Common uses of parenthetical statements are equivalent to i.e. or e.g. appositives. This includes elaboration or examples that clarify but don't change the meaning of the larger phrase or sentence they appear in. Many definitions of "parenthetical" or "parenthetical statement" include only this type of use.

There is a less common use of parentheses or brackets in written English where the inclusion or exclusion of the parenthetical content changes the meaning of the sentence, and it is meant to be read as either or both meanings. What is this called?


  • [I hope] It is not going to rain.
  • I will [pretend to] enjoy this movie.
  • I have seen this as a typographical convention in fiction where the bracketed words are thoughts rather than speech. Is this what you mean? It's like an aside to the reader. – KarlG Feb 28 '18 at 19:45
  • You could call it subtext. "An underlying and often distinct theme in a piece of writing or conversation." google.co.uk/… – Nigel J Feb 28 '18 at 20:31
  • 1
    The first involves the addition of a hedging pragmatic marker (showing that one cannot really guarantee the truth of the statement). So this involves hedging the statement. // The second really negates the statement in a wry way, superimposing the actual truth of the matter. 'I will enjoy this movie (or rather, I will pretend to!)' This is a reformulatory parenthetical. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '18 at 23:17

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