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

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Question
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"?

Thanks.

Stephen Davis

Answer
Stephen,

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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