Supposed vs supposedly

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Anushka Athukorala

Senior Member
Sinhalese
Hello Members
The definitions and examples below are from Cambridge English Dictionary.

Supposedly
used to show that you do not believethat something you have been told is true:
Supposed
used to show that you do not believe that someone or something really is what many people consider them to be:

a supposed genius

Members I would like to know if I can substitute "supposedly" for "supposed " in sentences like these.
a supposedly genius.

I would really appreciate your advice and opinions.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Supposedly" is an adverb. "Supposed" is an adjective. They are two forms of the same word.

    But you have to use them correctly: in the proper place for an adverb, and in the proper place for an adjective.

    So you cannot put "supposedly" in the same place where "supposed" fits.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hello Members
    The definitions and examples below are from Cambridge English Dictionary.

    Supposedly
    used to show that you do not believethat something you have been told is true:
    Supposed
    used to show that you do not believe that someone or something really is what many people consider them to be:

    a supposed genius

    Members I would like to know if I can substitute "supposedly" for "supposed " in sentences like these.
    a supposedly genius.

    I would really appreciate your advice and opinions.
    First, I have to disagree that these words are only about disbelief. They are also used when the speaker has not decided whether to believe something or does not want to commit to believing it.

    Second, it makes a difference whether a person says "supposedly random", which indicates the speaker does not want to make the claim that something is actually random, and "these supposed random acts of violence", which indicates the speaker does not want to claim that "these", whatever they are, are properly called random acts of violence (maybe they are not necessarily random, maybe they are not necessarily acts, or maybe they are not necessarily of violence).

    Similarly, "her supposed loving father" could mean the speaker does not necessarily subscribe to the idea that the person who wrote the letter was really her father.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello Dojibear/Forero
    Thank you very much for your answer. As I have learned ,
    I can use an adjective before a noun or before another adjective as in
    He is a supposed killer.
    They are supposed efficient workers.

    Adverbs can be used,
    With verbs
    He did it well.

    With an adjective
    He is supposedly rich.

    With another adverb.
    He played supposedly well.

    Therefore I think the sentences in which I can substitute " supposedly " for "supposed " are as below.

    They are supposed efficient workers. Or
    They are supposedly efficient workers.

    And as far as my original sentences are concerned I think I can use " supposed " and " "supposedly " interchangeably in the sentences below.

    Have I understood right?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I can use an adjective before a noun or before another adjective as in
    He is a supposed killer.
    They are supposed efficient workers.
    The rule isn't go before". What matters is what word it modifies (describes). Adverbs modify verbs or adjectives. Adjectives only modify nouns.

    If 2 or more adjectives modify a noun, they can all "go before" the noun. For example:
    He is a lonely man. :tick:
    He is an old man.:tick:
    He is a lonely old man.:tick:

    But if a word modifies an adjective, it must be an adverb:

    They are supposed efficient workers. :cross:
    They are supposedly efficient workers. :tick:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    They are supposed efficient workers. :cross: I would read "supposed" as a past participle, i.e. part of the verb: someone supposes them (to be) efficient workers.
    They are supposed (considered) to be efficient workers.:tick:

    They are supposedly efficient workers. :tick:
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear

    Thank you very much for your answer and it was very helpful. I am sorry about the late reply.

    Your answer actually gave me so much detail about how to use "adjectives " and "adverbs" correctly.

    I still have one question. In your post "He is a lonely old man." These two adjectives modify the "noun " don't they? So why can't I consider these two adjectives modify the noun." They are supposed efficient workers. "
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    why can't I consider these two adjectives modify the noun." They are supposed efficient workers. "
    You can. Sentence 1 is the same as sentence 2 plus sentence 3:

    1. They are supposed efficient workers.
    2. They are supposed workers.
    3. They are efficient workers.

    The problem is that sentence 2 is not correct in English. We do not use "supposed" this way.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear
    Thank you very much for your answer. In post 5 you marked this sentence wrong. "They are supposed efficient workers." But in post 9 you didn't say this is wrong and you said sentence 2 is not correct.
    So what do you think about the sentence below? If this sentence is wrong "2. They are supposed workers." How can the sentence below is right? To me both sentences modify the noun.
    a supposed genius.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear
    I was talking about these two sentences.
    1. They are supposed workers.
    2. a supposed genius.

    I mean if the first sentence is wrong how can the second be correct because in both sentences the adjective "supposed " modify the noun.

    And I would also like to know if this sentence is correct.

    They are supposed efficient workers.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Number 2 is not a sentence. It is just a noun phrase. You can make it a sentence by adding a verb. For example:

    2a. He is a supposed genius.

    In terms of meaning, a "supposed genius" is a person who is not a genius, but some people believe he is a genius.
    - Those people "suppose" (think) that he is a genius.
    - He is supposed (thought) by some people to be a genius.
    - He is a supposed genius.
    - He is supposedly a genius.

    In the other sentence, "supposed workers" would be people who are not workers, but some people believe they are workers.

    - They are supposed efficient workers.

    In theory "supposed" and "efficient" can both modify "workers", so the grammar is correct. But that sentence means that these people are not working at all...and yet they are "efficient". Efficient at what? They aren't working.
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    I can see how "supposed" and "supposedly" can confuse a non-native speaker.

    "Supposed" cannot modify "efficient" because it is not an adverb, but "supposed efficient workers" has more than one possible interpretation. It makes sense to me with "efficient" modifying "workers" and "supposed" modifying "efficient workers", not just "workers". "Supposed" and "supposedly" are like quotation marks:

    these supposed efficient workers = these "efficient workers"
    these supposedly efficient workers
    = these "efficient" workers

    I find the sentence "They are supposed efficient workers" a little strange as well as ambiguous in a different way. It could mean either "It is supposed that they are efficient workers", with "efficient workers" as a complement to "supposed", or "Supposedly they are efficient workers", with "supposed" modifying "efficient workers".
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    As post #14 points out, "supposed efficent workers" can be used but it is ambiguous, so it is confusing to the reader.

