Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is "must certainly" redundant or incorrect? Or is it a valid way to stress the certainty of "must"?

Examples:

You must be wrong.

You must certainly be wrong.

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

"You must be wrong." - Implies no doubt or even the possibility of doubt. It's a politer or softer way of saying "You are wrong"

"You must certainly be wrong." - "certainly" emphasizes the belief of the speaker that the other person is wrong. However, depending on intonation, it could also be lessening the strength of "must" even further. ("Certainly, he couldn't be that fast? Could he?" vs "He certainly isn't that fast")

share|improve this answer
1  
Exactly. The spoken language is the real language, and it determines everything. And redundancy is a feature, not a bug. –  John Lawler Mar 17 at 14:55

May sound redundant, but not incorrect. Probably used more spoken then written. You must really go. You must absolutely wait for me.

share|improve this answer
    
The adverb (absolutely, or certainly) effectively modifies "must" in these examples, I think. It's just a way of stressing the imperative in these sentences. –  Carl Witthoft Mar 17 at 11:37
    
@Carl Witthoft: I'd say its function is pragmatic (as in msam's answer) not semantic – so I'd call it a pragmatic marker (hedge, or emphasiser, depending on intonation) not an adverb. It doesn't modify must in a meaningful sense, but adds embroidery to the whole statement. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 at 15:21

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.