He is desperately, but unsuccessfully, trying to prove that he is perfect.

The part “desperately, but unsuccessfully,” does not read well. Is there a word that would combine both?

I am looking for:

He is _____ trying to prove that he is perfect.

  • 2
    Yes, desperately combines them both. – Phil Sweet Jun 15 at 11:23
  • Hello, blackened. You seem to be quite proficient at English, if you can identify what 'does not read well'.Have you looked up synonyms of 'desperately' and 'unsuccessfully'? Do any overlap in sense? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 15 at 18:15

I'm not entirely sure why you feel desperately, but unsuccessfully doesn't read well. It flows naturally for me.

However, if you need a single word that represents the two things, try quixotically:

[Merriam-Webster, from quixotic]

: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals
especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action


If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of the 17th-century Spanish novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (by Miguel de Cervantes) didn't change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century.

Nobody is perfect, so the desperation of trying to prove oneself to be a representative of that ideal matches the ill-advised fervour of Don Quixote in his fights against windmills as he tried to be the paragon of chivalry.

In your sentence:

He is quixotically trying to prove that he is perfect.

  • I partly agree with your suggestion. Your example and suggestion is perhaps correct in the specific context, but may not necessarily work in other contexts; especially if the context does contain unrealistic ideals part. For example, change the example to: He is desperately, but unsuccessfully, trying to prove that he is brave. – blackened Jun 15 at 7:48

I would change your verb from “is trying” to “is struggling.”

So your sentence would say: He is struggling to prove that he is perfect.

The verb struggle has this meaning:

To have difficulty or make a strenuous effort doing something.

A lot of times a stronger verb is better than adding adverbs.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.