Open main menu




regretful +‎ -ly


regretfully (comparative more regretfully, superlative most regretfully)

  1. In a regretful manner, with regret.
  2. (proscribed) Unfortunately, in a manner inspiring or deserving regret; used only as a sentence adverb (to introduce and modify an entire sentence).

Usage notesEdit

In careful usage, regretfully means with regret (in a manner expressed with regret, expressing remorse), while regrettably means deserving regret (sadly, unfortunately), and in the body of sentences this distinction is observed:[1] John regretfully asked for forgiveness, not *John regrettably asked for forgiveness, and The weather was regrettably terrible, not *The weather was regretfully terrible. These terms are occasionally conflated, a practice noted and decried since Fowler 1926 (in the forms regretful and regrettable).[2]

However, in use as a sentence adverb, these are sometimes used interchangeably to mean “unfortunately”,[1] a practice noted since the 1960s in the United States,[2] as in: Regrettably, it is raining or Regretfully, it is raining, the latter being proscribed by some. This is similar to and possibly influenced by the use of hopefully,[2] which predates this usage of regretfully, and is both far more popular than regretfully and has no precise equivalent, *hopeably not existing.


Related termsEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 regrettably/regretfully, Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Merriam-Webster's dictionary of English usage, 1994, →ISBN, p. 808