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Evaluation Adverbs

Express attitude about a situation





Evaluation Adverbs vs. Manner Adverbs 


An adverb for evaluation expresses the attitude of the writer or speaker about the information in the clause that follows. The adverb is usually placed before the clause that it modifies, and it is set off by a comma. This usage is considered informal by some traditionalists. See Grammar Notes.


            modifies clause situation
, he will climb to the top. I am hopeful [that he will climb to the top of the mountain.]  

Sadly, he could not reach the top.  I am sad [that he could not reach the top.]

Fortunately, he was able to get down.  It is sad [that he dropped his tools.]


An adverb for manner is more directly related to the main idea of the clause. It expresses how the agent (doer/source) relates to the action indicated by the verb or verb phrase. The adverb may either be placed before the verb or after the verb and object.                                                 


               modifies verb
He set out hopefully to climb to the top of the mountain.  He is hopeful [he will climb to the top of the mountain.]

He spoke sadly about not reaching the top.  He is sad [that he could not reach it.]

He reconsidered his plan since he fortunately knew his limits.


Also called Attitude Stance Adverbials, Evaluative Adjunct, Dangling Modifiers, Sentence Adverbs,Comment Adverbs. See Grammar Notes below.

agent (N) –  the "doer" or source of the activity, event or action

reach (V) – arrive at a goal or destination or contact a person. She tried to reach him by telephone.

See hopefully dispute in Grammar Notes below.







Evaluation Adverbs





Evaluation Adverbs

































to my amazement

by good fortune

contrary to expectation








Evaluation Comments

As that–clauses



Formal Wording


Using an adverb to modify a clause is considered informal by some.

Hopefully, he will reach the top.

Sadly, he couldn't make it. 


A similar meaning can be expressed in the following ways.  It is__ that… or I am _ that…  This usage is more formal.

It is hopeful that  he will reach the top. 
I am hopeful that  he will reach the top.    

It was sad that  he couldn't make it.
We were sad that he couldn't make it.    







► Show Grammar Notes? ("Hopefully" dispute) ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Comments



Traditional and Linguistic Comments on Stance Adverbs (Hopefully)


Burchfield in Fowler's Modern English Usage  writes about the hopefully dispute under the entry of:  sentence adverb. The adverb [hopefully] was regarded as acceptable when it meant in a hopeful manner, as in to set to work hopeufully, i.e. its traditionlal use since the 17c.; but not acceptable when used to mean  it is hoped [that] , let us hope. as in We asked her when she expected to move into her new apartment, and she answered, 'Hopfully on Tuesday'. (Burchfield 702)

"Certain adverbs in -ly have acquired the ability to qualify a predication or assertion as a whole.  Such adverbs are all elliptical uses of somewhat longer phrases.  It the last third of the 20c., this little-used and scarecely observed mechanism of the language has broken loose.  Any number of adverys in -ly have com into common used as sentence adverbs." (Burchfield 703)

Biber, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English, (1999) refer to these words as attitude stance adverbs. (Biber 10.3)

Stance adverbs "have the primary function of commenting on the content or style of a clause…"  They fall into three categories:

(1) epistemic It was, definitely, a waste of time. (personal belief, "truth or value of the proposition, commenting on: certainty, reality, sources, limitations and precision of the proposition.");

(2) attitude —  Fortunately, it was completed on time. (expresses the speaker's attitude or evaluation of the situation);

(3) style —  Frankly, it was a waste of time. (commenting on the style or form of the utterance, clarifying  how the speaker is speaking, how the utterance should be understood).

hopefully. "First, it was widely condemned from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Briefly, the objections are that (1) hopefully properly means "in a hopeful manner" and shouldn't be used in the radically different sense 'I hope' or 'it is to be hoped.' (2) if the extended sense is accepted, the original sense will be forever lost; and in constructions such as 'Hopefully, it won't rain this afternoon,' the writer illogically ascribes an emotion (hopefulness) to a nonperson… Second, whatever the merits of those arguments, the battle is now over. Hopefully is now a part of AmE and it has all but lost its traditional meaning… " — (Garner 427)

Garner adds that it is a "skunked term".  Avoid it in all senses if you are concerned with your credibility.  Stage 4 on the Language Change Index:commonly found but still shunned by a few stalwarts "die-hard snoots" .

