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Is there any difference between в общем and в общем-то, and how do they differ from вообще-то? I've always interpreted в общем(-то) as generally speaking/pretty much, and вообще-то as actually.

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В общем and в общем-то are very close indeed.

В общем-то is more like a filler word, similar to English basically or pretty much or all in all. Usually you can omit it without changing the meaning.

В общем is "generally speaking" or "in general", which sums up something you said before or something you are going to say. If you didn't say anything before and not going to add something, it could sound a little bit off.

Кофе я, в общем, люблю (and there's a "but" coming)

В общем, кофе я люблю (given everything I said above)

Кофе я, в общем-то, люблю (it has its ups and downs but overall, it's good)

Вообще-то is "actually" or "in fact". It assumes mild disagreement with the premise of the question.

— Ты ещё катаешься на своём велосипеде?

— В общем-то да.

This means "I'm not riding my bike as often as I used to, but I do take it out for a spin every now and then".

— Ты ещё катаешься на своём велосипеде?

— Вообще-то да.

This means "Yes I do, why? Do you want to borrow it from me? Not gonna happen. Do you think I'm too lazy for that? Tough luck!"

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