To my surprise I found that doubtless is used as an adverb without appending the "-ly".

Doubtless, some of you will know more examples.

It feels wrong, but then again, I am not a native speaker. Would you use it like that, or would you substitute doubtlessly here?

  • Have you checked in a dictionary? Though they still persist in labelling 'doubtless/doubtlessly' in this usage as an adverb (/sentence adverbial). A more modern and, to my mind, acceptable classification is 'pragmatic marker subset modality'. However, single-word examples of various pragmatic markers are often of the same form as adverbs, and even as flat adverbs (true; second. . .). Dec 24 '13 at 7:28
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    Have you tried the explanation that's probably in a decent usage dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage? -- In my copy of Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage (MWCDEU), there's a couple of paragraphs and usage examples for both "doubtless" and "doubtlessly" on page 279. Here's their concluding paragraph: "The choice of 'doubtless' or doubtlessly' is the writer's. Many more of them chose the former than choose the latter."
    – F.E.
    Dec 27 '13 at 8:19
  • I fail to see how doubtlessly is redundant. Doubtless as an adverb simply doesn't sound right. To say for instance "For younger fans, the impression of seeing a real-life prince will doubtless linger longer" sounds horrible to me. It appears to be poor usage of the English language. It's a bit like how many British people are now fond of saying "bath" as a verb as in, "I bath daily" when bathe is a perfectly good word that has been around for centuries. Same goes for doubtlessly. It's a word for a reason: it's there for sentences just like the ones that are being discussed. We should use it.
    – user82154
    Jun 25 '14 at 11:39
  • 1
    'It appears to you' to be poor usage, but is in fact correct. It has nothing to do with your usage of bath and bathe. People simply add the -ly because they think that is how it should be conjugated.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 25 '14 at 12:37

Doubtless means without a doubt*, so it works as an adverb (in addition to being an adjective) even though it lacks the adverbial -ly ending. The -ly ending in the adverb doubtlessly is redundant and unnecessary.

Doubtlessly is not wrong, but it can, and maybe should (?) be replaced with the shorter alternative. It addition to doubtless, there is the adverbial phrase no doubt, and there is also the slightly longer undoubtedly, which is more emphatic.

These writers use doubtless as an adverb:

For younger fans, the impression of seeing a real-life prince will doubtless linger longer.

If you asked the men involved, they would doubtless point to greed as the primary catalyst in this transformation.

If he makes it to the run-off, he would doubtless find Mr Kuczynski an easier opponent than Mr Toledo.

If you want to emphasize your lack of doubt, you can use undoubtedly

I saw no wildlife, although they undoubtedly saw me.

The threats are undoubtedly hyperbole, but how many of our bosses would put up with them?

Global warming will undoubtedly lead to global warring over resources.

Having said that, you will find doubtlessly used often enough. It's not wrong, it's only redundant. When in doubt, try doubtless.

  • 1
    A cunning ploy if it's the one where the food and drinks are. Dec 24 '13 at 14:48
  • Doesn't doubtlessly have a different (shade of) meaning? 'You will doubtless answer this question'= 'I am sure you will answer this question', while 'You will doubtlessly answer this question'= 'There you go again, answering without thinking about it'. A very subtle barb if deliberate, but unfortunate of not, Dec 26 '13 at 17:44
  • @TimLymington - if it does, I am agog. Dec 26 '13 at 20:16
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    I believe it to be redundant, unnecessary, superfluous, and extraneous, not to mention supernumerary.
    – Hellion
    Dec 26 '13 at 20:58

In support of Susan's answer, here is what Garner in Modern American Usage (p276) states:

*doubtlessly is incorrect for doubtless (a mild expression of uncertainty), no doubt (a stronger expression of certainty), or undoubtedly (the strongest of these three expressions of certainty). The word doubtless is itself an adverb. The form doubtlessly is therefore unnecessary.

In another entry Garner (p24) categorizes doubtlessly (along with seldomly and others) as a NONWORD, whose use reveals 'poor style'.

  • I see the benefit of shorter words. But it also breaks the general rule for forming adverbs by appending "-ly". Such exceptions make the language more complicated for hardly any gain. Dec 27 '13 at 7:18
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    @Erwin. Yes, it would be nice if all English adverbs ended in -ly (or better still, were the same as their adjective form as in German). In fact the adverb hardly in your comment is one that causes difficulties, as some learners assume it is the adverb form of hard: *He works hardly!
    – Shoe
    Dec 27 '13 at 7:23

Using doubtless can make a sentence sound like it is in need of a new set of shock absorbers but it is efficient and correct and can even bring about a little subtle levity. For those who feel that it sounds just plain wrong, compare it with another -ly-less adverb, regardless. I've never observed anyone write or say "regardlessly."

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