General Writing and Grammar Help/"unhappily" or "unhappy"


In editing a book for my friend, I changed the sentence, "[Paula is] new in town, has stress at home and is unhappily in love" to "[Paula is] new in town, has stress at home and is unhappy in love." My friend rejected my change, claiming that "unhappily in love" was fine, saying "if one is unhappily in this state of being it can either mean that you are unhappy to be in that state (i.e. 'Unhappily, you are in love,' or you are in that state in an unhappy way - 'unhappily in love.'"

While there may be instances when someone is "unhappily in love," I content it means that they are not happy with the fact that they are in love - an athlete who doesn't want the distraction at that moment, for example. The adverb "unhappily" modifies "being in love" and does not address how that love life is going. In this case, Paula is very happy to be in love, but not pleased with the way her love life is going, therefore requiring an adjective modifying Paula: "Paula is unhappy in love."

In another example, "Paula is reluctantly in love" would mean that Paula is resisting being in love - doesn't want to be in love - while "Paula is reluctant in love" would mean she is happy she is in love but hesitant about going to second base.

Besides, I don't think "unhappily in love" sounds right to a native English speaker (which my friend is not). At least it doesn't sound right to me.

What's correct - "unhappily" or "unhappy"?


Stephen Davis


The answer depends on whether the word is modifying the verb or the noun.  Unhappily is the adverb form and unhappy is the adjective (modifying in love).  So if the writer wants to use the adverb form to put more emphasis on the their state of mind (meaning regrettably in love), then it is fine.

Dr D

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Deborah Burgess


Essays--I can assist students with questions concerning the process of writing an essay including preparation of an outline, development of a topic, development of the thesis statement and topic sentences, and paragraph development. I can assist students in helping them determine the proper rhetorical modes for their essay (narration, illustration, description, process analysis, comparison and contrast, and argumentation. I am able to answer questions concerning rules of style for a research paper including referencing sources. I am able to address questions regarding punctuation and grammar.


I teach a writing workshop for the University of Phoenix (Richmond Campus) and two college courses: Essentials of College Writing and Elements of Composition.

Doctor of Management--University of Phoenix Masters in Human Resources--George Washington University B.A.--French and Linguistics, Oakland University

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