An example of hopefully is someone sitting in a restaurant calmly waiting for their date to arrive; hopefully waiting.
- in a hopeful manner
- it is to be hoped (that): to leave early, hopefully by six
- In a hopeful manner: We began our journey hopefully.
- Usage Problem It is to be hoped.
Usage Note: “Hopefully, the senator will vote for the bill.” Is this sentence saying that one hopes the senator will vote a certain way? Or is it declaring that when the senator votes, it will be done in a hopeful manner? In the first case, the word modifies the entire sentence (functioning as what is known as a sentence adverb) and means “It is to be hoped.” In the second case, it modifies the verb phrase “will vote” and means “in a hopeful manner.” Since the 1960s, when hopefully became something of a vogue word, its use as a sentence adverb has been roundly criticized on the grounds that it can be ambiguous (which meaning is intended?) and that the bearer of hope is not explicitly indicated (who is hopeful)? It is unclear, however, why hopefully was singled out for criticism. Many other adverbs, such as mercifully and frankly, are regularly used as sentence adverbs: Mercifully, the play was brief. Frankly, the food at that restaurant is terrible. The widespread use of hopefully in similar constructions reflects popular recognition of its usefulness; there is no precise substitute. Someone who says Hopefully, the treaty will be ratified makes a hopeful prediction about the fate of the treaty, whereas someone who says I hope (or We hope or It is hoped that ) the treaty will be ratified expresses a bald statement about what is desired. Only the latter could be continued with a clause such as but it isn't likely. • People often warm to a usage once its novelty fades and it becomes well established. Resistance to this usage has waned over the years, but the gradual path to acceptance has taken much longer than other style choices that were bugbears in the 1960s, such as using impact or contact as verbs. In 1999, 34 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the sentence Hopefully, the treaty will be ratified. In 2012, 63 percent accepted this same sentence. But a significantly larger percentage—89 percent—accepted a comparable use of mercifully in 2012, indicating that it is not the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb per se that bothers the Panel. Rather, hopefully appears to be serving as a shibboleth to reveal whether a speaker is aware of the traditional canons of usage.
(comparative more hopefully, superlative most hopefully)
The second definition (“I hope that”, used as a sentence adverb) has been criticized by some usage writers although it is by far the most commonly used sense of the word. Many adverbs are used as sentence modifiers with somewhat less frequent objection such as interestingly, frankly, clearly, luckily, and unfortunately. Unlike for many such shifts in meaning that occur in English, the portion of the American Heritage Dictionary's Usage Panel that condones the second sense of the word has decreased from 1969 to 2000, offering the explanation that this particular usage has become a shibboleth. Merriam-Webster, on the other hand, calls the usage "entirely standard", and notes that it has been used since the early 18th century, having been commonly used in American English since the 1930s, and gained significant popularity in the 1960s.
The dispute over the use of sentence adverbs is born largely of the fact that in using an existing adverb to apply to not only one verb but a whole sentence, the meaning of the word is altered, which, in certain situations, can lead to ambiguity. For example, Hopefully, he will save money for the deposit on a new house can mean either that it is hoped that he will save the money (in which hopefully is a sentence adverb modifying the entire sentence) or that he is saving money in a hopeful manner (in which hopefully modifies will save). Sentence adverbs have played a part in English since the 17C but have been limited largely to use wherein they retain their original definition (e.g. probably). It was not until the 20C that they began to be used in other situations.
“[T]here is no precise substitute,” says the American Heritage Dictionary. “Someone who says Hopefully, the treaty will be ratified makes a hopeful prediction about the fate of the treaty, whereas someone who says I hope (We hope or It is hoped) the treaty will be ratified expresses a bald statement about what is desired. Only the latter could be continued with a clause such as but it isn’t likely.” Hopefully is also less personal than I hope or we hope. It is hoped that and if hopes are realized would be impersonal and have been suggested as alternatives to hopefully, but using hopefully is more concise.
From hopeful + -ly.