There is usage of "how unexpected" as a phrase, but when you mean the opposite, why does "how predictable" sound more natural, compared to "how expected"? Is it a collocation?

I believe the sense of "to what degree or extent" should be the correct one here, but there seems not to be a restriction of which adjectives to use.

  • I don't know the answer to this… but it made me think. Perhaps it's a percentage game vs black/white certainty. "I expected you here at 2" [100% because that is what was agreed] "but you predictably didn't turn up until 3" [with 60% predictability based on previous history]. "You unexpectedly turned up at my door" [I was 100% not expecting you, you said you were away this weekend]. "You got drunk & fell over… again" [high predictability based on previous habit] Apr 22, 2022 at 7:35
  • Could I ask what you mean by "there seems not to be a restriction"?
    – PPH
    Apr 22, 2022 at 9:21

1 Answer 1


As you have said it yourself, this is a matter of usage. You don't argue with usage. Faced with usage, ours not to reason why...

As an example, you commonly say "make a mistake", as in:

Don't worry, we all make mistakes. (Oxford Dictionary)

Now imagine you want to correct something people have said, and even though you are quite confident about it, you are trying to be polite. Will you say:

If I haven't made a mistake, the emperor has no clothes.

Well you could. In the same way that you could say "how expected", but that's now how some English guy decided to put it hundreds of years ago. He/She went for this:

If I'm not mistaken, the emperor has no clothes.

And that's the usage now. It's the "more correct" form. It sounds and feels better.

Having said that, there's usually a loose logic running through the fabric of the language that we may sometimes manage to catch hold of.

In our specific case, I think the key lies in the "tone":

"How unexpected" is a simple expression of surprise.
"How predictable" is sarcastic.

That's why "predictable" fits in much better:

expected: that you think will happen (Oxford Dictionary)
Double the expected number of people came to the meeting.

predictable: (often disapproving) behaving or happening in a way that you would expect and therefore boring (Oxford Dictionary)
The ending of the book was entirely predictable.

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