How to use "probably"...

Hi all,

I’ve got the following confusion. Please help me solve it and also advice me the use of “probably” in advance. Thank you very much!

There are no clouds in the sky, so it […] today.

A. won’t rain probably
B. won’t probably rain
C. probably won’t rain

I think “won’t probably rain” but the book says “probably won’t rain”.

C is correct. There are rules for the placement of adverbs. This page gives a good overview of the most common adverbs: … erbPl.html
In order to understand it, you ought to know what auxiliary verbs are and how to recognize them. If you don’t, google auxiliary verbs.

Hi Hieupt,

As has been said. ‘probably won’t rain’ is the one to choose. I have written some notes on adverbs for the site, which you may find helpful.


Hi, I’m confused!

I agreed that “probably won’t rain” sounds more natural.
But “won’t” is the auxiliary verb and “rain” is the main verb for the sentence, then according the rule said “after auxiliary verb, before other verbs”, the sentence should look like “It won’t probably rain”, shouldn’t it?

What about “It’ll probably rain”? Is it grammatical correct? Then when we’d like to change the sentence to negative, how would it look?

I wonder if “probably” is a special adverb which might need to be special treatment?

Again, thank Alan and Cerberus for your feedback!

I definitely vouch for C.

Hieupt, you are right, the page I referred you to wasn’t detailed enough to help you with your sentence; I apologize. You are correct in saying that your sentence ought to have been “it won’t probably rain” according to this rule, which means that the rule doesn’t apply here, since that would be incorrect.

The problem is not the word “probably”, but the fact that the sentence is negative. “It’ll probably rain” is according to the rule, and it is correct. I have never thought about this matter before, but here is what I propose.

We could add a new rule for those adverbs that normally come in the middle of a sentence: when to the sentence a word (usually “not”) is added that negates the sentence as a whole, the adverb comes before the auxiliary verb. I’d say this only applies strictly if verb and negation are contracted, as in “do not” => “don’t”; if they are not contracted, the adverb may sometimes, though not often, go between verb and negation as expected. I believe this depends on the verb: it should be “it is probably not”, but “it probably does not”.

(I mention the “sentence as a whole” because it doesn’t apply to partial negations, as in “I told her not to come”; here the scope of “not” is only “to come”: the “telling” itself is not negated. This as opposed to negating the entire sentence, such as “I clearly didn’t tell her to come”.)

As to the reason why this is so, I cannot say. I have a hunch that it has something to do with the scope of the negation. If you say “it won’t probably rain”, the word “probably” falls within the scope of the negation “-n’t” because it comes after the negation. It is the same as saying: “it is not true that it will probably rain”. However, what we really wanted to say is: “it is probably not true that it will rain”; here, “probably” comes before “not” and thus does not fall within its scope.

I can think of a dialogue:
A: “It will probably rain in Spain tomorrow.”
B: “It won’t probably rain: it will certainly rain! The weather forecast says: 100% chance of rain in Spain.”

Here person B specifically wants to deny the truth of the word “probably”: that is why he puts it in this unusual order. Note that the rules of the placement of adverbs only point to the most ‘normal’ order; in special cases, much greater variation in placement can be found.

Thank Cerberus for your clear explanation.

I would understand now.

The fact is that English has tons of rules and thousands of exceptions! :slight_smile:

I know, it sucks! I’m sorry I couldn’t find a page that explains ALL the rules for placing adverbs into the finest details. I am not consciously aware of them myself.

Well, the most important rule is “there is no rule” and not everything is written in the books! :slight_smile:
Need to read more to gain the practical experiences! Thanks again!

The purpose of linguistics is finding out the complex rules behind our use of language. You’d be surprised to know how many rules have been established by scientists, on phenomena that you weren’t even aware existed. However, sometimes these rules can be so complex that memorizing all instances one by one is easier than learning the rule. You are absolutely right that reading a lot will boost your skill in a way that learning rules cannot. Even so, you will no doubt agree that the combination of rules and practical experience trumps all.

Consequently, probably is probably?

Why is probably probably, then?