You've most certainly heard this:

Chances are, he overslept this morning.

I realize the comma is a splice, but it's there only to emphasize the pause that usually accompanies it. When written out, it should probably look like this:

Chances are he overslept this morning.

However, when you read into it, it doesn't make any sense. I would say that using such a clause is grammatically incorrect. Instead, I believe people should be saying:

The chances are high that he overslept this morning.

Am I correct?

  • Five For Fighting - Chances lyrics // Chances are when said and done // Who'll be the lucky ones // Who make it all the way? // Though you say I could be your answer // Nothing lasts forever // No matter how it feels today. /// – user21497 Jan 27 '13 at 2:51
  • CHANCES ARE LYRICS - JOHNNY MATHIS // Chances are 'cause I wear a silly grin // The moment you come into view, // Chances are you think that I'm in love with you. // Just because my composure sort of slips // The moment that your lips meet mine, // Chances are you think my heart's your Valentine. – user21497 Jan 27 '13 at 2:51
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    Why are you quoting song lyrics? Song/poetry lyrics are almost never gramatically correct. – oscilatingcretin Jan 27 '13 at 2:56
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    Because people use the language the way they use it, & most poetry & song lyrics are (but may be stupid) grammatically correct (as those in the quotes are. I don't know where you get the idea that Song/poetry lyrics are almost never gramatically [sic] correct. Not from any examination of reality, that's for sure). In any case, unless you're asking about formal writing, the kind used for academic journals, it doesn't matter whether "Chances are" is grammatically correct. All that matters is whether the reader/listener understands what you're saying. It's strictly a style choice. – user21497 Jan 27 '13 at 3:16
  • While we're being pedantic: is most certainly short for almost certainly (which is at least as informal as Chances are) or is it intensifying certain, in which case it suffers from the most unique problem? – Tim Lymington Jan 27 '13 at 15:33

In formal writing, the sentence would appear in its full form as The chances are that he overslept this morning. In the form Chances are, he overslept this morning it will normally only be found in speech, or in the most informal writing, where we frequently contract what would be found in more formal contexts. That doesn't make it ungrammatical. It makes it informal. Any who condemn informal language are insensitive to the great variation possible in English and the ability of the language to adapt itself to meet the varying needs of its speakers.

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  • +1 I think you've nailed it. And in fact, I think that bare Chances are would be acceptable in many formal contexts. I for one would not hesitate to use it in an academic LitCrit article; but the humanities are less rigid than other disciplines. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 27 '13 at 15:04

Your final sentence is more correct, but the first one with the comma could also be used in this situation, but in a more casual setting. If you were speaking/writing formally, you'd probably use the last one.

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  • Regardless whether or not the setting is casual, grammar is grammar. It is still grammatically incorrect to say, "I ain't got no money" while hanging out with your friends at the mall on a Saturday afternoon. – oscilatingcretin Jan 27 '13 at 2:48
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    @os: OMG! You're even more of a pedant than the peevish pedants here, and I'm one of them. Does anybody else really care? amanda witt's answer is correct. All three sentences are grammatically correct, but the first two are casual and in an informal register that isn't allowed in decent blue-nosed academic journals. Grammaticality isn't black & white in every case. Sometimes it's grey. And sometimes it's disputed. "Grammar is grammar" is a vacuous statement: all tautologies are. – user21497 Jan 27 '13 at 3:21
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    I'd go farther: there's no 'degree of correctness' here, and "Chances are he overslept" is entirely grammatical. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 27 '13 at 15:08

'Chances are' is usually immediately followed by that, and I don't think it's grammatically incorrect. If you look here, it says that 'chances are that' is an equivalent of 'the likelihood is' and they both sound correct.

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