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As the equivalent of Enlgish "Oh really?" / "Yes really." as lone utterances I seem to hear both "本当" (hontō) and "本当に" (hontō-ni) in Japanese - is there a difference?

It seems that hontō is a noun and -ni changes it into an adverb but that this doesn't really matter for the purpose of such simple utterances. Am I thinking along the right lines?

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My favorite way of saying "What, really?" is 「本当に本当!?」 >^.^< –  silvermaple Jan 19 '12 at 21:59
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

本当, being an adj-な, asks if a situation is real. 本当に, being an adverb, asks if an action is real.

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Could you give an example of what you mean by a situation and by an action, because I don't think there's a distinction as to whether you need に with your 本当 or not. –  Matti Virkkunen Jun 1 '11 at 9:17
Your friend points a camera at you and pushes the button, but no familiar "shutter" sound is emitted. 「写真を撮った。」「本当に?」「見て、写真が在る。」「本当だ!」 –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 1 '11 at 9:21
(1) I find no difference in meaning between “本当?” and “本当に?” when they are sentences by themselves. I would equally say “本当?” in your example instead of “本当に?” (2) This is an aside, but the word 本当 is not a na-adjective but a noun in the standard language. In other words, the form 本当な is nonstandard. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 1 '11 at 12:39
jisho.org claims that it is an adj-な, and I'm willing to believe it. Perhaps it is not often used as one though. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 1 '11 at 12:43
@Ignacio: My Japanese dictionary doesn't even mention「本当な」... –  Alenanno Jun 1 '11 at 13:31
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There is no difference in utterances for both words, if you speak those alone.

But if you add some words after that, you might need to use "本当に~" to get correct grammar.

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