Help with hope

In everyday speech, we construct sentences of this sort: Hopefully, it won’t rain tomorrow. And most people will understand that we mean we hope it won’t rain tomorrow. But when we parse that sentence, it takes on an entirely different meaning.

When we say Hopefully, it won’t rain tomorrow, we’re making a clumsy attempt to express our feelings about the possibility of rain. But “hopefully” is an adverb which modifies the verb rather than the subject. In the example sentence, “hopefully” dangles. It is not in the correct position to modify the verb (when has precipitation ever inspired optimism?) but isn’t correctly modifying a subject, either.

The best way around this problem is to simply say I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. 

In order to keep the word “hopefully” in your working vocabulary, use it to describe how your cat regards you as you move toward the can-opener. In this case, “hopefully” functions as an adverb rightly should.

Fluffy eyed me hopefully as I opened the kitchen drawer.

Posted in Grammar Diaries

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