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I have been looking up dictionaries & literature to understand the meaning & usage of "perforce". I have some doubts about it.

Take this example:

Drinking wine is not perforce unhealthy.

Drinking wine is not unhealthy perforce.

  • Should "perforce" go before or after "unhealthy"?
  • Does "perforce" mean in this example the same as "necessarily"?
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    Yes, it means necessarily, and it normally comes before the thing that is said to be necessary (or not, in this case!). Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:18
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    Please be aware that perforce is a very old-fashioned word and is probably not well-known now. You may want to avoid it unless you are trying to write for an audience at a very high reading level.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:25
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    @stangdon: It certainly sounds "old-fashioned". But as my first chart below shows, 200 years ago it was very uncommon (1000:1?) compared to near-synonymous necessarily, so it's hardly "early Victorian". But by 100 years ago, the relative frequency had narrowed to 70:1. Not for the negated version, though. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:58
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    perforce is basically Shakespearean and not much used since the 18th century.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 18:30

1 Answer 1

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As commented, perforce is a very old-fashioned word, so you might want to avoid it anyway. But another "usage note" that you probably won't find in dictionaries is that we don't often negate the term.

Here's an NGram where I multiplied occurrences of is perforce by 70 so we can see it on the same usage chart as is necessarily (which means exactly the same)...

enter image description here

...and here's the same NGram, but with both expressions negated...

enter image description here

Even when increased by a factor of 70, is not perforce practically "flatlines" against is not necessarily. So even if you don't want to avoid perforce completely, you should certainly consider avoiding it in "negating" contexts.


As regards the position, we normally put the adverb (perforce, necessarily, or similar) immediately after the copula verb is. It can be placed at the end of an utterance (as a "whole sentence adverb"), but that's not common.

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    @FumbleFingers - Your comment is not very kind. You are questioning his/her comment, you are not answering his/her comment by providing appropriate synonyms because you disagree with his/her request, and you are providing a bunch of adverbs that are not synonymous with necessarily and perforce.
    – user167764
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 14:46
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    @jeef: To a first approximation, there are no synonyms in English. Words with overlapping senses may look like synonyms to people who don't have excellent knowledge of the language (such as learners) but it's counterproductive to encourage people to think like that. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 14:57
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    I see no problem with the negative form. Breaking up with your partner does not perforce leave a scar. This is not perforce bad news. Democracy does not perforce enable freedom.
    – user166967
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 15:48
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    @deviza: I never suggested there's any inherent problem with negating perforce (it's not like it's syntactically invalid). But as my charts show, for whatever reason, native speakers tend to seriously avoid it. Obviously If I hadn't already sensed that not perforce sounded a little "odd", it would never have occurred to investigate usage charts in the first place (there's effectively zero chance that anyone would actually be taught that). Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:15
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    @rajesun: Google Books is dominated by American texts, so even if 100% of all BrE usages were is not perforce, it would still be that same flat line at the bottom of my second chart. But these are averages - there will obviously be hundreds of counter-examples to the tens of thousands of "more likely" usages. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 18:06

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