Is the usage of 'otherwise' in this sentence correct?

I didn't study at all last night. Otherwise, I would have done better on today's test.

  • It is correct. Get rid of the comma.
    – Dúthomhas
    Commented Jun 20 at 7:23
  • 2
    The comma doesn't seem wrong to this native speaker…  (Also works without.)
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 20 at 12:59
  • Transient disappearing question asker.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 20 at 14:55
  • @Lambie The user doesn't have an account on this site, only on ELU Commented Jun 20 at 16:57
  • 1
    Adding a comment even if the user doesn't see it: To ask about a word's meaning or usage, please first look it up in a dictionary, and use the "edit" button to tell about what you find there and how it doesn't resolve your question. Questions asking "is this ok" must point to a specific area of concern—that is, please say why you think it might not be okay. This will get more useful answers. Commented Jun 20 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


Normally, otherwise introduces a result when something with a "positive spin" is reversed:

Study hard positive spin for that exam; otherwise you won't do well.

It sounds a little odd when it introduces the result when something with a "negative spin" is reversed:

I didn't study hard for the exam. negative spin. Otherwise, I would have done well.

but it sounds OK when it is tacked on as a tail:

I didn't study hard for the exam. I would have done well, otherwise.

I don't think this is just my own idiosyncratic response, since other speakers I've asked feel the same.

Maybe that's because otherwise is frequently associated with urging to do something rather than to refrain from doing something:

Don't go out on that thin ice. Otherwise, you may fall through. sounds odd

Don't go out on that thin ice. You may fall through otherwise. sounds OK

P.S. What I think it is, after giving it a beer mug of thought, is that "wise" (manner) implies taking a course of action, not simply taking no action:

Take the parkway, otherwise you'll get stuck in traffic.

But if, on a semantic level, some other course of action is implicit, you can use otherwise with a negative spin:

Don't take the S-10, otherwise you'll get stuck in traffic.

It is not a binary take the S-10/don't take the S-10 scenario but "take the S-10/take some other route" scenario.

  • 1
    Seat-of-the-pants analysis, and fair enough. Commented Jun 19 at 20:18
  • 2
    The source of many of my ideas, for good or ill.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 19 at 20:23
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    "Take the parkway" literally makes zero sense here in the UK. I had to look up "parkway" which is defined as a landscaped thoroughfare. I still have no idea what that is! Is it just a scenic road, a pleasant avenue? A road through a park? A road with grass verges? I'm totally lost. LOL.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 19 at 21:54
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    @BillyKerr - it's a kind of 1900-1920s American early motorway for commuter or leisure travel between a city and surrounding areas suburbs and a central city. Landscaped with leafy views on both sides. The M32 which joins Bristol to the M4 was named 'the Parkway' in 1972 when it opened, but the name mainly survives at Bristol Parkway station, near the M4/M32 junction. The name has definitely not caught on in the UK, except that Peterborough and Plymouth have roads branded as "parkways" which provide routes for much through traffic and local traffic. Most are dual carriageways. Commented Jun 19 at 22:09
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    @BillyKerr In the US, we drive on parkways and park on driveways.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 20 at 15:43

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