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I am studying for the SAT, and I learned just now that the following sentence is grammatically incorrect:

Hopefully, we will be able to complete the building before the rainy season sets in.

The reason why it's incorrect is given in my study book: hopefully is an adverb, and yet it is not modifying a verb in this sentence.

I don't see how this is the case, because hopefully is modifying the verb complete. And why is that according to Google Dictionary, the following sentence is correct:

Hopefully, it should be finished by next year.

marked as duplicate by Mitch, Drew, choster, Tushar Raj, Hellion May 26 '15 at 16:26

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  • 1
    It's modifying the whole clause, not just the 'verb complete'. And you better find a new study book, because the author of this one clearly did not understand either English or grammar. – John Lawler May 22 '15 at 18:10
  • Sentence adverbs are perfectly legal "Lately, I've come to appreciate the follies of youth". But 'hopefully' is problematic. Some people say that it should only be used to modify a verb directly or that you should just say 'I hope...' instead. Others say it is OK. Grammar Girl has the best advice to help you on SATs but not necessarily real life. I guess the editor at the New Yorker might have a tiz fit if you used it as a sentence adverb; they also avoid splitting very splittable infinitives. – Mitch May 22 '15 at 18:23
  • Which is a long way to say, on SATs you probably don't want to use 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb, but most everywhere else is OK with that. Hopefully. – Mitch May 22 '15 at 18:24
  • Guideline: if it's widely used and well-understood by English speakers, it's correct. The reactionary grammarians will catch up with reality eventually. – Joffan May 22 '15 at 18:25

The case of hopefully is a bit different here.

It is a sentence adverb, a disjunct. It is modifying the whole sentence. Rather than in a hopeful manner, it means it is hoped in this case.


Oxford's dictionary entry states this meaning and usage as valid, though it warns that some people think it is incorrect:

Although this is the most common use of hopefully, it is a fairly new use and some people think it is not correct.

It is worth noting that this usage has been accepted by oxford. See this article.

...the acceptance of hopefully when used as a sentence adverb. That is to say, the AP Stylebook no longer considers the use of hopefully to mean ‘it is hoped’ (as opposed to the less common meaning of ‘in a hopeful manner’) to be a sin worthy of stoning.

I think all but the most pedantic of speakers would accept this usage as correct.

  • Amen. I remember this usage being excoriated in my youth, but I thought that the opponents had all died off. I don't like it myself, but we lost the Hundred Years' War as well and learned to live with it. – David Pugh May 22 '15 at 20:57
  • @DavidPugh; Good to hear. I've always wondered: why hopefully? Out of all the sentence adverbs, why single this one out for persecution? Anyway, nobody in the Indian subcontinent raises an eyebrow, so... – Tushar Raj May 22 '15 at 21:00
  • @DavidPugh: Speaking of continents, which one are you on these days? – Tushar Raj May 22 '15 at 21:00
  • Europe. Still enjoying the amenities.... – David Pugh May 22 '15 at 21:08
  • @DavidPugh: Cool. Nobody should have to spend a single day without wifi. – Tushar Raj May 22 '15 at 21:11

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