Which is grammatically correct?

  • He wrote it wrong.
  • He wrote it wrongly.
  • 2
    I wouldn't use either: I'd say "He wrote it incorrectly." This question would probably be better on English Language Learners. (Incidentally, I looked at you profile and your website listed there doesn't seem to exist - not a good advertisement for an IT person!) – TrevorD Jul 1 '13 at 10:53
  • @TrevorD The question is not so much as finding a better alternative as it's about the grammaticality of using wrongly in place of *wrong. By the way, what's wrong with "He wrote it wrong", or even "He wrote it wrongly" for that matter? – Kris Jul 1 '13 at 12:19
  • "I pointed out that all students, even me when I was her age, make this mistake, but I made her correct it every time she wrote it wrong." (Elizabeth Anne Masciale - 1996; "And if we wrote it wrong, I am sorry. Mr. DEFAZIO. In any case, I am new to this subcommittee. " (Cruises-to-Nowhere Act of 1999 p.42); "So I checked my facts — without realizing it, in the same reference book I had used when I first wrote it wrong." (Emory M. Thomas - 1999) [emphasis mine; all referencess from GoogleBooks] – Kris Jul 1 '13 at 12:26
  • "... but, my dear young lady, you wrote it wrongly and could even do yourself harm as a result." (Dostoyevsky, et al - 1994); "But I just cannot understand how we wrote it wrongly. I want you to write it out for me word for word. " (Communications Act of 1994); "...the scribes of both the available manuscripts of this play were puzzled about this word and read it or wrote it wrongly..." (Indian Linguistics - Vol. 21-24 - p.124) [notes: as in previous comment.] – Kris Jul 1 '13 at 12:35

Any good dictionary should tell you that wrong can function as an adverb. Your first sentence is fine.

I would accept your second sentence grudgingly, but it's definitely a second-class citizen. It smacks of hypercorrection, sounding somewhat stiff and unnatural. I think that if a native speaker was afraid that wrong was wrong, which it's not, they'd be more likely to go for a word like incorrectly, which is marked by form as an adverb with the suffix -ly. (Wrongly is also marked with -ly, of course, but I think it sounds a little silly in place of wrong.)

So they're both grammatically correct, but the second sentence is (in my opinion) unnatural and should be avoided.

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  • 1
    +1 For stating both relevant points. Most do not know of the adverbial wrong; even fewer understand why wrongly is a hypercorrection, not ungrammatical. – Kris Jul 1 '13 at 12:29
  • +1 for exactly the reasons stated by Kris, even though I couldn't have pointed them out. – I'm with Monica Jul 1 '13 at 12:37
  • 5
    @Kris: I'm not sure what you mean by "most do not know" there. It's feasible "most" Anglophones don't actually know the exact terminological distinctions made by adverbial/adjectival, but practically every infant will grow up familiar with the usage "You're doing/saying it wrong". So they'll obviously know how to use wrong "adverbially", even if they don't know how to describe such usage in grammatical terms. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '13 at 16:02

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