3

"I strongly assume"

has more Google hits, but not really much, and

"I highly assume"

also sounds good.
Are both correct? Or is there another, better way?

  • 2
    I would only use "highly" to qualify a word which implies a scale, so I would not qualify "assume" with it. – Colin Fine Oct 19 '16 at 15:59
  • What @Colin said, except it's not unreasonable to "quantify" assume with something like I feel I must assume that this statement implies a stronger commitment to the assumption than if I'd said "I am slightly inclined to assume that". – FumbleFingers Oct 19 '16 at 18:01
  • Note that it often helps to give example sentences where the constructs are used (as examples that others may come up with might not be relevant). One of each from the SE network: "Sure, I could do this by looping over the dict, but I strongly assume there is a better way in pandas." here; "I'm using Intel's MKL library, so I highly assume this issue is my fault" here – R.M. Oct 19 '16 at 20:18
9

Honestly, both sound wrong to my ears. An assumption isn't really something that can be held 'strongly', it's more something that you hold when you have no particular reason to choose a given option, or when you're modeling alternatives.

Rather than assume, you could use believe - it's stronger than an assumption, but still permits uncertainty. And you can strongly believe something if you have reason to.

Edited to add:

For a little more context, consider these examples.

"If I'm paid this much every month, I'll be able to pay off my debt in just three months!"
"You're assuming nothing else goes wrong before that."

In this case, assume is being used to highlight a variable that wasn't even considered. It's even somewhat pejorative in this case, as it is in the colloquialism "When you assume, you make an Ass of You and Me".

"How long would it take to pay off this debt, assuming nothing else goes wrong?

In this case, assume is being used to step past an area where there is no data in order to plan ahead under a certain situation.

"Is the foundation on this building safe?"
"Yes, I believe so."

Believe here is being used to indicate a somewhat solid position on the subject. The speaker may not have laid the foundations themselves, but they have enough information to come to a tentative conclusion.

"Now I know how much I'll be paid each month!"

Know indicates that you have solid information from a paystub, bank statement, or other authoritative source about the matter.

In this continuum of certainty, believe is the best choice for the context of the question. You don't know for a fact, but you're doing more than just ignoring the question.

  • Ok. I've seen "believe" in that context before, where I would have chosen "assume" or "suppose". My English teacher at school once corrected one of my translations. He said something like "'believe' is too strong to express just an assumption". But obviously it isn't: "I strongly believe" has by far the most Google hits :-) – mic Oct 19 '16 at 17:57
  • @mic yes, believe is "stronger" and assume is "weaker", which is why "strongly assume" seems like a contradiction. – hobbs Oct 19 '16 at 18:11
  • Assume generally means that you haven't even thought about something, you're just starting from the ground state; or that you're selecting a position more or less at random, or for purposes of continuing a line of thought. If you have considered a position and come to a decision about it, believe is the appropriate word. If you have rock-solid data to back yourself up, you would use know. – Werrf Oct 19 '16 at 18:26
  • I disagree. There's two senses of assume being conflated here. You're referencing axiomatic assumptions (assumptions to further an argument), which I agree don't have levels. However, there's also assumptions which are conclusions based on sparse/unreliable info. Depending on the amount and strength of that info, you can have different levels of how well justified the assumption is. To me there's a qualitative difference between belief and assumption - a belief is something you'd stand behind, whereas an assumption is something where the uncertainty is explicitly being referenced. – R.M. Oct 19 '16 at 20:04
1

Though there is already an accepted answer, let me throw something else into the mix...

My friend lives in Manchester. He wants to visit me in London. In our conversation to give him directions - "I assume you're starting from home..."

Now, that's a fair assumption - in fact it's a pretty safe assumption, as he lives there; but it may not be true & I won't know until he confirms that as a fact.

I still can't assume it any more strongly - assumption just doesn't really take a quantity.

So, to express any kind of quantity to something that won't directly take one, you push the 'quantitive emphasis' elsewhere.

Re-using the examples I already mentioned above...

You can claim it's a fair/good/reasonable/safe assumption; e.g. "I feel it is safe to assume.."
In this you're really pushing the emphasis & 'quantity' over to the word 'feel' rather than the word assume.
"I am reasonably/highly confident in assuming..." does the same kind of task, pushing it to 'confidence' rather than assumption.

I do think, though, that by the time you are getting as emphatic as "strongly" then you might have to switch to a word that would take that much emphasis... employing "belief" for this would very much change your implied meaning, whereas "confidence" would imply more 'scientific reasoning' [even if there was none].

Compare
"I strongly believe the next card will be an ace"
to
"I am highly confident the next card will be an ace"

Neither makes it more likely, but the second example makes you sound slightly less crazy ;)

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