Huddleston et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, (2002)  refer to these structures as clause adjuncts.  (771)

Evaluative adjuncts:  "With adjuncts of this kind the residual proposition is presented as a fact, and the adjunct expresses the speaker's evaluation of it." i. Amazingly, he escaped with only a scratch;  ii. He escaped with only a scratch, which was amazing. (reworded as a relative clause); iii. It was amazing that he escaped with only a scratch. (reworded with an it-clause)

The term adjunct covers modifiers to the verb phrase or clause together with related supplements. (dependents).  (8 §17)

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, 1994. The sentence adverb is an adverb or adverbial phrase that is connected with a whole sentence rather than with with a single word or phrase in the sentence.  Sentence adverbs are  a common feature of present-day English, and they go by many names… The chief virtue of a sentence adverb is its compactness: it permits the writer or speaker to express in a single or short phrase what would otherwise take a much longer form. — Merriam-Webster  (Merriam-Webster 512)

Some handbooks point out that conjunctive adverbs like therefore, nevertheless, and however can also be considered sentence adverbs because to the extent they are adverbial they modify clauses rather than any particular part of the clause. 

To sum up: hopefully had been in sporadic American use as a sentence modifier for some thirty years before it suddenly caught fire in the early 1960s.  What is newly popular will often be disparaged, and criticism followed rapidly, starting in 1962 and reaching a high point around 1975.  ... You can use it if you need it, or avoid it if you do not like it.  There never was anything really wrong with it; it was censured, as Bolinger 1980 notes, because it was new, and it is not very new any more. (Merriam-Webster 837)

Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage, (2009) refers to these words as comment adverbs, which give the speaker's opinion of an action. (22.2)

Fortunately, she has decided to help us; Stupidly, I forgot my keys; Surprisingly, they failed; I stupidly forgot my keys. (mid-position) (24.5 Comment Adverbs); Hopefully, inflation will soon be under control. "It is to be hope that" or "I hope" (251)

Quirk, Randolph and Sidney Greenbaum. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1989) refer to these words as style disjuncts: "Style disjuncts convey the speaker's comment on the style and form of what he is saying, defining in some way under what conditions he is speaking as the 'authority' for the utterance. (8.123-33)

Style Disjunct  (a)  modality and manner (e.g., truthfully, bluntly, if I may say so); (b)  respect (e.g., in broad terms, personally)

Content Disjunct  (a) degree of conditions for truth of content (e.g., really, certainly, if he'd listened); (b) value judgment of content (e.g., understandably, wisely, to everyone's surprise)


Works Cited

  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English. Pearson Education, 1999.
  • Fowler's Modern English Usage. R. W. Burchfield and H. W. Fowler, revised 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Garner's Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2009.
  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Reprint ed., Merriam-Webster, 1994.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Quirk, Randolph and Sidney Greenbaum. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. 7th ed., Longman Group, 1989.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.






Practice 1

A  "Personal" Conversation



Read and Edit

My aunt is not doing too well. She told me she is getting a divorce. She has two kids to care for. My uncle has been running around town with someone else. She is twenty years younger. 

My aunt wants us to keep this quiet.  She'll tell everyone first.  It is a waste of time.  Word gets around and then everyone knows. No one can keep a secret.

word gets around (expression) – gossip spreads; people talk about other people's personal problems





Add the adverb to the sentence using formal wording. 

  1. Edit the sentence adding the adverb.
  2. Compare your edit with the feedback.


My aunt is not doing too well.
ADD: unfortunately

She told me she is getting a divorce.
ADD: regrettably

She has two kids to care for. 
ADD: sadly

My uncle has been running around town with someone else. 
ADD: shamefully

She is twenty years younger.  
ADD: to our amazement

My aunt wants us to keep this quiet.
ADD: understandably

She'll tell everyone first. 
ADD: absurdly

It is a waste of time. 
ADD: ironically

Word gets around and then everyone knows.
ADD: miraculously

No one can keep a secret. 
ADD: predictably