    "Supposed" and "alleged" aren't normal adjectives like "large" and "old". They are used as adjectives (mostly in old-fashioned English), but only in certain situations. They can't be used everywhere that "large" and "old" can be used.

    Grammars are invented to describe a language. But grammars are only useful if they are simple enough to understand. Real languages don't have that restriction, and are complicated.

    In a more complicated grammar, "supposed" and "large" would be called different things, and have different rules. To keep things simple we call them both "adjectives".
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear

    Thank you very much for your answer and it was very simple to understand. That means if we use another adjective with "supposed" it has to be in line with the meaning of "supposed". What do you think about the sentences below? Which one sounds natural? The ones with "supposed " or "supposedly"

    They said "He is a supposed stupid student." / He is supposedly a stupid student. But he got through all his exams well.
    Rottweilers are supposedly dangerous dogs./ Rottweilers are supposed dangerous dogs.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    These sound natural to me:

    He is supposedly a stupid student.
    He is supposedly stupid.
    He is supposed to be stupid.

    Rottweilers are supposedly dangerous dogs.
    Rottweilers are supposedly dangerous.
    Rottweilers are supposed to be dangerous.

    Examples where I would use the adjective "supposed":

    People claim Preacher Harvey can do miracles. I don't know if I believe that.
    But I've met this supposed miracle-worker, and he seems like an honest person.

    The lawyer introduced a supposed witness: someone who claims they were there and saw it.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Examples where I would use the adjective "supposed":

    People claim Preacher Harvey can do miracles. I don't know if I believe that.
    But I've met this supposed miracle-worker, and he seems like an honest person.

    The lawyer introduced a supposed witness: someone who claims they were there and saw it.
    I would not hyphenate "miracle worker":

    I've met this supposed miracle worker.:tick:
    I've met their supposed efficient workers.:tick:

    Both these sentences sound fine to me. And the following are also grammatical and logical, but I have to admit there is something unusual about putting "supposed" directly after "is" or "are":

    He is a supposed miracle worker.
    He is supposed a miracle worker.
    They are supposed efficient workers.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear
    Thank you very much for your answer. After reading your sentences I came to a conclusion that "supposed" is almost always used with a noun without another adjective and "supposedly" can always be used with an adjective since it is an adverb and it can also modify the whole sentence as Forero pointed out in post no 14 "Supposedly they are efficient workers",
    Am I right in thinking that way? So I would like to summarise by asking if the sentences below sound natural to you.

    They are supposed crooks.
    They are supposed to be crooks.
    Japanese cars are supposed to be reliable.
    Japanese cars are supposed to be reliable cars.

    Japanese cars are supposedly reliable cars.
    Supposedly Japanese cars are reliable.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello Forero

    Thank you very much for your answer and it was indeed very helpful. As you explained in post no 18 we can use "supposed" after verb "be" and it is grammatically correct but in real spoken language native speakers do not do that because that sort of sentences sound unnatural. However in other cases as you pointed out in post no 18 we can used "supposed" with another adjective to modify the noun. I would like to know if my sentences below sound natural to you.

    I have not seen his supposed super human strength.
    The public blames the government for their supposed inefficient fund management.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Those all seem good to me. I like the sentences in #20 too.

    Different people talk in different ways. Maybe I use "supposed" (as an adjective) less than speakers do. So it's good when you get another opinion, like Forero's.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear

    Thank you very much for your help and without it I wouldn't be able to learn the difference between these two words.
    Lastly I would like to ask one question. After reading your posts I noticed what Forero mentioned in post
    Both these sentences sound fine to me. And the following are also grammatical and logical, but I have to admit there is something unusual about putting "supposed" directly after "is" or "are":

    He is a supposed miracle worker.
    He is supposed a miracle worker.
    They are supposed efficient workers.
    You too have used "supposed " the same way Forero uses. Do you share the same opinion?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Forero and I have different ideas, different thoughts and different opinions.

    Let's call these sentence 1, 2 and 3. I think sentence 1 is okay. Forero calls it "fine". As I said in post #5, I consider sentence 3 incorrect.

    Forero says 2 and 3 are "unusual". Both sentence 2 and 3 use "supposed" as part of a passive verb, not as an adjective. I would say they are both "awkward" sentences. I would not use them, as written. I would add "to be" after "is/are supposed".

    But that introduces a new ambiguity:

    Does "supposed to be" mean "thought to be"?
    Does "supposed to be" mean "should be"?
    Those are both valid meanings.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    1. He is a supposed miracle worker.
    2. He is supposed a miracle worker.
    3. They are supposed efficient workers.

    For me, sentence 3 has two interpretations, one similar to sentence 2, with the past participle "supposed", always pronounced with 2 syllables, and one simlilar to sentence 1, with the adjective "supposed", which can be pronounced with 3 syllables.

    It is the with the latter meaning that I find sentence 3 valid. But I don't find it as convincing with "They are" as it would be with, for example, "Here are two":

    Here are two supposed efficient workers.

    I don't have a complete grasp of the issue here, but it has to do with what is assumed compared with what is being asserted. Neither does it help that changing "supposed" to "supposedly" does not hurt the meaning of sentence 3 or that sentence 3 also has that sentence 2-like possible meaning.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hello dojibear/Forero

    Thank you very much for your detailed answer. It looks to me that the more I think about it the more confused I become. So I think it is best to the adverb "supposedly" in sentences like these the ones with the verb "be" to avoid confusion.

    1. He is supposedly a miracle worker.
    2.They are supposedly ex-workers.
     
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