We native English language speakers (and writers) have some bad habits, not the least of which is a general propensity for using adverbs incorrectly.
In particular, I’m thinking this morning about “hopefully” and how it is often (incorrectly) used to actually mean “I hope that.”
Before we look at incorrect usage, let’s demonstrate correct examples. To do something hopefully means to do it in a hopeful manner. That being the case, I think that the following are all correct uses of hopefully.
I hopefully fished in the pond last night. That is, I was hopeful that I would catch a fish.
I hopefully baked a lemon meringue pie this morning. Why was I hopeful? I was hopeful that the meringue topping would not burn.
I hopefully planted the apple seed. That is, when I planted the seed I was hopeful that an apple tree would grow.
Another way of stating this is: Hopefully I planted the apple seed. I planted the seed in a hopeful manner. Note that I am not saying that I hope I planted the apple seed.
Let me state that again in case you missed it. Look at the following:
Hopefully I applied for the new job.
This means that I applied in a hopeful manner for the new job. I was hoping I would get the job.
It does NOT mean that I hope I applied for the job.
So where do we hear incorrect usage of hopefully? We hear it everywhere.
Hopefully the mail will arrive this morning.
What’s wrong with that sentence? Well, first of all, as an inanimate object, mail cannot think or feel, let alone hope. Why would the mail arrive in a hopeful manner? Would the mail be hoping that you might read it? I don’t think so. What the utterer of that sentence would mean is, “I hope the mail will arrive this morning.”
“I hope” and “hopefully” are not the same thing.
Hopefully a tuba will not fall from the sky and land on me today. Again, why would the tuba be hopeful about anything? I should say, “I hope that a tuba will not fall.”
Even with something like this:
Hopefully she will arrive on time.
The word hopefully applies to the manner in which she arrives. Is she arriving in a hopeful manner? If you know that she is hoping that she will arrive on time, then the sentence is fine. But if what you mean is that you hope she will arrive on time, that’s something different.
Got it? Hopefully.