In an essay I wrote this sentence :

A car does not enable you to travel thousands of kilometres in a couple of hours, but an aircraft sure does.

My teacher said "sure does" should be "surely does". However, I have heard natives saying "sure does" many times. Is this some kind of colloquial phrase?

  • sure is :) (sorry) – WendyG Feb 14 '19 at 16:44

TL;DR: Yes - [It] sure does is unquestionably a "colloquial" affirmative response.

Sure (along with others such as hard, near, clean, right, close,...) is what's called a...

flat adverb (Wikipedia)
an adverb that has the same form as a related adjective

But not all flat adverbs are "equal". Sometimes the "flat" form (as opposed to the -ly form hardly, nearly, cleanly,...) has a slightly different meaning, or only one version is ever used in specific contexts. And in the case of sure = surely, there's no doubt that many if not most "careful speakers" would consider the usage at least slightly "non-standard, dialectal, informal".

To illustrate that point (and assuming that the first pair of examples below are far more likely to occur in relatively formal contexts, whereas the second pair are more likely to be informal), consider these counts from Google Books...

"FORMAL" - favours -ly form
Sinners will surely go to hell (1650 hits)
Sinners will sure go to hell (362 hits)

"INFORMAL" - favours "flat" form
She surely gets on my nerves (5 hits)
She sure gets on my nerves (51 hits)

In practice, to avoid surely sounding a little "stilted" in OP's exact context (which we know is relatively formal, because it features does not rather than contracted doesn't), a better solution would be to simply switch to a difference but equivalent adverb...

A car does not [blah blah], but an aircraft definitely does

I think it's also worth flagging up a minor aspect of usage that came to mind when considering what I'd written in my "TL;DR:" summary above. Note that the "formal, non-flat" versions would usually (almost always, for certain adverbs) position the -ly adverb after the verb it modifies...

This usage is unquestionably "colloquial"
This usage is definitely "colloquial"

...but when I consider these possible alternatives (remarking on the weather, say)...

1: It is sure hot!
2: It's sure hot!
3: It sure is hot!
4: It is surely hot!
5: It's surely hot!
6: It surely is hot!

...it seems to me that although in principle all permutations are "valid", only #3 (and to a lesser extent, #4 and #6) are really "natural".

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