'truthfully' for 'to tell you the truth'

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HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
I sometimes say 'truthfully' to mean 'to tell you the truth' at the beginning of a sentence. I wonder if they are always interchangeable. Take the following for example. Could you substitute 'truthfully' for 'to tell you the truth' here?

[1] Dear Governor Romney,

I hope you don't mind my writing this letter to you in a public forum, but to tell you the truth it's the only way I know to reach you. I'm writing because I had some questions after watching you on the YouTube clips. (The Huffington Post)

[2] “Sure enough, it was not good news. He visited with me quite a while but, to tell you the truth, my mind pretty much shut down after hearing ‘I am sorry. You have cancer.’ There had been no breast cancer in my family or friends so I did not have any first-hand knowledge of what was to come.” (Amarillo Globe - News)

Hiro
 
  • HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Good morning, Owlman. The substitution could occur only at the beginning of sentences, though, right?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Good morning, Owlman. The substitution could occur only at the beginning of sentences, though, right?
    Good morning, Hiro. That's an interesting question. I don't use "truthfully" often, but I don't think I'd restrict it to the beginning of sentences. I think it would work in the examples you gave earlier.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    So you think the following would work, then?

    ... but it's truthfully the only way I know to reach you. ...
    ... but my mind truthfully pretty much shut down after hearing ‘I am sorry. You have cancer.’ ...
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    They do look a little strange now that you've typed them out. Perhaps that reaction comes from the fact that I typically hear "truthfully" when people use it. I don't recall seeing it used in writing too often.

    Both sentences sound unexceptional to me. "Truthfully" might look better in the second sentence if it was placed between commas. I view the adverb as a rough synonym for "honestly" or "really" when it's used this way.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi Hiro

    To be honest :)D), I don't think I ever use "truthfully" as an alternative to "to be truthful".

    I suppose that if I did use "to be truthful" as an introductory comment (cf the "to be honest" at the beginning of this post), then I might use "truthfully" as an alternative.

    But I don't use "to be truthful" as an introductory comment. And therefore I don't use "truthfully".
    _________

    EDIT: I see the thread has moved on since I started to write this.
    So you think the following would work, then?

    ... but it's truthfully the only way I know to reach you. ...
    ... but my mind truthfully pretty much shut down after hearing ‘I am sorry. You have cancer.’ ...
    I wouldn't use truthfully in either of your contexts here, Hiro:(.
     
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    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    If ever used, 'truthfully' would sound better placed at the top of a sentence, wouldn't it? I surmise it is now a sentence adverb, not a simple adverb that modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb ...

    ... but, truthfully, it's the only way I know to reach you. ...
    ... but, truthfully, my mind pretty much shut down after hearing ‘I am sorry. You have cancer.’ ...
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If ever used, 'truthfully' would sound better placed at the top of a sentence, wouldn't it? I surmise it is now a sentence adverb, not a simple adverb that modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb ...

    ... but, truthfully, it's the only way I know to reach you. ...
    ... but, truthfully, my mind pretty much shut down after hearing ‘I am sorry. You have cancer.’ ...
    Those commas really helped, in my opinion, but I'm sure you'd be safe in reserving it for the beginning of sentences. I agree with you that it is a sentence adverb.

    SD Graham's view, that it's a "useless linguistic crutch", sounds pretty close to the mark to me. Loob writes excellent English, so it doesn't surprise me that she has no use for it in her own language.

    It creeps into my speech every now and then when I wish to express my reluctance to reveal something that might hurt the listener's feelings: What do I think of your new song? Truthfully, I think it sounds a little rough.
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Truthfully sounds rather stilted to me. To be frank (=to tell the truth), I would not think that anyone who said it was telling the truth. It's just an intensifier (like really) and does not sound idiomatic in today's English.

    I would prefer to use a phrase like "to tell (you) the truth" or even the aptly named linguistic crutches mentioned by sdgraham.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    A good thing that I brought this up. Truthfully, I was thinking this use of the word was a recent derivation, but, okay, it seems to the contrary.
     
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