When someone says "They highly suspect this will work..", do they think it will work or do they think it will not work?

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    The normal interpretation would be that they expect the activity to be successful. But I highly suspect that this interpretation is sensitive to context. – Hot Licks Aug 10 at 1:53
  • @HotLicks Thanks for putting a smile on my face. – Koray Tugay Aug 10 at 1:57
  • Sorry you didn’t bother to post your own ideas and either way, how do you think "They highly suspect this will work" could ever mean anything like “not work”, please? – Robbie Goodwin Aug 12 at 18:03
  • Sorry you didn’t bother to post your own ideas and either way, how do you think "They highly suspect this will work…" Could mean anything like “not work”, please? One cannot “highly suspect” anything. Suspicion is always strong; never high. Whatever else, that’s because suspicions are not literally laid one on top of another to form a high pile. – Robbie Goodwin Aug 12 at 18:08
up vote 2 down vote accepted

They highly suspect this will work.

While this is open to some interpretation, it would normally be taken to mean that they strongly believe it will work.


From Merriam-Webster's definition of the verb suspect:

[transitive verb]

3 : to imagine to exist or be true, likely, or probable • I suspect he's right.

[intransitive verb]

: to imagine something to be true or likely

In the following examples sentences, suspect can be replaced with believe:

I suspect [believe] it will rain.
Call the doctor immediately if you suspect [believe] you've been infected.
The latest research confirms what scientists have long suspected [believed].
I suspect [believe] she's not who she says she is.


There are other senses of suspect that have different meanings and which are used in different contexts.

Merriam-Webster also provides this sense of suspect:

1 : to imagine (one) to be guilty or culpable on slight evidence or without proof • suspect him of giving false information

This is very similar to believe, but in a specific legal context.

The police do not suspect [believe it to be] murder in this case.
The fire chief suspects [believes it to be] arson.


Finally, Merriam-Webster provides one more sense of suspect:

2 : to have doubts of : DISTRUST • suspects her motives

In other words, it's used to express doubt as to the quality of someone or something.


This "doubt" sense of suspect is commonly based on syntactical context.

I suspect her sincerity.

This means I doubt her sincerity.

It's more often meant when it's used with a pronoun and an adjective or noun: suspect his beliefs, suspect her credibility, suspect its advisability, suspect their motives.


Other syntactical constructions more often have the "believe" sense of suspect.

In the question's example sentence, suspect is not followed by a pronoun and adjective or noun, so it's more likely to have the "believe" sense.

  • Why you deleted all your comments under my answer? and provided a suggestion based on my answer? You completely missed up on the other definition of suspect i.e. doubt. I cleared it for you, and you witty used it. – ubi hatt Aug 10 at 12:08
  • @ubihatt Rather than argue endlessly in comments (which comments are not for), the only effective method of expressing what I'd been trying to say was by providing my own answer. In doing so, my own comments were no longer needed. – Jason Bassford Aug 10 at 13:46

You have provided a little context, but still it can be answered.

There are couple of other meanings of suspect, but in given context following will work fine.

To suspect is to doubt or to question (something). In your case, it looks more like a doubt, then question.

When you doubt something, you are uncertain (of something) or lack conviction (in something). When you question something, you doubt about the truth or validity (of something).

In your assertion, "They highly suspect this will work.." (sic)

It shows lack of conviction, hence doubt, that it will work. But, to say, that it will work or not is entirely depend upon the context and who is saying it.

Cambridge dictionary defines it as:

suspect (verb) (DOUBT)

to not trust; to doubt:

I suspect her honesty/loyalty.

We suspected his motives in making his offer.

  • @JasonBassford ok! changed the answer. thanks once again :) – ubi hatt Aug 10 at 4:45
  • Sorry but this still appears to be backwards. To “suspect” is to believe/conclude based on intuition or reasoning based on circumstantial evidence. Where’s John? I don’t know but I saw him go out the door with his gym bag, so I suspect he is at the gym. – Jim Aug 10 at 5:43
  • @Jim I prefer to go with dictionary definition. Please provide the source of your claim. Thanks! – ubi hatt Aug 10 at 5:49
  • Well, the dictionary definitions you quote (in your earlier edits) support my claim, you just aren’t interpreting them properly. – Jim Aug 10 at 5:51
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    You just used it correctly! And in the construction as the OP. – Jim Aug 10 at 6:07

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