English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top


At some point, we all ponder the workings of consciousness; but I pinpoint two catalysts which propelled such musings to a pursuit of brain understanding. The first is the acceptance, perhaps wishfully, that understanding the brain is achievable within my lifetime.

I want to replace wishfully with something that more reflects the feeling of wanting something to be true to the extent that you believe it to be true.

Also if anyone could comment on the comma use in this statement then that would be great.

share|improve this question
Are you sure you don't mean "wistfully" here instead of "wishfully"? If not, please elaborate on what you mean by "wanting something to be true to the extent that you believe it to be true." I'm not sure what you're driving at. – Robusto Nov 30 '10 at 20:28
Well I didn't know what wistfully meant until you mentioned it. I believe that understanding who we are (actually understanding the brain) is a goal that is achievable in my life time. I am trying to qualify that belief by saying perhaps I believe it to be true because I want it to be true. – user1823 Nov 30 '10 at 20:31
It might be easier to understand if we had the previous sentence for context. It sounds as if it might be "I have three goals left to achieve". What puzzles me is the use of 'acceptance' in the context... – Jonathan Leffler Nov 30 '10 at 21:12
I went ahead and changed the quote to say "wishfully" again, because otherwise the question doesn't make sense. – Marthaª Dec 1 '10 at 0:20
How about "expectant" – malach Dec 1 '10 at 16:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Given your comment "I am trying to qualify that belief by saying perhaps I believe it to be true because I want it to be true," I might suggest optimistically or even over-optimistically in place of wishfully, depending on how much doubt you want to express.

share|improve this answer
Optimistic best conveys the sense. I would use an adjective in lieu of an adverb because, well, an adverb makes no sense here. The acceptance of the fact is optimistic, not optimistically. – Jon Purdy Dec 1 '10 at 8:18
@Jon Purdy: Good point. I was wondering why the construction sounded over-strange to my ear, and I think you've hit on it. The OP cast it as an adverb and I blithely accepted the constraint and its awkwardness in the face of the larger and still (I think) unresolved problem. As it stands, the sentence seems to beg for contradiction there, not affirmation. It is a puzzlement. – Robusto Dec 1 '10 at 12:27
Maybe "however wishful" is better? – Jon Purdy Dec 1 '10 at 17:02
What about Confident? You'd have to have some degree of belief in order to be confident (that something exists - or that something can be achieved), right? – jay_t55 Dec 7 '14 at 5:49

Longing / Desire / Hope

Definitions and examples extracted from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Longing: a strong desire especially for something unattainable

  • They looked with longing toward freedom.
  • She cast a look of longing at the shop window.
  • She never told anyone about her secret longings.

Desire: conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment

  • Desire is a common theme is music and literature.
  • The magazine tries to attend to the needs and desires of its readers.
  • Both sides feel a real desire for peace.
  • His decisions are guided by his desire for land.
  • They expressed a desire to go with us.
  • They have a desire to have children.
  • a strong desire to travel around the world
  • He was overcome with desire for her.

Hope: desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment

  • When they started their life together, they were young and full of hope.
  • Rescuers have not yet abandoned hope that more survivors will be found.
  • The drug has brought hope to thousands of sufferers.
  • We allowed ourselves to entertain hopes that the crisis would end soon.
  • The goal raised the hopes of the team.
  • The hope is that there will be a settlement soon.
  • The lawyers do not want to raise false hopes of an early settlement.
  • He told them the truth with the hope that they would understand.
  • He had little hope of attending college.
  • The latest reports hold out hope for a possible end to this crisis.

Note: I suggested nouns only because I thought that it made sense to choose another noun to follow acceptance in your sentence.

share|improve this answer

I like "wishful" very much, but "wishfully" is an adverb and "acceptance" is a noun. So I'd just change the sentence to read something like:

The first is the acceptance, though perhaps it is a wishful one, that understanding who we are is achievable in my lifetime.

Actually I don't really understand the use of the word "acceptance" here - don't you mean something like "belief"? "Acceptance" seems to imply (perhaps grudging) acquiescence that something is true.

I didn't like the second comma that Joshua added much, so I took it out. No real need to slide in a comma between a subject and its verb... it wasn't that long a sentence!

share|improve this answer
Yeah 'belief' is better. I am trying to say my acceptance of the idea. Good point about the adverb; I didn't even realise. – user1823 Dec 1 '10 at 0:08
I like wishful: "... the belief, perhaps wishful, that ..." sounds quite pleasant to me. – Remou Dec 1 '10 at 1:20

As an off-topic aside: it sounds as though you are writing a scholarly paper on the subject of consciousness. If I were you, I would definitely not want to convey that I sometimes come to believe things because I want them to be true. It's a form of magical thinking, and is generally incompatible with science and academia. That being said...

I agree that the use of "acceptance" implies that it's established fact that we will understand the brain within our lifetime. Not that we won't--just that there's no consensus on the matter. Also, I changed to past tense to parallel "propelled" in the previous sentence.

Here are some possibilities:

Maybe you feel that the belief was somewhat foolhardy:

The first was coming to believe, perhaps with undue optimism, that understanding the brain is achievable within my lifetime.

Maybe you want to describe the onset of your belief:

The first was coming to believe, gradually, but with mounting certainty, that understanding the brain is achievable within my lifetime.

Or maybe the belief was almost a guilty pleasure:

The first was allowing myself to truly believe that understanding the brain is achievable within my lifetime.

You get the idea. This slight re-structuring allows lots of room for tailoring the sentence to your liking.

share|improve this answer

Aspiration and delusion come to mind. Hopeful could work too.

As for the commas, they seem fine. You can sometimes put a comma after a long subject like yours:

The first is the acceptance, perhaps wishfully, that understanding who we are, is achievable in my lifetime.

share|improve this answer
I wouldn't a comma after "who we are" in that sentence. – Robusto Nov 30 '10 at 20:23
Meant to say "put" a comma ... – Robusto Nov 30 '10 at 20:50

Your Answer


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.