Grammar Log #1…

Otherwise known as the Department of Broken Records. Here’s the explanation of the problem with hopefully offered by Paul Yeager at Everything Language and Grammar.

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.

For the record, there isn’t 100% agreement about this usage. Dr. Grammar at The University of Northern Iowa says

Hopefully is a sentence adverb that has raised the hackles of some conservatives, but probably its overuse has made most of the trouble; it had been a perfectly good sentence adverb for generations before the recent objections were heard. Those who don’t like it usually urge that I hope that or It is hoped that be used instead, but hopefully is in fact Standard (Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English).

To save ourselves time and trouble in future, grammarians who object to the use of hopefully can simply point to Grammar Log #1.

If you’ve got a usage note you’d like to see blogged here, bring it up at a club meeting or write about it on the About page.

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Respond to Grammar Log #1…

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