Most of the people waiting for tickets went away ________.

  • A. disappointed
  • B. disappointedly

As far as I know, if I choose A, the meaning would be 'Most of the people waiting for tickets went away, feeling disappointed'.

But if I use B, does the sentence make sense? My friend thinks that B is incorrect and I have to supply the blank with a resultative adjective. I've consulted Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and found an example, “Disappointedly we walked away”, which confused me.

What is the difference here?

  • 3
    Your question falsely assumes it's one or the other. A describes the mood or state of the people when they went away because "disappointed" is an adjective, which modifies the noun "people," like one pictures them crestfallen. B describes the manner in which they went away because "disappointedly" is an adverb, which modifies the phrasal verb "went away," like one pictures them leaving looking upset, scowling, frowning, pouting, with their heads bowed, or whatever. Logically, A is more likely in that context, but B is grammatical and entirely possible, depending on the meaning. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 5:08
  • Don't write answers in comments. Please copy and paste that to an answer
    – James K
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 5:12
  • I think only A makes sense. "go disappointedly" doesn't, to me. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 6:37
  • Went away disappointed implies that they went away without having achieved their aim, as well as describing how they felt. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 7:42

3 Answers 3


"Disappointed" is an adjective, and would describe their mood as they went away. Their mood and their departure would be unconnected, and their disappointment may well carry on after they finish their journey away/

"Disappointedly" is an adverb, so it describes the manner of the other verb - in this case, the way in which they 'went away'. It might make a reader imagine that they were visibly disappointed as they walked away.

Neither are wrong. I have a preference for the former, but also because it seems the most idiomatic way to express it. With other adjectives/adverbs in the same kind of construction the difference might be greater. For example, "he walked away happy" would mean he was happy as he walked away, whereas "he happily walked away" would mean that he was happy to walk away, or agreeable to walking away.

  • 2
    Disappointed can also refer to the fact that they hadn't been able to get tickets, not just the resultant mood (their expectations were disappointed). Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 8:15

In your sentence, walked away disappointed is perfect to express the fact that the people didn't get to buy tickets, and that they were disappointed.

I looked up to walk away disappointedly and couldn't find instances in GNgram (see below). As an adverb, disappointedly would really have to describe the verb, the way they went away (maybe the manner of walking?). So the adverbs that do follow walk away refer to the way a person walks when they walk away, like slowly for example. It is rather peculiar to say that someone walks in a disappointed manner.

However, it is a different story when other verbs are used, like verbs of speech for example. As you can see in the NGram, said disappointedly is more common than said disappointed. Here disappointedly means in a disappointed manner/tone of voice and this use is much more natural.

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This is only an intuition I have, but it seems that walk away is being used in a "linking-verb way", like the verb sound for example.

They walked away disappointed. They sounded disappointed.

Here is a very good way to use disappointedly:

Nevertheless, when we are faced with a choice of evils, very often we have to accept reluctantly and disappointedly that kind of provision. (Example from the Hansard archive. Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0) - Cambridge

The example you found in the Oxford Learners Dictionary, uses disappointedly in the beginning as a sentence adverb. Thought.co says:

In English grammar, a sentence adverb is a word that modifies a whole sentence or clause within a sentence. A sentence adverb is also known as a sentence adverbial or a disjunct.


"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." -Mark Twain
Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.

As you can see, they can be followed by a comma, or used without a comma.

  • 2
    "Bla bla bla" Carol said disappointedly is using the adverb to modify the reported verb in direct speech, and that is certainly one use but there are other verbs just as effective: 1. Carol looked disappointedly at her present, 2. Carol, disappointedly, didn't turn up, 3. Carol was shocked by the results and cried disappointedly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 11:42
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, I agree, I just gave one example where it could work better. While I was writing the answer, I also thought of the use of "disappointingly" as a parenthesis modifying the whole clause.
    – fev
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 11:48
  • But I found an example from Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, which is "Disappointed we walked away". Why is "Disappointedly" used here?
    – tiger745
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 13:30
  • 1
    To modify the whole sentence. Very often, such words used at the beginning of a sentence are followed by a comma: Disappointedly, we walked away. Will edit my answer to explain.
    – fev
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 13:36

The natural sense here is disappointed.

No -ly for the same reason it is I paint to the door red and not I paint the door redly.

However, the speaker might just want to say that there was something disappointing in the manner in which they left (odd, but possible).

The heroes of the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang discuss this topic at length, in the most hilarious manner.

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