Suppose there are 3 paintings for sale in a gallery, all at the same price, and you have examined them thoroughly. You say:

I most likely want to buy the first one, and secondly likely want to buy the second one & thirdly likely want to buy the third one.

Is it OK to say something like that? If it is not OK, then how should I express that information?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Kris, anongoodnurse, Edwin Ashworth, Chenmunka, bib Oct 6 '14 at 13:34

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    'I'd most like to date the first one; the second one would be my second choice, and the third one my third choice' deals with the grammar and phraseology. The pragmatics is irredeemable. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '14 at 6:53
  • and my reply is you would not refer to any by the impersonal one; so to me you have concentrated on the relative terms only without addressing the full sentence. It also seems you have assumed the presence of a third party. I'll admit that I have only an inkling of what "The pragmatics is irredeemable." means. – Used_By_Already Oct 6 '14 at 7:03
  • @ Used_By_Already I'm basically saying that 'you' should not say anything like this in the presence of people who are likely to be offended. This is a question that needs severe recasting. I'll edit. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '14 at 7:42
  • There are three bachelors in front of me: the first one is very rich and most likely he's a playboy; the second one however is very tall and handsome, more likely than not, I'd choose him for myself. The third bachelor out of the three is the least likely to get laid. – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 '14 at 7:44
  • You REALLY should wait for other answers before awarding a poster's answer. Raestloz's not bad and the best out of the three, but it's not the best solution. – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 '14 at 7:52

You don't use "secondly likely", instead you use "second most likely".

You may also use "most likely, less likely, and even less likely" for that, but I can't imagine a situation where you want to say this in front of the very girls you're categorizing, they might end up changing that sentence to "most likely got slapped by"

EDIT: The above paragraph was written (typed?) before the question was edited.

There are other ways to express ascending/descending priority such as this case. For example:

  • "If I have to choose, I'd take the left one, if that's not available I'd take the middle, if that's not available too I'd take the right one"
  • "To me the left painting is the best, middle painting the second best, right painting the third"
  • "I prefer left painting over the other paintings, and I prefer the middle painting over the right one"

If you insist on using "most likely", then you can either use descending or ascending style:

  • "most likely, second most likely, third most likely" - descending
  • "most likely, less likely, even less likely" - descending
  • "likely, more likely, most likely" - ascending
  • "likely, more likely, even more likely" - ascending
  • Answers need to address the fact that 'I most likely want to' should be replaced by 'I'd most like to ...' etc.. See comment under prgSRR's answer. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '14 at 6:45
  • @EdwinAshworth I personally do not see why you should put would before most. Far as I see the usage here does not warrant it. This is because "I want to date the first one" is already correct, adding most likely does not warrant adding would, especially since in the hypothetical situation presented, the girls are already standing before him, not just, say, in photos. He's making a decision for right that instant instead of a plan for the future – Raestloz Oct 6 '14 at 7:22
  • 'I most likely want to' doesn't make sense. It's almost as bad as saying 'I most likely have two arms'. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '14 at 7:33
  • Tricky situation. Could you add an edit and explain how you would approach the "new" and less offensive situation? That way the original answer, which gained two upvotes would still remain intact, but your edit would address the question as it stands now. – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 '14 at 8:03
  • @Mari-LouA I'd still use the same approach, but it's true that there are other ways to express the same concept. – Raestloz Oct 6 '14 at 8:09

Secondly likely and Thirdly likely would have been appropriate descriptions if you had begun the sentence with First(ly) likely. Which is not the case here... :)

So if you have one object/event being described as Most Likely then the other objects/events in comparison should be described as Less Likely and Lesser Likely and Even Lesser Likely and so on.

Now that was for diminishing order of likelihood (High-Low). You could also do it the other way around, in increasing order of likelihood (Low-High). That will perhaps sound more straight forward.

Example: I would likely want to date the third girl, more likely want to date the second one, most likely want to date the first one.

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    'I most likely want to date' is ridiculous. 'I would most likely want to date' might work, but the conditional needs a condition: 'I would most likely want to date were I not already married' say. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 '14 at 6:44

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