- "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." Seventy or eighty years ago that sentence by Robert Louis Stevenson would have suggested only one interpretation: that it is better to travel filled with hope than to actually reach your destination. Today, however, it could also be read as meaning "to travel is, I hope, better than to arrive."This extended sense of hopefully has been condemned with some passion by many authorities, among them Philip Howard, who calls it "ambiguous and obscure, as well as illiterate and ugly." Many others, notably Bernstein and Gowers, accept it, though usually only grudgingly and often with restrictions attached.Most of those who object to hopefully in its looser sense do so on the argument that it is a misused modal auxiliary-that is to say, that it fails to modify the elements it should. Take the sentence "Hopefully the sun will come out soon." As constructed, this sentence suggests (at least to a literal-minded person) that it is the sun whose manner is hopeful, not yours or mine. After all, you would hardly say, "Believably the sun will come out soon" if you believed it might, or "Thinkingly the sun will come out soon" if you thought as much.The shortcoming of this argument is that those writers who scrupulously avoid hopefully in such constructions do not hesitate to use at least a dozen other words-apparently, presumably, happily, sadly, mercifully, thankfully, and so on-in precisely the same way. In Paradigms Lost, the American critic John Simon roundly disdained the looser hopefully, yet elsewhere he wrote, "Marshall Sahlins, who professes anthropology at the University of Chicago, errs some fifteen times in an admittedly long piece." That admittedly is every bit as unattached as any hopefully ever was.To accept the one while excusing the other is, I submit, curious and illogical and more than a little reminiscent of those Victorian purists who insisted that laughable should be laugh-at-able and that grammatical virtue would be served by turning reliable into relionable.There are, however, two other grounds for regarding the unattached hopefully with suspicion. The first is that, as in the Stevenson quotation at the beginning of this entry, it introduces a possibility of ambiguity. Gowers cites this sentence in reference to a cricket match: "Our team will start their innings hopefully immediately after tea." It isn't possible to say whether hopefully refers to the teams frame of mind or to the time it will start batting.A second objection is to the lameness of the word. If a newspaper editorial says, "Hopefully the actors' strike will end today," who exactly is doing the hoping? The writer? The actors? All right-minded people? Too often the word is used as no more than an easy escape from taking direct responsibility for a sentiment and as such is better avoided.
Dictionary of troublesome word. Bill Bryson. 2013.
Look at other dictionaries:
hopefully — 1. This has been used since the 17c as a straightforward adverb of manner: • As lovers do, as lovers will, they travelled hopefully to Paris Maurice Gee, 1985 • Out on the corridor, Nurse Bodkin was hovering hopefully near a suspended piece of… … Modern English usage
Hopefully — Hope ful*ly, adv. 1. In a hopeful manner. [PJC] 2. I hope; if all goes well; as, hopefully, the dress will be ready before the party. Note: Some prescriptivists object to this usage as being ungrammatical, but it is very common and well… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
hopefully — hopefully; un·hopefully; … English syllables
hopefully — ► ADVERB 1) in a hopeful manner. 2) it is to be hoped that. USAGE The traditional sense of hopefully is ‘in a hopeful manner’. In the 20th century a new use arose, with the meaning ‘it is to be hoped that’. Although this newer use is now very… … English terms dictionary
hopefully — [hōp′fəl ē] adv. 1. in a hopeful manner 2. it is to be hoped (that) [to leave early, hopefully by six] … English World dictionary
hopefully — 1630s, in a hopeful manner, from HOPEFUL (Cf. hopeful) + LY (Cf. ly) (2). As a replacement for the admittedly awkward it is to be hoped that attested from 1932 but avoided by careful writers … Etymology dictionary
hopefully — adverb 1) he rode on hopefully Syn: optimistically, full of hope, confidently, buoyantly, sanguinely; expectantly 2) hopefully it will finish soon Syn: if all goes well, God willing, with luck, with any luck; most l … Thesaurus of popular words
hopefully — /hohp feuh lee/, adv. 1. in a hopeful manner: We worked hopefully and energetically, thinking we might finish first. 2. it is hoped; if all goes well: Hopefully, we will get to the show on time. [1630 40; HOPEFUL + LY] Usage. Although some… … Universalium
hopefully — adverb Date: 1593 1. in a hopeful manner 2. it is hoped ; I hope ; we hope < hopefully the rain will end soon > Usage: In the 1960s the second sense of hopefully, which dates to the early 18th century and had been in fairly widespread use since… … New Collegiate Dictionary
hopefully — [[t]ho͟ʊpfʊli[/t]] ADV: ADV with cl/group You say hopefully when mentioning something that you hope will happen. Some careful speakers of English think that this use of hopefully is not correct, but it is very frequently used. Both of them have… … English dictionary