I was wondering about this following sentence. Could anyone please help me with it? Please look at the following:

She was surprisingly happy to see me.

I know that she was happy to see me. But what is troubling me is this: Who was surprised here? Was I surprised or was she surprised?

And also how to rephrase the above sentence if I want to say that she was both happy and surprised. Please help me.

Thank you.


Who was surprised here?

You were.

Suppose you always believed that dogs are vicious, biting creatures. One day in a park, one walks up to you with a ball, drops it on your lap, and waits for you to throw it for him. You're frozen with terror. He licks your hand in encouragement. You tentatively throw it, and the dog happily chases it and brings it back, dropping it in your lap again. You're surprised to learn that dogs are not all vicious.

You might say of the experience,

The dog was surprisingly friendly towards me.

Or of food,

The salad was surprisingly filling.

You're the one who is surprised.

How do you combine surprised and happy? As @PixelSnader states, "she was happily surprised", where happily is the adverb modifying suprised.

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  • She was happily surprised to see me can mean that the speaker is the one happily refers to. – Alan Carmack Apr 24 '16 at 15:54
  • @AlanCarmack - How so? To my thinking, She was surprised remains the main statement. Happily modifies her surprise. Please help me to see where my thinking is excluding the other possibility. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Apr 24 '16 at 16:12
  • I didn't say you were excluding anything. But if we allow that surprisingly happy refers to the speaker's surprise, I don't see how we can exclude the possibility that happily surprised doesn't refer to the speaker's happiness. I'm beginning to think the modifier should be set off in commas to refer to the speaker, even thus: She was, surprisingly, happy to see me. – Alan Carmack Apr 24 '16 at 16:37
  • @AlanCarmack - I disagree. "Happily, she was surprised to see me," may well refer to the speaker. – anongoodnurse Apr 24 '16 at 17:55
  • yes, I totally agree with your last point... did I not say ", I don't see how we can exclude the possibility that happily surprised doesn't refer to the speaker's happiness"? – Alan Carmack Apr 25 '16 at 4:09

She was happier to see me than I expected. It's normal for her to be happy to see you, but not this much. The happiness was surprising. This implies there's more going on, on her end, than we as readers know. Possibly that she needs something from the 'me' person.

If you want to rephrase it as being happy and surprised, say "she seemed happily surprised". That means the surprise had a happy effect on her.

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