Is the word "hopefully" unjustly treated? It appears that the following sentence is frowned upon:

"Hopefully, my ship is just over the horizon and due in real soon now."

But we don't mind saying:

"Happily, the tree fell on that eyesore shed."
"Sadly, the swallows have not returned."

Why is "hopefully" treated mercilessly and so unwelcome at the adverb party?

ObJoke: From The New Yorker a few years ago, to illustrate proper use of "hopefully:"

Dad (shaving):   Ouch! Damn!
Son:             What's wrong?
Dad:             I cut my chin!
Son (hopefully): Off?
  • 1
    Related: What's the correct usage of “hopefully”?
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 23:40
  • 1
    Where do you see that hopefully is "despised" and, so, less used? (if I got what you mean)...
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 23:43
  • @Alenanno -- yes, despised. And rejected. Commented May 5, 2011 at 23:55
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    I think Alenanno is asking where it is despised. As in, why do you think it is?
    – MrHen
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 0:14
  • 2
    @MrHen got what I was asking... Where did you felt/see it despised/rejected? In which situation/place/etc?
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 0:32

4 Answers 4


I don't see anything wrong with the first example sentence using hopefully

"Hopefully, my ship is just over the horizon and due in real soon now."

In fact, I don't see why hopefully can't be used in place of any of the other adverbs in the other sentences mentioned.

IMHO, hopefully is welcome at all the adverb parties that I will be throwing.

-EDIT- To cite the related answer on this site about this usage of the word..

"It is prevalent enough to be considered correct"


Actually, there is nothing at all wrong with it. The usually laconic NOAD devotes an entire usage note to it:

hopefully |ˈhōpfəlē| adverb 1 in a hopeful manner : he rode on hopefully. 2 [ sentence adverb ] it is to be hoped that : hopefully, it should be finished by next year.

USAGE The traditional sense of hopefully, ‘in a hopeful manner’ ( : he stared hopefully at the trophy), has been used since 1593. The first recorded use of hopefully as a sentence adverb, meaning ‘it is to be hoped that’ ( : hopefully, we'll see you tomorrow), appears in 1702 in the : Magnalia Christi Americana, written by Massachusetts theologian and writer Cotton Mather. This use of hopefully is now the most common one. [Emphasis Robusto] Sentence adverbs in general ( : frankly,: honestly,: regrettably,: seriously) are found in English since at least the 1600s, and their use has become common in recent decades. However, most traditionalists take the view that all sentence adverbs are inherently suspect. Although they concede that the battle over hopefully is lost on the popular front, they continue to withhold approval of its use as a sentence adverb. Attentive ears are particularly bothered when the sentence that follows does not match the promise of the introductory adverb, as when frankly is followed not by an expression of honesty but by a self-serving proclamation ( : frankly, I don't care if you go or not).

What NOAD politely calls "traditionalists" are the same people who fuss over non-issues like ending sentences with prepositions and the like. And if the word has been used in this sense for three centuries, one wonders how far back one needs to go to appeal to "tradition" of usage.


Note that "Sadly, the swallows have not returned" can be rephrased as "It is sad that the swallows have not returned": both have approximately the same meaning.

We can probably also rephrase "Happily, the tree fell on that eyesore shed" as "It is happy that the tree fell on that eyesore shed" (although "it is happy that..." is not used very often, it seems barely possible to me).

We definitely can't rephrase "Hopefully, my ship is just over the horizon and due in real soon now" as "*It is hopeful that my ship is just over the horizon and due in real soon now."

So there does seem to be a real difference between "hopefully" and "sadly" or "happily". Of course, this does not demonstrate that it is "incorrect" to use "hopefully" this way, but I think it weakens your argument that people who have a pet peeve about the use of "hopefully" as a sentence adverb are being inconsistent by not condemning the use of "sadly" and "happily".


Hopefully is a cop-out word- if you do have hope, then say it; if you don't, then say "with luck," or "perhaps"- as Kingsley Amis < http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kings-English-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141194316/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399861298&sr=8-1&keywords=king%27s+english > observed, the person who uses it as a sentence adverb/disjunct “..can't say ‘I hope’ because that would imply that he has surrendered control of events; he can't really use J.F.Kennedy's favourite, ‘I am hopeful that,’ without being J.F.Kennedy; he can't say ‘with luck,’ which is all he means; so he says ‘hopefully’ and basks in a fraudulent glow of confidence.” It is also different from other disjuncts in that it can cause ambiguity in syntax, or sentence construction: Ernest Gowers and Bruce Fraser in Plain Words < http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Plain-Words-Ernest-Gowers/dp/0140511997/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1399793968&sr=8-2&keywords=gowers+plain+words > give this example: "Our team will start their innings hopefully immediately after tea." This is what is called a squinting modifier < http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/squinterm.htm > (perhaps that should be more PC and say visually challenged modifier): are they starting hopefully, or are we speculating that it may occur at a certain time? Consider also the 1962 speech of JFK when he threatened the Russians to take their missiles out of Cuba- potential WWIII situation. Here's the closing of his speech: "Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right -- not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.Thank you and good night." Consider how gutless it would sound if "we hope" was replaced by the flaccid "hopefully." We might all be cinders now. Words matter.

  • 'Hopefully' doesn't mean what you think it means anymore.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 1:38
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    Do you mean "Hopefully,'hopefully' doesn't mean what you think it means anymore." See how weak your statement is? Cf "I hope that 'hopefully' doesn't mean what you think it means anymore." Own your ideas, don't weasel out from under them. Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 23:50
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    I don't know what you're talking about with respect to 'weak'. You are talking about your personal preferred writing style, rather than lexical semantics. Your writing suggestions may be better received on Writers.SE. Wait...are you ... imagining something I didn't say and then complaining about that?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 23:59
  • Bad logic from OED, but you get the picture-"The traditional sense of hopefully, ‘in a hopeful manner’, has been used since the 17th century. In the second half of the 20th century a new use as a sentence adverb became established, meaning ‘it is to be hoped that’, as in hopefully, we'll see you tomorrow. This second use is now very much commoner than the first use, but it is still believed by some people to be incorrect. Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 6:54

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