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WRITING: GRAMMAR: Usage of "Hopefully"

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18 June 2009, 11:40 PM   #1
Joined: 11 Mar 2009
Posts: 212
copied entirely from Wikipedia:

Usage of "hopefully"
In the last forty years or so, controversy has arisen over the proper usage of the adverb
hopefully.[2] Some grammarians objected when they first encountered constructions such as
"Hopefully, the sun will be shining tomorrow." Their complaint stems from the fact that
the term "hopefully" dangles, and can be understood to describe either the speaker's state
of mind, or the manner in which the sun will shine. It was no longer just an adverb
modifying a verb, an adjective or another adverb, but conveniently also one that modified
the whole sentence, in order to convey the attitude of the speaker.

Grammatically speaking, "hopefully" used in this way is a sentence adverb (cf.
"admittedly", "mercifully", "oddly"). For example, most listeners will interpret
"Hopefully, John got home last night" as meaning that the speaker hopes that John arrived
home last night, not that John got home last night in a hopeful manner. "Hopefully", used
in this way, is thus reminiscent of the German "hoffentlich", which also means "it is to
be hoped that...". Sentence adverbs are useful in colloquial speech, which benefits from
the concision they permit. Per Bernstein's Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins[3]:

No other word in English expresses that thought. In a single word we can say it is
regrettable that (regrettably) or it is fortunate that (fortunately) or it is lucky that
(luckily), and it would be comforting if there were such a word as hopably or, as
suggested by Follett, hopingly, but there isn't. [...] In this instance nothing is to be
lost—the word would not be destroyed in its primary meaning—and a useful, nay
necessary term is to be gained.

What had been expressed in lengthy adverbial constructions, such as "it is regrettable
that …" or "it is fortunate that …", had of course always been shortened to the
adverbs "regrettably" or "fortunately". Bill Bryson says, "... 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".[4] What has changed, however, in the
controversy over "hopefully" being used for "he was hoping that ...", or "she was full of
hope that ...", is that the original clause was transferred from the speaker, as a kind of
shorthand to the subject itself, as though "it" had expressed the hope. ("Hopefully, the
sun will be shining".) Although this still expressed the speaker's hope "that the sun will
be shining" it may have caused a certain disorientation as to who was expressing what when
it first appeared. As time passes, this controversy will fade as the usage becomes
increasingly accepted, especially since such adverbs as "mercifully", "gratefully", and
"thankfully" are similarly used.

Merriam-Webster gives a usage note on its entry for "hopefully" in which the
editors point out that the disjunct sense of the word dates to the early 18th century and
had been in widespread use since at least the 1930s. Objection to this sense of the word,
they state, only became widespread in the 1960s. The editors maintain that this usage is
"entirely standard".[5]

Yet the choice of "regrettably" above as a counterexample points out an additional
problem. At the time that objection to "hopefully" became publicized, grammar books
relentlessly pointed out the distinction between "regrettably" and "regretfully". The
latter is not to be used as a sentence adverb, it must refer to the subject of the
sentence; its misuse produces more deplorable results than "hopefully", and may have
furthered disdain for the latter. No one added the counterpart *hopeably to the language.

19 June 2009, 12:27 AM   #2
Guest Poster
You should do one for YOUR and YOU'RE

20 June 2009, 11:18 AM    #3
Guest Poster
I'm bad at YOUR and YOU'RE
But I know the difference.

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