I can't honestly say what time I'll be home.


Honestly, I can't say what time I'll be home.

I think there is subtle difference in meaning, but I am not sure, Explain me the usage of the adverb in the context.

  • Honestly, the semantic difference is hard to explain. As an adjunct that refers to the speech act itself, the meaning is not all that different from the meaning when "honestly" is adverbial modifying the word "say". Perhaps it's a little stronger, more sincere, when it is an adjunct, as it is in a more prominent position as the first word in the utterance. The adverbial "honestly say" feels somewhat offhand by comparison. Dec 12, 2023 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


I don't know if this answer can help you, but from what I saw on Khan Academy, putting "honestly" at the beginning of your sentence would modify the entire sentence, and putting before a verb would modify only the verb. In the video Commas and Introductory Elements of the unity 6 of grammar course, David and Page say the following:

You can start a sentence with an adverb. Like, let's say, "Initially, I was afraid." So, what is initially doing in this sentence here, in this expression? Basically, it's modifying the whole rest of the sentence. It's modifying the "I was afraid." So, we're gonna put a comma here to separate it from the rest of that expression. That's why we call it a sentence adverb,'cause it's not, this is not the same as saying, "I was initially afraid." This is kind of, like you said, modifying the entire expression. (https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/grammar/punctuation-the-comma-and-the-apostrophe/A-in-space-and-time/v/commas-and-introductory-elements-the-comma-punctuation-khan-academy)

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