I need an adjective to imply that something is hope-giving. I know two relevant words here, but I have no clue if they can be used interchangeably in this sense! That's why I decided to look for the nuance between the adjectives "hopeful" and "promising".

As you can see, dictionaries cannot help learners to distinguish between these two specific words. Please have a look on the following example and let me know whether there is any considerable nuance between them that I have to know.


  • The commercial future of the company looks very ......... . Nearly all projects are just in the initial phase, but everything is going swimmingly.
    a) hopeful
    b) promising

To me, they both mean the same here.

  • 1
    I would say there is very little nuance between them. Promising has a definite implication that there is evidence for hope - early stages 'promise' future improvement - so it would be my choice for the sentence you quote, but hopeful would not be inappropriate in any way. – Kate Bunting May 4 at 8:56
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    In the US, hopeful is more often used for individuals, whereas promising is used to describe inanimate objects. – FeliniusRex May 4 at 19:57
  • I see @Kate Bunting. May I ask you about the adjective "hope-giving"? Is it a common term in English? Can it be an interchangeable alternative for "hopeful" and "promising" in that sense? – A-friend May 4 at 22:55
  • 2
    No, hope-giving is not an idiomatic expression in English. – Kate Bunting May 5 at 7:31

When talking about someone's (or something's) future prospects, I would use promising.

Promising means showing promise or potential. It is something an entity displays. Hopeful, on the other hand, more often means feeling hope; a company's leadership may be hopeful about the company's future.

Of course, as you have discovered, "hopeful" can also be used as a near-synonym to "promising". It is not incorrect to say "The company's future looks very hopeful," meaning the future inspires hope. But because the word also (and to my ear, more often) means feeling hope, I would not use it this way unless I had a good reason to, such as avoiding repetition.

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