    So do these three mean more or less the same?

    She's not returning my calls. Evidently she's trying to avoid me.
    She's not returning my calls. Apparently she's trying to avoid me.
    She's not returning my calls. Looks like she's trying to avoid me.
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    So do these three mean more or less the same?

    She's not returning my calls. Evidently she's trying to avoid me.
    She's not returning my calls. Apparently she's trying to avoid me.
    She's not returning my calls. Looks like she's trying to avoid me.
    I would say so, yes.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Someone used "evidently" in this sentence: "The book was titled "Liber Primus", meaning "First Book" in Latin, and was evidently written by Cicida".

    Apart from "apparently" or "looks like", would "most probably" work too?

    1664824574204.png
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    They're all grammatically correct, but the original is the most idiomatic in the context. "Most probably" has a slightly different meaning from the other three.

    The book was evidently written by Cicada.:tick:
    The book was apparently written by Cicada. :thumbsup:
    It looks like the book was written by Cicada. :thumbsdown:
    The book was most probably written by Cicada. :thumbsup:
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Someone used "evidently" in this sentence: "The book was titled "Liber Primus", meaning "First Book" in Latin, and was evidently written by Cicida".

    Apart from "apparently" or "looks like", would "most probably" work too?
    Consider the word "evidence", which is obviously related to "evidently." We make conclusions based on certain "evidence" before us. It depends on the nature and quality of the evidence, as well as our own discernment, whether we can just that something is "apparently" the case vs. "most probably" the case.

    In this video, I assume the speaker means, "This book was apparently written by Cicada, because the circumstances surrounding it suggest as much, and there is nothing to indicate it wasn't written by Cicada."

    I would hesitate to say it means "most probably", however. If the speaker had said, "This was most probably written by Cicada", I would expect that the speaker had done some research specifically to support this conjecture, comparing known writings by Cicada to this one, for example, or having some other in-depth knowledge that would allow them to confidently make this judgment.
     
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    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    You could in theory have a disagreement about whether certain marks were in fact scratches,
    Yes, this is the only car-scratching scenario I can think of where I'd say "clearly".

    Look, there's a scratch on the car.
    No, I don't think so - that looks like it will wash off.
    No, seriously, look! You can see the metal. That's clearly a scratch!

    You'd change your intonation on the word "clearly" and it could be exchanged with the word "obviously" without changing the meaning at all. It shows some exasperation with the other person.

    "evidently," with this latter word also being more formal/less likely in conversation.
    Yes, I think you should drop "evidently" from your conversational vocabulary :)
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Look, there's a scratch on the car.
    No, I don't think so - that looks like it will wash off.
    No, seriously, look! You can see the metal. That's clearly a scratch!
    Does "obviously" work as well?
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    By the way, how can non-natives not be confused if Longman says they are synonyms? Thank you all for making things clearer.


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    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    You will find it less confusing if you understand that synonyms are approximations. They rarely have exactly the same meaning.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The gloss I would put on it is that "evidently" has to do with evidence and "clearly" with clarity.
    On the basis that evidence is often vague and therefore unclear and inconclusive, I would assign a lower level of confidence to "evidently" than to "clearly".
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It seems to me, evidently is a conclusion from something you learned from a source whereas clearly is either more about a direct observation or often used with an opinion.

    - Clearly, the man is an idiot. (My opinion)
    - Evidently, the man is an idiot. (Someone else told me he was an idiot and I don't have any reason to distrust them)

    "The book was titled "Liber Primus", meaning "First Book" in Latin, and was evidently written by Cicida"

    There is no reason to believe the person saying this sentence has done extensive personal research. They are simply summarizing the existing scholarly consensus, which is that Cicida is the author. They have no reason to distrust that consensus.

    Scenario1:
    I am watching you change the oil in your car.

    I say: "Clearly, this is the first time you've done this."

    I have formed a firm opinion based on personal observation.

    Scenario 2:

    You are telling someone else a story about how your cousin ruined his car by doing an oil change wrong.

    You say: "Evidently, he had never done it before."

    You got this information from the person who told you the story. You can't personally say if that's true or false but you have no reason to believe your source was lying.
     
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