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Hope Against Hopefully

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 2, 2008

The word hopefully is an adverb; notice the -ly, which to an adverb is analogous to the stripes on a zebra–most adverbs have them. An adverb is a word that describes a verb, so hopefully is a word that describes how something is done. Charlie Brown skipped hopefully down the street means that Charlie Brown skipped in a hopeful manner down the street; it describes the way in which he skipped. It’s an active process; in other words, it’s something that we can control.

The adverb hopefully, then, should not be used synonymously with the phrase I hope since hope, in this instance, means a wish or a desire. When we hope, the outcome is out of our control. In other words, it’s a very passive act, and using hopefully for I hope is a grammar error.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with hoping, of course; however, we always have more success when we actively pursue things than we do when we wish for the best. So, my adivce is to be active–decide to use these words correctly.


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