I am working on my book report assignment and I have such sentence, I am positively sure that this book is a great book. My friend is editing it and comments, "positively" is not right to use here and he suggests I should either say, "I am pretty sure that ...", or "I am positive that ...". The reason is there is no such thing as "I am negatively sure".

I am wondering if he is right.

Could you let me know how you think?

  • It's a declining usage, but I am positively sure there's no grammatical argument against the usage. But I think "It's positively huge!" is fine, where very huge is "awkward". It means [the next term is] exactly right, not needs to be "intensified". May 2 '14 at 0:37
  • ...in short, don't use positively sure if what you mean is very sure. Only use it when you mean actually and literally sure (as opposed to believe or strongly suspect, say). May 2 '14 at 0:45
  • I'm positively sure it sounds awful. When it's clear you're expressing a personal opinion rather than a fact (e.g. in a book review) just state it: This is a great book!
    – user24964
    May 2 '14 at 0:57
  • By the way, you seem to want to include the word "positive" because you want to add strength to the statement. However, the bare, unqualified form of a sentence is usually seen as rhetorically stronger than more complex constructions: say "I am sure that this is a great book" or "I am certain that this is a great book", even "This is a great book". You cannot, in general, add force to statements by piling on adverbs. May 2 '14 at 9:36
  • Further tangential advice to the OP, if you want it. Greatness is best left to history, prize committees and to the opinions of other greats. Think what you mean by great, is it: artful, accomplished, beautiful, sublime, affecting, unique, memorable, .... May 2 '14 at 9:36

Your friend is focusing on one specific definition of positive and applying it too generally. The positive/negative dichotomy is appropriate in many contexts, but this is not one.

Positively (adv) denotes certainty and its validity is not determined by its (possible) antonyms.

This is positively a legitimate use of positively.

  • @DanSheppard I'm not giving any advice on what the OP should use, but I'm curious where in my answer you read that.
    – emsoff
    May 1 '14 at 23:54
  • jboneca: I did not. I read it in the OP's question. I should have been clearer in who I was addressing: the OP. It was a tangential point which I thought best attached as a comment to a good answer. May 1 '14 at 23:56
  • 1
    @DanSheppard ah gotcha. I agree completely.
    – emsoff
    May 1 '14 at 23:59
  • @DanSheppard: It seems to me your comments should have been posted against the question, not this answer (to which they have no real relevance). Perhaps you should move them. May 2 '14 at 0:40
  • You're right. I didn't know you could do that. Sorry, I'm new here. Can I move them? May 2 '14 at 9:22

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